The petition to save Westminster Seminary PDF Print E-mail
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News - Theology
Written by Tim Black   
Thursday, 24 January 2008 10:45

A friend from Westminster writes,

You may or may not already be aware of what has been going on at WTS, particularly to do with the departure of Steve Taylor and the mounting backlash towards Pete Enns' Incarnation and Inspiration, but there is an online petition at www.saveourseminary.com for all WTS students, alumni, staff, friends, etc. to consider.

In the hope of convincing her and others of my friends and former roommates who have signed the petition, I had to respond to encourage them to reconsider the wisdom of doing so.

I won't promote the petition you forwarded to me, because its opposition to the following:

  • Vision Forum – indicates an opposition to conservative politics, because of liberal political/social commitments
  • The criticism of Pete Enns’ book – indicates an acceptance of the postmodern interpretation of our situation as the sitz-im-leben from which we must interpret scripture
  • Lane Tipton’s article – indicates an opposition to former WTS professor E. J. Young’s theological methodology of believing the Bible
  • The lack of sufficient redress – indicates a publicly critical attitude & method of achieving reconciliation.  It is best to discuss faculty disagreements over whether a faculty member is keeping the vows he took upon becoming a faculty member on a need-to-know basis (Matt. 18), while maintaining open discussion and debate of the academic issues of the day.

The above aspects of the petition are not things I would like to promote.  Rather, coming from a conservative Reformed background, and an undergrad education at a highly ranked Reformed liberal arts college, I was dissatisfied with Westminster's weakness on each of the first three points above.  I appreciate Westminster's interest in carefully studying and evaluating ideas that are new and potentially of value.  However, to me, the petition's four points above indicate a lack of deep commitment to the mature biblical Christianity found in the Reformed tradition, which I have found to provide far better truth and methods than do the motivations that appear to be in evidence in the petition--a liberal social agenda, postmodern hermeneutics, and a complaining or combative alarmism on the part of the disenfranchised.  These things will not save our seminary.  I'd rather see my friends and the seminary be saved from this petition.

Which view is truly disenfranchised at Westminster--the progressive or conservative?  Some alumni from 50 years ago claim it is the conservative Reformed tradition.  I think the best answer is "neither" or "both."  Sometimes it has been difficult to put my finger on how my experience of conservative Reformed Christianity in Philadelphia differed from my years growing up in a CRC in Eastern Washington State, and studying in the South at Covenant amidst the OPC and PCA.  The above list brings some clarity to my thought regarding what is uniquely parochial about what the Reformed surrounding Westminster consider cosmopolitan.  In my opinion, a deeper or broader grasp of the Reformed tradition and its community might help some of my friends (and former roommates!) who signed the petition to better understand my opposition to the petition.  Perhaps you do interpret the world and scripture from within a postmodern worldview.  I don't.  I don't trust my own interpretation unless it flows by the power of God from the Holy Spirit speaking in scripture, and unless it is faithful to every word of scripture, and not just the parts I prefer.  It is exegesis of this sort that gave Calvin and the Reformed tradition its distinctively and fully Biblical doctrine--even its continually developing expression of orthodox Biblical Theology--and it is exegesis of this sort which is excellently summarized in the confession from which our seminary derives its name.  To sign this petition--wittingly or not--is unfairly to impugn the biblical faithfulness of the tradition of the Westminster Confession, and of Westminster Seminary itself.  I decided to write this to you in case it might help you develop your thoughts, or change your mind, regarding the petition.  While my saying "please learn more of the Reformed tradition before criticizing it" won't help you know that the petition is wrong, and could easily come across as self-righteous, please consider whether the petition is promoting the whole, and the best, of that tradition, or consider withholding judgment on the petition.

I agree with the petition's specific critiques of the Vision Forum.  I expect President Lillback does as well, except for (what I vaguely recall as) his friendliness toward the idea that America had Christian origins.  However, many in the Reformed community appreciate other aspects of the Vision Forum's work (e.g., promoting godliness and Christian family life), and it's a good thing for the seminary president to speak to various groups without always publicly distancing the seminary from those groups where they disagree.  "Everything is permissible," but "not everything is beneficial."  On that point the petition's recommendation that the seminary distance itself from the Vision Forum conflicts with the petition's statement of the seminary’s goal of promoting the whole Reformed tradition, and serving both those inside and outside the Reformed community.  If the petition wants us to study Pete Enns' book, why again does it not want us to study the materials produced by the Vision Forum?  Likewise, why not allow discussion and critique of both, in the right forum?  Like Paul, the Reformers didn't burn books, they read them, then wrote a response, so that "by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Cor. 4:2)

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2008 15:55
How to limit access to content in Joomla using JACLPlus & DocMan PDF Print E-mail
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News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Tuesday, 08 January 2008 14:38

Committee pages on matlpres.org The Metro Atlanta Presbytery of the PCA asked us to create a Joomla site where each committee has its own set of pages, as well as its own section of downloadable files managed by DocMan.  Each committee also has a section of private pages, and private documents, accessible only to that committee's members.  This is functionality most presbyteries and many businesses would really like to have.  So how can you get it?

The short answer is that JUGA makes it easy but lacks some features, and JACLPlus makes it hard but is more mature.  Maybe I wouldn't be writing this had we gone with JUGA...

Last Updated on Monday, 14 January 2008 08:34
Does "upon this rock" refer to Peter, Peter's confession, or to Christ in Matthew 16:18? PDF Print E-mail
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News - Theology
Written by Tim Black   
Thursday, 03 January 2008 08:50
A fellow member of the OPC's unofficial email discussion group wrote, 
I like Augustine better: Personally I have always thought the church was founded on the deity of Christ or Christ alone if you prefer and not on Peter or as you suggest here all of the apostles. I fear we are all in deep trouble if it is founded on men, apostles or otherwise.... Only Christ shall stand and the gates of hell not prevail.

Another member replied,

The only difficulty I see with what you say is what Paul says in Ephes. 2:19-21 (ESV)

The original poster replied,

But does not the Bible say that the foundation laid by the apostles is Christ? And on this foundation alone they and we are to build?

I respond:

The contexts are different.  Eph. 2:20 is speaking about which people/officers form the foundation of the leadership and membership of the NT church.  1 Cor. 3:11 is speaking about what doctrine forms the foundation upon which all other member-edifying teaching and exhortation must build.  The two foundations are not of the same kind.  Notice that Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:10-11 that Paul "laid a foundation," "which is Jesus Christ."  Paul could not be the originator of Christ's Person or divine nature!  So the foundation Paul laid was Paul's teaching about Christ.

Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2008 19:23
Python on a Symbian-based Nokia S60 smartphone PDF Print E-mail
News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Monday, 31 December 2007 13:07

Over Thanksgiving I wrote a little program in JavaScript for my Dad, who is a charter pilot who needs an easy way to record several time values with the press of one button on his smart phone:

  • engine start
  • takeoff
  • landing
  • engine shutdown

It works great, except Opera doesn't allow files opened from the local filesystem to store cookies, and Dad doesn't always have web access when he needs to record a time value.  (Maybe I should try an Opera Widget...)  So, in the spirit of the Do-It-Yourself books he's got on his bookshelf, over Christmas Dad asked me what language I'd recommend he use to write a program for his phone.

If I knew how to use Google Gears on the Nokia S60, maybe I'd recommend it.  But I don't and I wonder if Gears is still too new.  So after a little research, here's what I came up with:

It looks to me like C++ is the default language to use on Symbian, and Java is a close second.  However, I wouldn't use either myself, because the syntax of both C++ and Java (see Executive Summary, short code comparison and long code comparison) (and development process--you have to compile for your particular operating system before you run) is more complex than Python's (and I already use Python), and Python works on Symbian.  It is my impression that Python programs are also more portable to other operating systems than are C++ programs.  For these reasons, it looks like Symbian development is moving toward using Python and Ruby.  There are several Python libraries available that you can "import" into your Python code to create the application's GUI features (title, menu, central content including buttons, text boxes, pictures, etc.).  They work by providing a Python interface to Symbian's software development kits - SDKs (see S60 SDKs) including Symbian's graphical user interface (GUI) libraries and other available functionality (contacts, calendar, filesystem, phone, etc.).

I'd also consider using an integrated development environment (IDE) specifically designed for creating GUI programs on Symbian, because an IDE can give you a layout editor that lets you create the program by dragging and dropping GUI widgets (buttons, text boxes, etc.) into your program and then writing code to respond to widget events (mouse clicks, character presses, etc.).  One Symbian C++ IDE is Carbide, a set of extensions to the Eclipse IDE.  It appears there isn't a Symbian GUI IDE yet for Python or Ruby.

So to summarize, here's what I would use, in the order they would need to be installed on your computer:

Python interpreter
Use the latest version of Python 2.5, unless you find that the other tools below are only compatible with an earlier version of Python, in which case, install the earlier version.

SDK  A package containing a Python interface to a Symbian SDK and related tools:
PyS60 (seems to be the
best & most current)  Python for S60 seems to be an older version of the same, see its helpful wiki
Python for UIQ (out of date)

Simple:  IDLE, which comes with Python & is included in PyS60
More full-featured: 
Boa Constructor (requires wxPython) (I recommend installing TortoiseCVS first to install the most recent version of Boa Constructor)

Essential background reference material
Introduction to Programming:  Beginner's Guide to Python
Introduction to Python syntax:  Dive into Python
Python Tutorial
Python Library Reference -- (ActivePython's had nicer formatting at one point)
Python Quick Reference Guide

If one exists, it's a good idea to use a book as a guide to how to program on the S60 in your chosen language.  The only one I can find for Python is Mobile Python, and it looks to be exactly what you would want.  I might start with the author's tutorial instead.

Other stuff
Code snippets
Here are some tools for making it easier to test your Python code on the phone:  http://people.csail.mit.edu/kapu/symbian/python.html

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 December 2019 03:01
Sovereign Grace Singles PDF Print E-mail
News - Web Development
Written by Tim Black   
Tuesday, 09 October 2007 08:42

Sovereign Grace Singles is sgs_thumbnail.pngthe only singles website for conservative Reformed singles, and they need your help.  They need to gain more members in order to remain viable.  Currently there are 700 members on the site, from the PCA, OPC, URC, and other conservative Reformed denominations.  These denominations are the only "pond" in which I'd recommend our singles to fish.

There are a lot of singles out there who don't know about Sovereign Grace Singles who should, and would benefit from being members of the site.  I'm putting together an analysis of the numbers of members of conservative Reformed denominations here, and if you would like to help in any of the following ways, please contact Tim Black.

Ways you can help

  • Serve as a country expert in identifying which denominations are conservative in each country listed in our analysis.
  • Distribute SGS fliers at your church or through the channels of your denomination, presbytery, classis, singles organizations (think RUF!) or mission agencies.

Country Experts

Rev. J. Stafford Carson - Ireland
Dr. Henry Krabbendam - Netherlands, South Africa, Uganda
Rev. Philip Tachin - Nigeria

Results of the analysis

According to our current estimates, there are at least 385,000 conservative Reformed church members worldwide.  We could potentially bring in 1,926 total members from the US, 8,618 worldwide in English-speaking countries, and 18,709 in all languages.  This could result in many marriages; it could also result in many side-effects and spin-off projects that would further the interdenominational unity and cooperation of the Reformed community worldwide.

Global expansion project

Given this analysis, we hope to pursue the following goals to expand the reach of SGS:

  1. Aim SGS at other English-speaking countries.  Focus on countries containing the greatest numbers of conservative Reformed members:  Canada, UK, Australia, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe.  Identify conservative denominations and use contact info from Bauswein & Vischer's The Reformed Family Worldwide to contact them.  Ask them to email SGS to receive an email they can forward throughout their denomination if they wish.
  2. Provide SGS site in multiple languages.  Install new software that’s already translated.  Focus on: Germany, Indonesia, South Korea, Netherlands, Philippines, Switzerland.
  3. Develop & use new promotional materials & Internet promotion tools/means recommended by a web marketing agency.
  4. Identify & utilize new avenues to promote SGS.  Use Always Reformed’s connections in denominations & schools.
    1. Colleges & seminaries - internal student newsletters like WTS’s “Brute Facts”
    2. RUF ministers
    3. Missionaries
    4. Singles organizations
    5. Presbyteries
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 December 2007 12:30
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