28 July 2007


by Phil Johnson

ere's an odd collection of five mostly-unrelated ideas that are floating around in my head today. We don't have enough blogspace in a normal week for me to post about all five of these topics in discrete blogposts. Four of them are fairly trivial anyway. (The first item is the only one that's truly important.) So I'll just cover them all as briefly as possible in one weekend post:

  1. I saw a teaser this morning for an upcoming feature on Fox News about the shocking decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East over the past decade. Ten years ago, some 12 million Christians lived in various Middle Eastern countries. They constituted a small and beleaguered minority even then, but today they number fewer than two million. Statistics show, for example, that in Bethlehem (whose population was 85 percent Christian just a few years ago) only 20 percent of the community are now Christians. Half of Iraq's Christian community has either left the country or been killed since the start of the war there. Martyrdoms, such as last April's slayings of three employees of a Turkish Bible publisher, are becoming increasingly common in Muslim-dominated places but are getting little coverage in the American press.
  2. As of this posting, even Fox's Web site has no articles featuring those data, so we'll watch Fox's Web space. But on the way to looking it up, I found this. Note to the criminal element: I've started carrying a frozen Costco meat chub in my briefcase.
  3. Have you seen the controversy about Bear Grylls? He's the dude on "Man vs. Wild" who has shown us how to survive in virtually every kind of hostile wilderness. He's a former member of the elite British SAS, adventurer, youngest Brit to conquer Everest, and an Eton alumnus.
         I've heard that Bear makes a profession of faith in Christ. Plus, he blogs.
         Now, everyone has always known that he has a camera crew with him in the wilderness, because (after all) that's how they make the program. But he solemnly assures us at the start of each episode that the camera crew cannot touch him, help him, or feed him—and they supposedly leave him alone in the wilderness at night.
         Turns out that might not be completely true.
         See: I have watched this guy literally get on his hands and knees and eat the back end out of a dead zebra, drink the moisture from elephant dung, bite the head off a live snake, and munch on maggots from a rotting animal corpse, so I'm duly impressed with his will to survive.
         But I'm hugely disappointed to learn that he has sometimes cheated. The scandal gives us a good lesson about the importance of integrity, and how even the smallest of white lies can undermine the cause of truth. If you want a sample of what I am talking about, Google Bear's name and take note of the amazing level of scorn he is receiving for having fudged.
         Postmodern society may profess to believe that everything is relative and what's "factual" depends completely on your point of view. But people still won't stand being fooled by someone who deliberately bends the truth. Something in all of us rightly resents that.
  4. I've read some books lately about the Lincoln assassination, and as I was reading about the conspiracy trial, I came across an eyewitness record of the proceedings by "General Lew Wallace." Something there struck me as familiar, and as I thought about it, it occurred to me where I had heard that name: Wasn't Lew Wallace the guy who wrote Ben Hur? So I looked it up to see if it was the same Lew Wallace. Sure enough. Turns out he was a kind of upscale Forrest Gump. He was a Union general in the War Between the States. He was a participant in the military tribunal that condemned the Lincoln conspirators. He was also a fine amateur artist, and he drew pictures of the defendants during the conspiracy trial. His drawings are on page 96 of James L. Swanson and Daniel L. Weinberg, Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution, and they are excellent likenesses.
         Later, Wallace served as a secret agent; governor of New Mexico; and US Minister to the Ottoman Empire. During his stint as New Mexico's governor, he met personally with Billy the Kid. (Don't know if he sketched the outlaw's likeness, though.) His life is full of interesting details. If I was still doing the old "Monday Menagerie" posts, he'd make a brilliant subject.
  5. Speaking of people with multiple claims to fame, I probably need to mention Frank Pastore. Several days ago, Pastore created a furor in the blogosphere (and beyond) with an article critical of "evangelical" postmodernism, which was infelicitously titled "Why Al Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church." The article itself (and the title in particular) is a classic example of the kind of critique that isn't really helpful to anyone. It's the sort of thing that gives angry post-evangelicals a big hammer with which to smash the toes of anyone and everyone who is critical of the Emerging Church movement. It also gives people who ought to listen to their best critics an excuse to blow them off. ("See? This is so typical of what the critics of Emergent are doing.) So let's be clear: It's an article that shouldn't have been written, much less posted online.
         That said (and while we're on the subject of post-evangelicals and their hammers), I listened to the iMonk's podcast where he addressed the Pastore article. Of course, iMonk's giddy eagerness to get in on the "dogpile" against Pastore came as no surprise whatsoever. Here's what did amaze me: iMonk didn't seem to have any clue about who Pastore is. After all, iMonk is well-known for being a Cincinnati Reds' fan. Frank Pastore was a Reds pitcher for several years. In fact, Pastore was an ace before Steve Sax hit a hard line drive right into his throwing elbow in 1984. After that, Pastore didn't have the hard stuff anymore, and he was sometimes accused of throwing a spitter.
         That's not all. Pastore also holds the world speed record for downing the famous 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo. He inhaled the entire meal in nine and a half minutes. (I'm curious about what technique one would use to stuff down 5 pounds of steak in less than ten minutes. Even Bear Grylls hasn't shown us that yet. My guess: spend five minutes using a very sharp fillet knife to cut the steak into the thinnest, smallest strips possible, then 4.5 minutes eating without chewing.)
         Anyway, Pastore is now a talk-show host on a Los Angeles Christian radio station (KKLA). I don't get to listen, because the show intersects with the busiest part of my work day, but I have to say, Frank seems like a spunky and likable fellow, even if he did write an article I really didn't appreciate. Here's his testimony. And here is another version in audio.
Phil's signature


FX Turk said...

I'd like to go on-record saying that if I had posted a blog post in which drinking (ugh) such as was referred to in this post, iMonk, and the ECM, I would have already been branded some sort of intellectual narcoleptic with a loose grasp of Scripture and Christian virtue.

I hang out with Phil because he gets away with so much.

I'd also like to point out that "farrago" was dictionary.com's Word of the Day on January 4, 2000.

DJP said...

1. This post has been up for an hour, and no response from Spencer? Hope he's okay.

2. I want to take the Big Texan challenge.

3. Bear does sound like Phil's kind of guy, dietetically. I was kind of disappointed, in my time with Phil, though. Oh, not with him; being with Phil, Darlene, and Frank was delightful.

But he never ate anything weird.

Maybe next time?

Phil Johnson said...

Be sure you follow the links to the videos of Bear Grylls. Don't take my word about how much this guy is willing to do to survive. You have got to see this stuff for yourself.

And hey: You don't get links like that at Challies.

I'm just saying.

donsands said...

You "tres amigos en Christos" are the best.
Your labour in the truth of God is super. Keep on.

Have a great Lord's Day. He is risen!

Solameanie said...

Ah, the frozen meat chub returneth!

Phil, if you didn't live in the People's Republic of California, I'd simply advise you to get a concealed carry permit and have Pecadillo give you lessons at the range. I'm sort of lucky out here in the sticks of Illinois. I keep a Russian SKS in my bedroom closet and have a firing range right up the road from me. $25 a year membership.

As to the former pitcher and current talk host, I often wonder if being in talk radio sometimes leads some people to be outrageous or intemperate in their remarks simply to stir up the audience. Even veterans like Rush Limbaugh go over the top from time to time. It's certainly a temptation that has to be resisted and I speak advisedly. And you have to admit, some of the antics of the EC are enough to drive even the most phlegmatic conservative evangelical who normally wouldn't say boo to a goose into going postal. All that said, I agree with you. That kind of material does often have an impact opposite of the one you'd want, and gives our critics ammunition.

As to Bear Grylls, I'll withhold comment. In fact, I feel myself craving a cocktail of Imodium and Pepto Bismol as I type this. Just imagining someone inhaling a cowpie is enough to give me dysentery, if not anaphylactic shock.

brentjthomas said...

It was interesting to see your comments on Gov. Lew Wallace (Governer, for those of us who live in NM). Utterly fascinating Christian. I've recently been commissioned to create a portrait of Gov. Lew Wallace, and went to the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History last weekend, to glean more info for my portrait. Billy the Kid's actual letters to the Gov. were on display, along with the Gov.'s spectacles, images of the room in NM wherein he wrote "Ben Hur", and more.
Billy the Kid's surprisingly well written letters to Gov. Lew are rather pity-inspiring. I was a bit choked up reading one letter.
Some think that Gov. Lew left Billy high and dry after promising him a pardon (current Gov. Richardson has been asked to pardon him posthumously). Lew Wallace, at the time of the Lincoln County War and after, referred to Billy the Kid with compassion, as though he were likeable, and caught up in ensnaring circumstances in a wild region (rather like the protagonist in Ben-Hur). In one later comment he refers to Billy as a tragic "knight-errant of the West".
It was brave of Lew Wallace to meet with a fully armed Billy the Kid, at 9 p.m. , March 17,1879.
Gov. Wallace was the replacement for a very corrupt Governor Axtell, and he had a hard time in New Mexico, in his efforts to straighten things out. "All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico", he said.
Lincoln, New Mexico is still almost exactly as it was in those days. Once the most dangerous town in America, now a very peaceful little town, and beautiful.

Phil Johnson said...

Thanks for those details about Lew Wallace.

Here's another thing that fascinated me (and yet another point in Wallace's life where he intersected with a famous person of his era):

Robert Ingersoll, the notorious infidel, was the person responsible for Wallace's conversion to Christianity (and the plotline of Ben Hur). After listening to one of Ingersoll's rambling tirades against Christianity (during a train ride where he couldn't get away from Ingersoll), Wallace, who was not yet a believer, decided he needed to know something about the Bible one way or another, so he started reading the gospels and came to the conclusion that Jesus was clearly God incarnate.

Tom Chantry said...

Victor Davis Hanson wrote extensively about Lew Wallace in Ripples of Battle Wallace was one of the political appointee generals whom professionals like Grant abhorred, and Grant dismissed him from command after a series of serious blunders at Shiloh. It would appear that Wallace had no business holding the command that he did, but that Grant seized on his incompetence as an excuse for the debacle that Shiloh became. Wallace spent a lifetime trying to recover his reputation, writing multiple accounts of Shiloh. Hanson points out the thematic influence of this experience on Ben Hur, in which the protagonist struggles throughout to recover from profound injustice, as well as the impact of the novel on American culture.

I've seen the 72 ounce steak at Amarillo. I have a sort of sickened respect for anyone who can devour it in the maximum one hour.

Kim said...

Homeschool Mom Pyro Reading Log:

1. 6:14 AM EST.
2. HS Mom woke up with a headache.
3. HS Mom hasn't had coffee.
4. HS Mom can smell coffee brewing.
5. HS Mom reads about eating the back end of a zebra, drinking from elepheant unmentionable, biting the head off a live snake, and munching maggots.
6. Churning stomache, spinning head
7. HS mom very afraid to check links. Returning later...

Kim said...


HS Mom is so overwhelmed, she misspells "stomach." Students better not read this blog today.

Carla Rolfe said...

Kim: I can't click the links either. Gack!

Tom Chantry said...

I just hope this Bear Grylls thing doesn't get "thrown up ad nauseam."

DJP said...

Be thankful Phil didn't mention how Gryllis keeps his head cool in hot climates.

James Scott Bell said...

I've read a bunch of Ingersoll, who was the Sam Harris of his day, hugely popular at one time. It is interesting, however, to read the account of his funeral as opposed to that of D. L. Moody. Torrey wrote about them and it is a telling contrast.

Kay said...

One of the finest moments of English television in the last year was Bear Grylls and Harry Hill singing 'Bare necessities'. Priceless.

Solameanie said...


Would you prefer "expurgated?" ;)

Tom Chantry said...

HA! No, don't change my favorite comment of the week!

~Mark said...

Fewer Christians in the Middle East - Since persecution makes the Church grow, I wonder if it's only the reported number of Christians that's going downward.

Bear Grylls - It was the episode with the "wild stallions" that gave me my first serious doubts about the shows' authenticity. Ain't nobody gettin' that close to a truly wild stallion on the first try. Anybody notice how mr. Grylls moved away from starting fires by friction with a stick to using a flint?
Still- I'd rather watch Man vs. Wild than Survivorman. ;)

Matt Gumm said...

Ah, the Big Texan. I've driven through Amarillo many a time and seen the signs, but never had a inkling to try for it.

DJP: two words of caution.

1) I worked with a guy who was able to finish it. He was what we call in Arkansas "a big boy." I'm sure stomach size is more important than overall physical size (the guy who wins the hot dog eating contest every year comes to mind), but still.

2) My understanding is that it isn't only the steak, though that would be enough to put most people under the table. I think you also get a huge baked potato, salad, and some other side, and you don't actually fulfill the obligation unless your plate is clean. Otherwise, it'll cost you--and I think it's up to almost as much as a ticket to Disneyland.

Oh, and before cat month is over, I thought I'd make sure to include a link to Pinky the Cat. No wonder I'm a dog person.

Brendt said...

Do I misinterpret, or is your only problem with Pastore's article that it dampens the effect of non-psychotic criticism of the EC?

In other words, do you not also have a problem with the fact that Pastore:

* bears false witness by making lots of statements that are untrue
* shows just loads and loads of grace to his brothers and sisters
* thinks that MAN can stop radical Islam if he just has the right brand of religion and the right sub-category thereof

I would hope that even the most rational critic of the EC would be honest enough to decry this grossly unbiblical conduct, rather than simply see it as slowing down the rational criticism.

DJP said...

Right, Gummby:

...almost 42,000 people from around the world have traveled to Amarillo and attempted to eat the specially cut 72-oz. top sirloin steak, a baked potato, salad, dinner roll and shrimp cocktail. About 8,000 have succeeded in completing the feat and joining the ranks of Big Texan champions....


They also have a live cam.

Phil Johnson said...


It was a bad article from stem to stern. I'm not going to exegete it. It's old news that's already been dissected all over the blogosphere, and I agree with most of the thoughtful criticism that's been leveled against it.

But I also think the level of raw histrionics it has generated among post-evangelicals is ridiculous and hypocritical. It would be really nice if the so-called "conservative" Emerging folk could muster one-tenth that much outrage against some of the bad teaching being promoted within their own movement. And that goes doubly for "conservative" Emerging leaders who speak at conferences alongside men and women who openly deny the authority of Scripture, and also co-author books with them.

So I'll tell you what: you post a thorough analysis and critique of A Generous Orthodoxy or Rob Bell's latest video, and I'll to the same with the Pastore column.

Solameanie said...

Do I dare make this comparison on a Monday morning? Oh well, I'll take the plunge. Phil makes a good point about the conservative wing of the EC. Let's look at a good alternative example.

Since 9-11, how often have we heard the complaint that "moderate" Muslims have said very little to condemn the actions of their more radical brethren? Every time there is some sort of terrorist action, the so-called moderates are either silent, or they will give a perfunctory "well, we condemn all violence, BUT WHAT ISRAEL AND THE U.S. DO IS ALSO TERRORISM! You all are as bad or worse!"

Now I know that the comparison will rankle some, given that the EC radicals are not violent terrorists. That's a given and I shouldn't have to even point it out. But they DO do violence to biblical orthodoxy, and in the worst cases, does violence to the Gospel itself, which of course puts the whole idea of salvation in jeopardy.

I hate to use such an extreme example, but it's really the same thing. If some Emergent/Emerging people are out there peddling rank heresy, then their more biblically-attuned fellow travelers need to be just as vocal slapping it down.

Jim Crigler said...

For those of us who "do the math" for a living, 72 oz is 4.5 pounds. For the record.

FX Turk said...


It's like 8 feet.

That's a joke in my house, and I'm not "going to exegete it".

Brendt said...

It was a bad article from stem to stern.

I think that means that I misinterpreted. If so, I'm genuinely glad.

I'm not going to exegete it.

Don't recall asking you to do so. I just pointed out some basic glaring errors and asked if you agreed or not.

In the interest of full disclosure: I'm a sporadic reader of this blog, though I read a lot more than I comment. This article was the top one when I got here last night (for the first time in a while) and I commented on it not having seen the "motivational posters" posts below it. I find it mildly ironic that the creator of many of these posters is the same person who stated that the Pastore column "isn't really helpful to anyone" and concluded that "[i]t's an article that shouldn't have been written, much less posted online."

So I'll tell you what: you post a thorough analysis and critique of A Generous Orthodoxy or Rob Bell's latest video, and I'll to the same with the Pastore column.

I have no interest in shelling out $10 for a 5-minute video -- it's all I can do to shell out $1 to rent a video from that machine at Kroger. I have even less interest in reading McLaren. I've stated before that sometimes he seems to have lost his mind.

Besides, he is sooooo last week. Though Bell is still a contender, McLaren has been supplanted by Kimball as the leading bogeyman used to over-generalize the EC movement. Didn't you get the memo? ;-)

Further disclosure: I'm not a conservative emergent (with or without facetious quotation marks). In case the "lost his mind" comment didn't make it clear, I'm not any kind of emergent. I have been dismissively mislabeled as such on more than one occasion. Generally, this occurs when making a Scriptural argument that the other person doesn't like and has heard before from an EC-er. I don't really mind getting ignored, and it's actually kinda cozy under this bus.

Phil Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brendt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Johnson said...

Brendt: "Read again: I never said that anyone here put any kind of label on me."

You're right; you didn't. And even if you had, my last comment to you didn't need to be so sharp-tongued. I apologize for that.

Gilbert said...


If you ever head down to the Big Texan to take on the challenge, they will broadcast it live over the Internet:


Please let us know in advance when it will happen. If you do it, us PyroFaniacs will call the Big Texans to congratulate you, effectively overloading and crashing the phone system within 30 miles of Amarillo. :-)

DJP said...

Now there's a goal worth aiming at.


DJP said...

...to dangle a preposition.

Stefan Ewing said...

That is a grammatical liberty up with which some people will not put.

Stefan Ewing said...

Okay, has anybody even wondered this? How gobsmackingly unlikely is it that Phil would have mentioned Lew Wallace (a fascinating character many of us had likely never heard of), and one of the regular commenters just happens to have been commissioned to paint his portrait, and was able to fill in all that biographical stuff?

Sorry, I'm just in some kind of weird, super-reflective mood today.

Brendt said...


Apology accepted and also extended for basically the same reasons.

I do think that the posters are unnecessary and unhelpful. As are the "response" posters that I've seen created here and there.

In retrospect, I'm glad that I sat on the ones that I created in response to both sets. ;-)