Russell and Duenes

Archive for November 2014

Some Musings: November 28, 2014

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Suddenly everyone is a District Attorney and understands in great detail all the intricacies of the Grand Jury system.

I think my second oldest son is destined to be a computer hacker. We keep finding his attempts to decode our password typed into our computer log in. Of course, at this point he’s convinced that the password is some variation of “lego.” It’s hilarious, at least for now.

The apostle Peter commands us to “honor all people” and to “honor the emperor.” Yet Peter is also the one who defies the religious rulers to their faces, telling them, “We must obey God rather than men.” So, honoring others does not include “going along to get along,” nor bowing to their wishes. I’m sure Peter was being perfectly honorable, even gentle, when he told these rulers that he would not obey them. Nor did Peter dishonor the sorcerer when he told him, “Your money perish with you.” We need to disabuse ourselves of this bogus notion that treating others with honor means never making them feel bad or “judged.”

All these years as a Christian and I’ve never read a book by Francis Schaeffer. I’ve owned The God Who is There, Escape From Reason, and He is There, and He is Not Silent, for several years, but I’ve never gotten around to reading any of them. Recently I found an audio version of He is There, and He is Not Silent at our library. I’ve been duly impressed, and wish I had read some of Schaeffer’s stuff earlier. I’ve been particularly captured by his thoughts on epistemology, a word I wish would become commonplace among God’s people at every level. I’ve been going back over what he says on this multiple times, just to internalize it (and I’ll likely write some things on it here when I can get to it). Epistemology basically deals with the question of “how we know what we know.” Like Schaeffer, I think it is one of the most important topics, and one of the most neglected, for the Christian Church today, and I’m hoping Schaeffer’s writings will help me continue to make that case to as many people as I can.

Schaeffer also strikes the reader with his clear experiential basis for dealing with ultimate questions. He is no “armchair” theologian, formulating speculative propositions merely to lay down a systematic theology and philosophy. The things he thinks and writes about are clearly born of his conversations and interactions with people who came to stay with him and his family. Therefore he speaks with a combination of penetrating intellectual and historical force yet with a warm authenticity and personal depth. I imagine this to be a rare thing.



Written by Michael Duenes

November 28, 2014 at 9:58 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

Thank You, Lord, For the Life of the Mind

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I was not interested in the life of the mind and soul until well into my late teens. I thank God that He awakened in me a yearning to love him, not only with body and soul, but with my mind as well. So I would like to give thanks to those men and women God used to create this desire in me.

Garry Poe: Mr. Poe was my AP English teacher my senior year in high school. Up to that point, I never truly cared about academics or doing well in school, except insofar as “doing well” kept me in my parents’ good graces. Yet here was a teacher who had a passion for learning, and particularly for reading and writing. We had to write practice AP English essays every Friday, and at first, I did terribly. I had never really had to write before. But I struggled through, read the books he assigned, and wrote the essays. And eventually I found that I enjoyed the process of reading and learning. I also passed the AP exam.

Ed Duenes: My father is not particular “bookish” or academically-oriented, in the formal sense; and my brother and I used to scoff him when we were boys as he would tell us that learning had to do with building up a “data bank” in our minds. Yet I always knew that my dad was a superb pilot, and not by accident. He pursued his flying, as he pursued many things, as a “thinking man’s game.” It wasn’t until I started flying myself that I realized the importance my father put on thinking well. Based on his example, I dove into aviation with zest, enjoying the sustained thought that went into doing it well. It was the first “thinking man’s” activity I engaged in, and I have my dad to thank for setting me an example. He flew with excellence because he thought with excellence.

John Piper: My Intervarsity leader at UCLA, Alex Van Riesen, introduced me to John Piper, and it has been one of God’s greatest graces to me. For the first decade or so of my Christian life, John Piper had the largest influence on me, by far. Indeed, no other author has influenced me more, even to this day. He had that blend of heart and mind in the Christian life which appealed to me somewhere deep in my soul. I remember coming across one of his books in college, a book which had portions of the Greek New Testament text in it, and thinking that I wanted to learn Greek myself so that I could read the text in the original. Piper turned me on to thinkers like Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin and John Owen (that’s a lot of “Johns”). I am eternally indebted to him for setting me on a trajectory, as a young Christian, of thinking deeply about life and faith.

Ellen Goldsmith (Quarry): Dr. E is a friend and counselor, who spoke powerfully into my life for over ten years. It was her influence that ultimately persuaded me to attend seminary at Talbot School of Theology, and she also helped me to think about and read the Scriptures in ways I never would have otherwise.

David Alan Black: He was my beginning Greek professor. Loved him. Still love him. He read or spoke seven languages, but he clearly loved the language of the New Testament. From the first day of class, he inspired me to want to read the Greek New Testament. Going to his class, at 8:00 am no less, was like Christmas morning. There was always something there to thrill my mind and heart. I read all of his books on NT Greek I could get my hands on. To this day I still regularly translate from the Greek text. What a gift Dr. Black was.

Dallas Willard: I did not find my way to Dallas Willard until the mid-1990s, but I thank God I did. Here is a man who can speak about God and His kingdom in a way the average layman can understand, and then turn around and write a brilliant philosophical piece that seems like it causes your head to break open. He’s another guy who proves that one need not check his brains at the door before trusting wholly in the Bible. Dallas stimulated me to think more critically on a worldview level.

Douglas Wilson: He’s just a pastor, but I find him to be unique among the evangelicals I read. He has helped me find my way into deeper reflections on epistemology and the reality that there is no spiritually neutral territory anywhere in the universe. It’s been a true pleasure to read his blog on a regular, mostly daily, basis.

David E. Pierce: Professor Pierce was my oil and gas law professor at Washburn. One thing that comes clear from sitting under his teaching is that he has thought long and hard about the subject of oil and gas law. If there is an issue to be researched, he is going to research it thoroughly. He’s not just going to read a few cases on it here and there. He’s going to read every case on it, and read them numerous times. He urged us to write clearly and succinctly, and forced us to be precise and accurate. I am grateful to have been his student.

I’m grateful for more than these people in my intellectual journey, but these stand out to me this Thanksgiving. The old commercial used to say, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” I quite agree, and I had been wasting mine for a good many years; too many. I often wish I had those years back. But praise God for His mercy, and for the joy of  learning and growing in the life of the mind.


Written by Michael Duenes

November 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Duenes, Thank the Lord

Francis Schaeffer: True To What Is There!

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schaefferIn He is There, and He is Not Silent, Francis Schaeffer says something absolutely explosive. He writes:

I find many people who are evangelical and orthodox see truth just as true to the dogmas, or to be true to what the Bible says. Nobody stands more for the full inspiration of Scripture than I, but this is not the end of truth as Christianity is presented, as the Bible presents itself. The truth of Christianity is that it is true to what is there. You can go to the end of the world and you never need be afraid, like the ancients, that you will fall off the end and the dragons will eat you up. You can carry out your intellectual discussion to the end of the discussion because Christianity is not only true to the dogmas, it is not only true to what God has said in the Bible, but it is also true to what is there, and you will never fall off the end of the world! . . . We need the full biblical position to have the answer to the basic philosophical problem of the existence of what is. We need the full biblical content concerning God: that He is the infinite-personal God, and the starting place.

This is the argument for Christian education for Christian children. What Schaeffer saw is that Christian truth cannot be cordoned off into “the truths of the Bible,” or to “clearing things up at home,” or to biblical teachings on Sundays and sprinkled throughout the week. If the truth of Christianity is truth about “what is there,” what exists in the entire universe, then surely it makes a difference whether one’s children are taught day-by-day, hour-by-hour, class-by-class that the Triune God of the Bible has nothing to do with “what is there.” Children then grow into adults who have learned to segment and compartmentalize Jesus off into tidy little spaces. We come to accept that the world deals in “facts,” and that our Christian faith deals in “opinions,” which may or may not be authoritative over all existence.

God is the starting, and the ending, place. He is the sum and center. Moral, spiritual and intellectual development must revolve around him as the planets revolve around the Sun. This truth must form the core of our Christian apologetic, and it will begin to do so when our children have a thoroughgoing inculcation in it.


Written by Michael Duenes

November 19, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Posted in Apologetics, Duenes

Stone Your Son To Death

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“If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.  ~ Deut. 21:18-21

This is another one of those texts in the OT law that is absolutely shocking to modern readers, this reader included, when I think of it in light of today’s “wisdom.” A few observations. If the son is a “glutton” and a “drunkard,” he would seem to be older than a child. I don’t know precisely how old he would have to be, but I doubt we’re talking about a 5-year old kid. Probably he is more like junior high school age or older. The son knows enough to be rebellious in a high-handed way.

Second, the son is “stubborn.” So we’re not likely not talking about a son who has disobeyed once or twice. We’re probably looking at a now long-established pattern of rebellion and disregard for his parents’ orders.

Third, it says he will not obey his father “or” his mother. This seems to indicate that both parents have equal authority over the boy. Rebellion against either parent is barred.

Fourth, these are parents who have sought to discipline the son. They “chastise” him in order to turn him from his rebellion. But he won’t listen.

Fifth, spiritual authority comes into play here as well. The parents are to bring the rebellious son before “the elders of his city.” This is not a private affair. I assume this is a matter of confirming what the parents are saying about their son.

Sixth, “all the men of his city” are to participate in putting the rebellious son to death. Again, it is a community affair, because the whole community has an interest in not letting the cancer of rebellion spread.

Finally, the boy is put to death because he will not obey his parents. This is his crime, and it is a capital crime. This is 100% at odds with our modern western culture, which considers it almost a positive virtue to rebel against parents. Indeed, we expect such rebellion as a “fact of life.” Obedience to and respect for parental wishes and orders is a concept that is under massive assault – in our books, our TV shows, our movies, our public schools, our popular press, our psychology, and our universities – and yet here is God giving it an incredible priority, on pain of death. Even Jesus quotes, positively, God’s command that “whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.” (Mark 7:10). And the apostle Paul says that the “perilous times” of the last days will be characterized by “disobedience to parents.” (2 Tim. 3:2).

These are astounding words. God would not have given them will-nilly.


Written by Michael Duenes

November 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill

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Eighteen years ago, one of my good friends let me borrow the Blackstone Audio version of “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone, 1932 – 1940,” by William Manchester. It was the second volume in what turned out to be Manchester’s (and Paul Reid’s) three-volume masterpiece on Churchill.

At that point in my life, I knew next to nothing about Winston Churchill, but quickly found myself engrossed in the man’s life and times. Now, these eighteen years later, I have finally finished all three volumes (the third volume did not come out until 2012). How grateful I am to have been introduced to the man. I even gave my third son the middle name, Winston. (I was a heartbeat away from making it his first name). That’s how much admiration I have for Mr. Churchill. And Manchester is a master storyteller.

Along the way, I’ve read several other books about Churchill, and enjoyed each one. I would now like to begin tackling some of Churchill’s own writings. I have all volumes of his “History of the English-Speaking Peoples,” and his multi-volume war memoir would be a great read too.

Reading (or rather, listening to) Manchester’s volumes has been one of the more pleasurable experiences of my life. I would happily listen to all three volumes again (and indeed, I have listened to volume 2 twice). If you have any interest in history, and would enjoy learning about one of the most important men in British history and in modern times, I cannot recommend these books highly enough.


Written by Michael Duenes

November 16, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Duenes, Literature