ISIS and Cluster Bombs

ISIS is being criticized for their use of cluster bombs. And no doubt, these are horrible weapons that ought not be used. They explode into sub-munitions. They are horribly inaccurate, with an margin of error of 1,200 meters.  Furthermore, many of them do not explode, leaving dangerous landmines.

However, as is so often the case, that is only half the story. ISIS is following in a long tradition of cluster weapon use.  In fact cluster bombs seem to be a weapon of choice for the United States and Israel. And of course, you only get blamed for using cluster bombs if you are the current “bad guy.”

  • Israel fired about 1,800 cluster bombs into Lebanon on one occasion. Israel would use cluster bombs on Lebanon on three occasions.
  • The United States Department of Defense sold $640 million dollars worth of cluster bombs (1,300 units) to Saudi Arabia
  • In 2003-2006, the United States and the UK used about 13,000 cluster bombs in Iraq.
  • In 2001-2002, the United States used 1,228 cluster bombs in Afghanistan.
  • In 1999, the United States, the UK, and the Netherlands dropped 1,765 cluster bombs in Serbia/Kosovo.
  • The United States, France, the UK, and Saudi Arabia drop 61,000 cluster bombs in Iraq during the Gulf War.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, the United States used cluster bombs extensively.
  • Interestingly enough, in World War II, Nazi Germany and the USSR used cluster bombs, but the Allied forces didn’t.

Unsurprisingly, the United States and Israel have refused to sign a treaty calling on the prohibition of “the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs.”

We should demand that ISIS, Israel, and the United States stop using and distributing cluster bombs!

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Books Finished in August

(6 paper books, 0 e-books, and 2 audio books)

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“The More Blows You Use, The More Hammers You Lose”

BwJ4vfdCcAAN11KI just finished reading The French Reformation by Mark Greengrass. In the last paragraph he shares an interesting fact about the cover of the book. The cover is a reproduction of an illustration used on the title page of the Ecclesiastical History of the reformed churches in France (1580). The illustration shows solders trying to destroy the anvil of Truth with their hammers. One of the solders (the middle one) is about to have his hammer break. On the illustration is a quote by Theodore Beza: “Plus a me frapper on s’amuse, Tant plus de marteaux on y use” (Translation: “The more blows you use, the more hammers you lose”). The illustration/quote is all the more amazing when you consider that the only about a decade earlier thousands of Reformed Christians in France were slaughtered in the infamous massacre of St. Bartholomew. Now that is optimism!

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A Review of “Give Them Grace” by Fitzpatrick and Thompson

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesusgivethem by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

I laid aside my skepticism of books that have words like “dazzle” in their title for a while to read this book, of which I’ve heard some rave reviews.

In essence, the first 90 pages (or so) are largely consumed with establishing a theological foundation. One’s view of the book will be significantly coloured by their perspective on that foundation.

As you can gather from the two star rating, I am not fond of this book. That said, I don’t regret reading it and learned a few things. One must applaud the authors for attempting to write a “fresh” parenting book that isn’t the “same old stuff”. The book does get better after the 90-or-so-page-mark, the content is a bit more nuanced and practical. I like that it seeks to magnify the grace of God. I like that it attempts to lead parents away from prideful self sufficiency and away from Christless parenting. I like that it tries to get parents to thoughtfully engage in parenting in a way that is gracious and points their children to the gospel. While I can’t recommend the book, I *do* like that the authors are seeking to challenge people to discern what is distinctively Christian in their way of parenting.

That said, I believe there are some significant theological problems, both in explicit statements and in general emphasis. Those who have been in Reformedish circles over the last couple of years will immediately see the connection with the controversial Tullian Tchvidjian. This should not come as a surprise when Tullian himself says in his foreword that Elyse “taught me a ton” about the gospel. The book’s theology is basically that of Tchividjian and has more of a Lutheran theological flavour than a Reformed one. After all, five of the ten chapters begin with a quote from Luther or Lutheran theologians. I am almost tempted to theorize that beyond writing the foreword, Tullian may have been the “ghost writer”.

The outlook if the whole book is affected by the basic emphasis of the ‘Liberate Conference’ or ‘Grace Lit’ fad. Such a perspective pervades the first 90-or-so-pages and is the underpinning of the rest. The third use of the law is severely under emphasized. The underlining assumption is that there is only one proper and safe motivation to obedience–gratitude.  One might say the book’s outlook leans significantly in the direction of “soft antinomianism”–not necessarily overt antinomianism, but undertones of it. As Tullian is known to do, the book utilizes Gerhard Forde–who it should be noted is even regarded by many Lutherans as having antinomian tendencies.

In many places the gospel is “over applied”. And the distinctions in the different “levels” of obedience, while having some value, are perhaps taken too far and given too much weight. If you are going to read it, I believe the theology and practice of the book should be taken with a grain of salt, and you will have to be prepared to take the good and throw out the bad. I will not get into a deeper theological discussion of these issues I’m noting, since this is a book review, not a theological dissertation. I will simply say that if you’ve seen any problems in Tullian Tchividjian’s theology, you will probably find them here as well.

I believe there are other problems with the book, beyond its theological perspective, and these further add to my justification for the two-star rating I gave.

Some of the examples of conversations are unhelpful. I like that the book gives concrete examples of what parents can say in different situations (many, parenting books are far too abstract). However, a good many of the examples are unrealistic and unhelpfully verbose. They are tedious and unlikely to dazzle a kid–even if approximated with some adjustments. And there is little specific guidance as to how “age appropriateness” fits in to the equation, other than a reference to the different types of obedience and an observation that they are more or less relevant at different ages.

Furthermore, one or two of the suggested speeches seem to be lacking in wisdom and tact. The worst of them almost sound like a stereotypical Christian parent from a sitcom or the Simpsons. Seriously: you are going to lecture your kid on his eternal state when he blows his team’s baseball game? I can’t imagine how that sounded good even in the “laboratory” of theory!  I doubt it would “dazzle” any kid. I realize they are just examples, but I think these flaws seriously compromise the usefulness of the examples. If you read the reviews, the vast majority of the non-4-or-5-star reviews bring up this aspect.

The writing style leaves much to be desired. Even though the general flow is jumpy and flighty at times, there is, on the other hand, too much rehashing and repetition. Dramatic words like “dazzle”, “drench”, and “bombarded” are over used.

I also think the tone could have been worked on, especially for a book about “giving grace”–leading the reader to believe that perhaps the author’s law vs. gospel categories are perhaps not as “airtight” in practice as they are in theory. Even some of the speeches that are meant to “give grace, not law”, seem sort of “legal” (by their definition of “legal/law”, not mine) in tone. The comments at the end of the chapters about “what the Holy Spirit may be teaching through the chapter” (not an exact quote) may add to the perception of a “preachy” and “talking down” feel to the book.

I would love to see a book come out which had some similar goals, but with a better theological foundation/framework (more sound on law/gospel issues), written better, and more concise and realistic examples. That improvement would trickle down to many minor details in the book–making it a stronger book all-round. Such a hypothetical book may not get Tullian’s endorsement, but it would at least be more robust and realistic. And I suppose there is always the recourse of a tried and tested J. I. Packer endorsement.

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Out And About (2014/08/27)

The Middle East

  • Palestine ≠ Terrorism by Adam McIntosh challenges conservative Christians to think a bit more deeply about the Israel/Palestine situation and not jump to conclusions about Palestinians. It is worth a read. Adam is the son of missionary parents who were reaching out to Muslims in Israel and West Bank.


  • This is fascinating. It shows how much $100 is worth in each of the United States.


  • This map represents the second most spoken language in each borough in London, England.


  • J.D. Flynn wrote an open letter to Richard Dawkins relating to his recent comments about aborting babies with Down syndrome.

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Out And About (2014/08/26)


  • This article explores how list making helped Ray Bradbury in his writing.
  • This article by Philip Jenkins is helpful for those seeking to find a historical to write about.
  • This guest post on Thomas Kidd’s blog is an interesting look at how a mom who is also a professor fits in her academic writing. Seems like a hectic life, although the main takeaway point is that its amazing how much you can get done when you prioritize and plod away!


War/Foreign Policy




  • UPS has been hacked. “Malware that impacted 51 franchises in 24 states may have compromised customers’ credit and debit card information


  • Confirmed: Genuine opera music will ward of Mountain Lions.

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Blind City Planner

My poem, Blind City Planner, has been featured at Second Nature Journal today.

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A Book Spine Poem

unnamedHere is my first attempt at a book spine poem–composed entirely out of books from the local library.

I wrote it in February and submitted it to Essex County Library’s Book Spine Contest. They just announced the winners–my poem didn’t place among the winners or runner ups.

A boy called Dickens
missing mittens:
the plot that thickened.
Punctuation celebration,
Lost nation.
Assassination vacation:
This explains everything.

I know, I know. A lame attempt!

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