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A couple of thoughts on the Cabrera signing

This post will be a bit off the norm for this blog. I’m a big fan of Detroit sports. The Miguel Cabrera signing was big news yesterday, and nationally, it was largely panned. Many compared it to the Albert Pujols signing, which is indeed looking rather albatross-like.

Here’s why I think that’s a bad comparison: Miggy’s already a Tiger. Why does that matter? Most of the time, if a team signs a pricey free agent from another team, they are paying for the premium numbers that he already amassed for the previous team. That is to say, in terms of baseball economics, super-duper-star players are often underpayed during their prime years.

(I’m not going to address the issue of athlete salaries.)

So when an Pujols-like hitter goes from the Cardinals to the Angels, the Angels are paying the high dollar salary, but much of Pujols’ production is already in the past.

In the Tigers’ case, by contrast, their overpayment for Miggy is likely not going to be so utterly outside market prices as one might imagine, even taking into account the inevitable decline that is part of such a long contract.

Look at it this way: statistically, a win in baseball is worth somewhere between $5–7 million. To date, the Tigers have paid Cabrera somewhere in the neighborhood of $107 million. In exchange, Miggy has delivered something in the neighborhood of 36 wins (using baseball-reference.com WAR). This works out to a bargain: the Tigers have paid approximately $3 million per win.

With the contract extension that he just signed (which includes the years he was already under contract in 2014–2015), he is now slated to make $292 million over the next ten years. All told, then, he will have made about $400 million dollars from the Tigers when this contract expires.

At the low estimate ($5 million/win), Cabrera would need to deliver a total of 80 WAR to make his overall contract worthwhile. This would require him to average 6.4 in wins for the next 10 years. This is, of course, not totally likely. For the sake of context, he had exactly a WAR of 6.4 in 2010, when he hit .328/.420/.622, with 38HR and 126RBI. Those are huge numbers.

At the higher estimate ($7 million/win), he would only need to produce a total of 57 WAR to justify his deal. Since he has already produced 36, an additional 20 is almost a given. Also, with the rising salaries in baseball, it is reasonable to expect that the cost of a win is simply going to continue to rise.

All this to say, Cabrera’s contract would be monumentally awful if he had just signed with some other team. But because the Tigers have already received value beyond the dollars for Miggy’s previous years, the inevitable overpay at the end of his new contract is much less objectionable.

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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Ordination

This week is an important week in my life and in the life of our church. On Friday, Calvary Baptist Church will be hosting an ordination council and an ordination service for me. I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity by offering some explanation of the meaning and significance of ordination, at least from a Baptist perspective.

Ordination is a recognition, on the part of a church, that a given man has been set apart for the ministry of the gospel. The basic idea is reflected in Acts 13:2–3: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” We see in this passage that specific people in the church were designated by the Holy Spirit to specific tasks in ministry. The church’s obligation, then, was to set them apart and send them into this ministry.

A key difference between this passage and our day is that the Spirit no longer speaks in such a direct and unmediated way (a topic for another article sometime). Instead, the pursuit of ministry often begins with a desire: “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1). But the desire alone is insufficient; someone might insist that he has the desire to be a pastor, but the Bible not only speaks of desire, but qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9; 1 Peter 5:1–4).

Who is to say whether someone with the desire meets the qualifications? It is the local church itself that is authorized to appoint its deacons (Acts 6:2–4; this is another office with qualifications), and the church has the authority to dismiss members (1 Corinthians 5:4–5). In the same way then, we maintain that the task of judging whether a man meets these qualifications falls to the church. The church ordains.

If you look at the list of qualifications in the passages I cited, most of them have to do with the character of the pastor. This is important, because it means then that the church needs to know their pastor well enough to be able to say that he has this kind of character. In addition to these character qualifications, however, the pastor must be able to teach and must be sound in doctrine. In many cases, the local church simply isn’t fully qualified to assess whether a potential pastor is sound doctrinally. This is the place of the council, in which other ordained, likeminded pastors are brought in to examine the candidate’s theology. The council does not do the ordaining; they simply pass along a recommendation to the church to ordain (or not ordain) based on their examination.

We must take the issue of leadership in the church seriously, because Paul warns us that bad leadership is a dire threat to the church (Acts 20:29–30).

The council will be held at Calvary Baptist Church from 1:00–4:00pm. We will have dinner at 5:00pm, and the ordination service will be at 7:00pm. All are welcome.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Lewis, liturgy as dance, and the regulative principle

Yesterday, I posted a link over at Religious Affections to one of my favorite quotes from the eminently quotable C. S. Lewis. Lewis offers a comparison between liturgy and dance: both must be learned, he suggests, so that when they are employed, they needn’t be thought about. When dancing (I suppose, not having any experience here myself), you do not want to have to give your attention to the dance steps; you want to give your attention to the one with whom you are dancing. In the same way, a learned liturgy allows us to give our attention, not to the liturgy, but to the one we have come to worship.

(Side note: I think there is another Lewis quote along the same lines, in which he notes the caution that, having learned the dance, it is possible then to not think of the dance steps or the person with whom you are dancing, but of something else altogether. In worship, this is the very real danger of formalism: having the liturgy ingrained, we attend to neither it nor the Lord, but to the thousand other things that suggest themselves during the hour.)

I want to make one further point from Lewis’s analogy. It is easy for us who advocate traditional or conservative worship to find support in Lewis’s words: we are the ones fighting novelty in worship, and here is Lewis castigating novelty in worship. Hurray for us! But there is a problem: many of us find ourselves in situations in which we are seeking to introduce conservatism to those unaccustomed to it. What we are introducing is not novel in any historical sense. But it is novel to our congregations, to our people. And if so, its introduction will have exactly the same intrusive, awkward, and disruptive effect that Lewis describes. They will be thinking about the form, and not about Christ. This is an enormous problem, which we must take seriously, without being evasive.

It is serious, and when we adjust the familiar liturgy, it is unavoidable. If it is serious and unavoidable (assuming we are making changes), we had better have some good justification for introducing change. It is never a light matter to disrupt the worship of Christ. Change, even good change, disrupts. Even welcome, appreciated change (which is not common) is problematic on this account: to learn a new hymn (even if you love it) is to give your attention, at least initially, to the hymn.

So ought we abandon the thought of introducing new old things? I don’t believe so. Let me offer a few points of explanation.

  • If new people are coming to our church, something about our worship will undoubtedly feel left-handed to them (or, to continue the dancing imagery, as though they have two left feet). This is especially true of the newly converted: what is natural to them is quite unlikely to be deeply sanctified, for the simple reason that their exposure to the Word and Spirit is likely to have been minimal. All this suggests that some awkwardness is unavoidable in worship, even if the forms remained completely static. This awkwardness, then, cannot be always and everywhere immoral.
  • While Lewis’s admonition is wise and merits a hearing, it is not law. We could all imagine scenarios in which the worship of a given group of Christian is so aberrant that some changes must be introduced. Assuming here a Protestant audience, we would not long permit the practice of public prayers to Mary and the saints during the corporate worship time, even if such were the time-honored practice of the church that we just arrived at. There are obviously times that changes to the liturgy must be introduced; this also indicates that changes are not always a bad idea. Thus, the reference to the regulative principle in the title: Scripture, not Lewis, regulates the worship in Christ’s church.
  • Nonetheless, Lewis’s caution is weighty; we must seek to minimize the awkwardness, the distraction, of altered worship. As an example, Kevin argued in a recent Nick essay that new songs should not be introduced on a Sunday morning; this, in general, seems like profitable counsel. I would add that, as much as is possible, teaching and consensus should precede implementation of new forms of worship.
  • A final caution: a “successful” move toward conservatism can, at times, be akin to the newly minted Calvinist: the delight has ceased to be in Christ, but in the new thing (whether Calvinism or the hymnody). If we introduce changes, we must do so with vigilance against our churches becoming delighted in their own worship. What an evil thing to find that in our very worship, purportedly to honor God, we have transformed it into a time to delight in ourselves!
 
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Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

What music does

In my last post, I had shared a brief argument that, at least for me, undergirds my conservatism in worship, without forsaking the principle of sola scriptura. I noted in the post that it originated as a letter to a friend of mine, so I was taken aback a bit when some of the comments said they were looking forward to the next part of the discussion, for there is really no “next part.” I wrote it to begin a conversation, not as an introduction to a larger work.

That said, the person to whom I wrote did reply, and so I thought I’d go ahead a reprint here my response to that reply. A bit of context: he sent me a brief poem on the Trinity, which he acknowledged was nothing particularly artistic, and suggested the possibility that it might be used with children, to the tune of “I’ve Got a Mansion” (my example song from the previous post). Here was my reply:

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Your first example is really quite useful, because I think it highlights an important point in this whole discussion. You ask me to consider using that poem, with the tune of “I’ve Got a Mansion,” for teaching children. It’s that last part, I suspect, that is the key to this particular illustration. And, perhaps contrary to what you might expect me to say, it’s the teaching part, not the children part, that is at issue.
 
Here’s the point: music is not just a medium for making doctrine memorable. Art, real art, is decidedly inefficient at teaching propositions. Think of something like Psalm 23: if you want to teach the doctrinal truths of that poem, you could do so in a line or two. Poetry is about creating a feeling, not simply about communicating propositions. Music is like poetry in this regard. Sure, we all know that if we take truths, set them to little tunes, maybe make up some ridiculous rhymes, we can memorize them easier. I’ve undoubtedly done that while preparing for tests or the like. But that’s not why we sing. That’s not why huge swaths of Scripture is written in poetry. Good art shapes feeling, it doesn’t merely impart propositions.
 
Let me sharpen the point by changing your question. You ask, “Can a simple tune like it still be fitting to communicate excellent theological truths that are praiseworthy?” I would ask, “Can a simple tune like this elicit feeling about God that reflects the mystery and awesomeness of the Triunity?” We may still disagree about the answer to that question. But I want to phrase it that way, because I think your question is asking about something else altogether. You’re not asking whether the music is good, but merely if its useful. Does that distinction make sense?
 
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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Uncategorized