Posted by: reformedmusings | August 18, 2014

The Michael Brown shooting – the other side of the story

Tired of the Sharpton/New Black Panthers/Holder/Obama/lamestream press race baiting?  It turns out that there’s a significant body of evidence backing Officer Darren Wilson’s side of the shooting story.

It turns out that some folks apparently started cell phone videoing just after the shooting. Both FoxNews and IJReview have partial transcripts of the Youtube video (private video). The video doesn’t show much, but the conversation on the video from apparent eyewitnesses back the officer’s version of events.

Here’s the surveillance video of the strong-arm store robbery purportedly showing Michael Brown and an accomplice. The descriptions match pretty closely. Imagine that 6 foot 4 inch, 300 pound frame charging at you in the street. It was shoot or die for the officer. More on that below.

Then there’s someone calling themselves “Josie” who purports to tell Officer Darren Wilson’s side of the story. It matches the official story, the video conversation, and the autopsy results closely.

Oh yeah, the autopsy report. It clearly shows that Brown was shot in the front, consistent with him charging the officer. The locations of last shots in the head are consistent with Brown lowering his head to tackle or head-butt the officer at the end of his charge.

So, working backwards from the autopsy report, through Josie’s narrative which matches the official statements, and backed up by the video transcript, and the conduct seen in the surveillance video from the robbery, the story is consistent. Officer Wilson was rightly in fear for his life and reacted correctly under the circumstances.

One more thing. Brown wasn’t shot over a box of cigars. Brown was shot because he apparently chose, of his own free will, to violently attack a police officer. And Brown was not unarmed. He was allegedly using his 6 foot 4 inch, 300 pound frame as a deadly weapon against the officer. That’s called “disparity of force” in the law, and provides the legal basis for using deadly force in self-defense. Remember that.

The Michael Brown shooting isn’t about race, it’s about the facts which are independent of race and politics. When you see the race baiters on TV or hear them on the radio, remember, they are devoid of facts – empty bags of ill wind. Don’t be fooled. Remember the Sharpton/Holder/Obama/lamestream press race baiting in the Zimmerman self-defense case from Florida? Remember the use of a childhood picture of Zimmerman’s violent attacker to gain sympathy where none was due? They were all wrong or lying or both. George Zimmerman was exonerated by a jury of his peers who heard ALL the facts, not just the Sharpton/Holder/Obama/lamestream press race baiting, carefully crafted spin. Now they are at it again.A thorough investigation is in progress by the local and state police departments. Final judgement should be withheld until that investigation is complete. Theirs is the only apolitical investigation seeking the true facts, as opposed to the race-based spin that Holder’s politically-biased DOJ will try to produce from whole cloth.Truth is the inevitably the first casualty in politics.

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 17, 2014

Modern sporting rifles save lives

HT: GunFreeZone.


And going back to the LA riots, let’s not forget the Koreans who defended themselves and their shops while the police cowered outside the troubled area:


Think that the police are there to protect you? Guess again.


Posted by: reformedmusings | August 16, 2014

Police militarization on display in Ferguson, MO

I remember the good ol’ days when the mission of the police was to protect and serve. The police knew their communities and the communities new them. Police were respected for their courage and sacrifice.

We live in a new age where “protect and serve” has given way to “enforce and intimidate.” Folks like myself that used to respect the police now keep a watchful eye on the increasing isolation of what has morphed to “law enforcement” and their growing isolation and militarization.

The militarization started innocently enough. In the 1033 program started in 1997, the military could transfer excess equipment to police departments. The goal was laudatory – to equip local departments to handle violent drug gangs. Well, crime has plummeted since 1997. However, the war on terror, 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced a plethora of serious military hardware combined with a national police force called the Department of Homeland Security,  which Obama implied should rival the military in power.

How is this playing out? The use of over-equipped, under-disciplined, under-trained, and poorly led SWAT teams to serve warrants for non-violent offenses have cost many innocent lives. The former military users of that equipment had extensive and continuous training, a well-understood strict disciplinary system, and highly-trained and experienced leadership. Most of this equipment was designed for military professionals to use on combatant enemies, not civilian amateurs to use on fellow U.S. citizens.

We see all this playing out in Ferguson, MO. Leaving the igniting incident aside, we see the usual rioting and looting by animals at any perceived excuse. The looting animals aren’t protesters, but hardened thugs and predators who take advantage of tragedies. I have no sympathy for looters or rioters.

That said, the police responded to this relatively small number of thugs by terrorizing the entire community. Mashable did a photo essay comparing the police in Ferguson with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Rand Paul wrote a great essay about the police’s extreme militarization visible in Ferguson, and Ferguson is far from unique.

In the overreaction to the blow-back from the militaristic intimidation, the police have now virtually abandoned citizens, their property and their businesses. It has fallen to property and business owners to protect themselves and their interests, just as it did in the Korean community in the LA riotsthe 2nd Amendment in full action.

So, in Ferguson we see the necessity of both sides of the 2nd Amendment. First, we see the fruition of Obama’s trampling of the Constitution by building an illegal civilian army while attempting to disarm the people through “common sense gun control”, that government threat being the core reason that our Founders included the 2nd Amendment. Second, we see the government then failing to protect its citizens (as governments are all destined to fail), so that armed citizens must stand and fight to survive.

Don’t be prey. Be prepared. Be prepared to protect your freedom and your family. Arm yourself and get training for a day that we all hope never comes in our communities. But it certainly can, and with little if any warning.

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 16, 2014

Are you ready for the next Ferguson, MO, mayhem?

Something serious to think about from the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League:

The ongoing riots in Ferguson, Missouri should serve as an important reminder to anyone who is thinking about owning a gun.  When your safety is already at risk, it may be too late to buy that first gun.

Why do I say that?

1.  You’ll be lucky to find a gun at a gun store when EVERYBODY is trying to buy one.  And IF you do find a gun, it may not be the best gun or the most suitable gun and it’s going to cost you a lot more money than it would have before the emergency.

2.  You may not be able to find ammunition for your new gun.  And IF you do find ammunition, it may not be the most suitable ammunition for self-defense, you may not find it in the quantity you want, and it is going to cost you a lot more money.

3.  You may not be able to purchase important accessories for your new gun.  Things like spare magazines, holsters, slings, and optics.  Not having enough magazines or not having a holster could put you in a real bind.  You may not have time to research which accessories you need or be able to install them quickly if you can even find them.

4.  By not having bought the gun ahead of time and now being in the middle of an emergency, you won’t have the time to take the gun to a range to do important things like:

a) making sure the gun actually works and is not a one-shot or even a zero-shot wonder

b) making sure that the ammunition you purchased works in the gun

c) practicing with the gun to become proficient in its use and to know how to do critical things, like reloading the gun quickly while under pressure

d) becoming comfortable and familiar with various controls such as thumb safeties, grip safeties, or de-cockers

e) adjusting the sights on the gun to make sure the bullet is going to go reasonable close to where the gun is aimed

f) installing and testing any accessories, like bipods, tactical lights, laser sights, or custom grips

The time to become a gun owner is NOW when you are NOT in the middle of a riot or some other emergency.

The time to do it is when you have time.  When you can purchase the gun you want.  When you can purchase and store a quantity of the ammunition you want.  When you can verify the gun functions properly and is sighted in properly.  When you can study which accessories you want and have time to get those accessories.  When you can practice and train with both the gun and the accessories so that you have confidence in your ability to protect yourself and your family.

All of that can be done in a reasonable amount of time if you put enough effort into it, but it can’t be done instantaneously in the middle of an emergency.

If you’re going to become a gun owner, and you don’t live in Ferguson, MO, there is no time better than RIGHT NOW.

Posted by: reformedmusings | July 30, 2014

Refuse to be a victim

It’s been a busy summer and I haven’t had time to post much. I hope to do some catch up in the next few weeks, but here’s a good start.

Anti-liberty Bloomberg hired a high-power ad firm to produce an anti-freedom gun control ad for his current front organizations, the euphemistically named Everytown for Gun Safety/Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense – both dedicated to making Americans helpless victims.

So, how’s that working out? Here’s their first at bat, exploiting the tragedy of domestic violence:

Bad, huh. That what Bloomberg and his fellow anti-freedom zealots want for America – helpless sheep to be sheered by the physically and/or politically powerful. Think the dark ages when the weak were simply prey for the physically strong, or Nazi Germany when the politically weak were prey for a tyrannical government. That’s the ideal future for Bloomberg. How’s that working out in Chicago and DC – gun control and murder capitals at the same time?

But, what if the woman in that propaganda video was also armed? Even the ultra-liberals on The View preferred this approach. She would have been in a better tactical position to survive. Here’s the founding fathers’ dream for a strong and free American people:

Yep – a strong and free woman able to defend herself against a physically more powerful predator.  Let’s set aside the sales pitches and talk real life:

There’s a woman who was prepared thanks to a friend. She did everything that Bloomberg and Biden want – call 911, hide in a locked room. All that was useless. The dispatcher didn’t want her to do anything rash? Seriously? The intended victim was supposed to lay back and be raped until the cops finally arrived, probably after she was dead? What saved her from that fate was having a firearm and be willing to use it. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Here’s another preferred outcome featuring a strong, prepared woman who dispatched a bad guy who mistakenly thought that she was helpless prey:

This dispatcher was a lot more supportive and helpful. So, which would you rather be, the helpless victim that Bloomberg, Everytown, and Mom’s want you to be as in their video, or a strong American able to defend yourself and your family from violent predators. That should be your choice. Don’t let Bloomberg or his proxies make the decision for you.

Refuse to be a victim. Write you Senators and Congressmen and tell them to keep the government’s hands off of your firearms.



Posted by: reformedmusings | May 22, 2014

Tribal Congregationalism and future of the PCA

I have used the term “tribal congregationalism” several times in recent blog posts and comments. I stated the basic definition most succinctly in this post as:

The PCA [Presbyterian Church in America] has become a tribal congregationalist denomination where particular errors find toleration in specific presbyteries that remain unaccountable to the denomination as a whole.

I have been asked to expand upon that definition, hence this post.

Amongst the important elements of good leadership are empowerment and accountability. Empowerment includes the idea of delegation, wherein I assign a task or function to a person or group. When empowered, that person or group then has the tools and authority to accomplish the assigned task or function, along with clear expectations and desired outcomes.

With empowerment must also come accountability to the leader who assigned the task or function. Accountability can include things like deadlines, progress reports, specific intermediate goals, etc., as well as the actual final outcome. A good leader delegates tasks and functions, empowers those assigned to those tasks and functions with the tools and authorities necessary, provides clear expectations and desired outcomes, and holds the empowered accountable for the results.

We see these principles generally at work in the PCA’s Book of Church Order (BCO). We have three levels of church courts, each with specific tasks and functions assigned, specific expectations, and each empowered to carry out their tasks and functions as delineated in the BCO (BCO 1-1, 1-5, 3-2, 10-1, 10-2, 11-4). Through review and control (BCO 11-4, Chapter 40), each court is held accountable to the broader courts. That is, sessions are held accountable to presbyteries through the review of their minutes and general knowledge of their activities. Presbyteries, in turn, are held accountable via the same tools to the General Assembly. That’s Presbyterianism 101.

When that process breaks down, we have processes for church discipline (BCO Chapters 29 to 40). Individual courts hold their members accountable through investigations, counseling and, as a last resort, trials. Each court’s execution of the discipline process is reviewed by the next broader court for their fidelity to our Constitution – the Westminster Standards together with the BCO. That’s Presbyterianism 102.

Unfortunately, while the theory is sound, the execution is found lacking in the PCA these days. We created an outlier judicial commission, the SJC, which as constructed differs from the actual church courts (BCO 15-3) in that it is not directly accountable to the General Assembly (which created it) for its specific actions or decisions (BCO 15-5). Therefore, the three court structure, the courts being one (BCO 11-3), is broken in the PCA because of an unaccountable judicial commission (BCO Preliminary Principle 7).

The breakdown of the above basic leadership elements and processes that implement them has been manifest in recent decisions in the PCA. The Committee for the Review of Presbytery Records rightly called out a specific presbytery’s decision accepting officers who hold to paedocommunion (the unbiblical serving of communion to infants and toddlers in violation of 1 Cor 11:27-29; WCF 29, WSC 96, 97; WLC 168-177) to the General Assembly, but the latter decided not to hold that presbytery accountable. The General Assembly permitted, by inaction, officers that practice of intinction, which also violates the Scriptural model for communion (Mt 26:26-28; Lk 22:17-20; 1 Cor 11:23-29) as well as the Westminster Standards (WCF 29.3; WLC 169) and the BCO (58-5). The SJC gave a pass to the teaching and practice of Federal Vision errors by church officers in the Leithart and Meyers cases by choosing to decide those cases based on technicalities rather than directly addressing the underlying heresies (Mt 23:22-24).

Perhaps just as bad, progressive political parties now operate freely but in secret in the PCA, outside of any accountability to the church courts. The National Partnership and Original Vision Network seek to turn the PCA into a “broadly Reformed” denomination without defining “broadly Reformed.” Given their tolerance of intinction, paedocommunion, female deacons, etc., I think that we can guess which way they lean. I sincerely believe that the word “confessional” is used as an byword in their secret emails and meetings. Secret hearts and sorry tales will never help love grow.

The net result of this lack of accountability for officers and presbyteries tolerating, holding, teaching, and/or practicing serious errors has been the creation of a system which I call “tribal congregationalism.”

The tribes refer to presbyteries that tolerate officers holding, practicing and/or teaching specific errors within their boundaries. I witnessed first hand that seminary graduates know which presbyteries are likely to accept their paedocommunion views, for example, and in which presbyteries to avoid even attempting ordination. Federal Visionists have a very good idea of which presbyteries they shouldn’t bother transferring into (Leithart obviously isn’t as smart as some folks think he is). And so on with intinction, theistic evolution, female deacons, etc. Each erroneous officer or candidate seeks out safety in his applicable tribe. Some tribes overlap or tolerate multiple errors, others do not. Safe conversations seek out supporting tribes.

The congregationalism part of the term comes from the lack of accountability outside the tribe. We nod and wink at specific presbyteries that tolerate officers who practice or teach Federal Vision, paedocommunion, intinction, female deacons, theistic evolution, et al. A majority of the commissioners at General Assembly have apparently consistently desired to avoid offending or judging deviant officers. Net result = no accountability. Specific errors thrive within the bounds of each tribe without accountability to the denomination at large. That’s what I call tribal congregationalism, and ultimately it will destroy the PCA.

Sound too drastic? Consider PCA congregants who travel or transfer around the country, which describes many in our mobile society. I have seen families bring their little toddlers up for communion, only to be refused by faithful officers who take the Scriptures seriously. Even when reached out to after the service, these families rarely return to a PCA church in a faithful presbytery, usually winding up in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). On the flip side, I get emails from families traveling or moving to questionable presbyteries, wanting to know which churches are faithful to our Constitution, and hence to the Scriptures since PCA officers swear that our Standards contains the system of doctrine taught in holy Scripture. Sadly, sometimes I point them to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) or Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) or other more consistent denominations because I cannot name a faithful PCA church in their area of interest. The PCA is sowing division and confusion in the wind, and will reap the whirlwind (Hos 8:7).

I hear, especially from young officers, that the PCA must reach out to and welcome the diverse cultures in our country, because we won’t survive if we don’t do so. I agree. You won’t find a more diverse cultural settings than the greater Washington D.C. area in which God planted the church in which I am honored to serve. I see first-hand every week that the gospel of Jesus Christ knows no cultural boundaries. People around the world share one overarching characteristic – they are all sinners in need of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, with the Scriptures as the only inerrant and infallible rule for faith and practice. That sentence is the most missional statement that you’ll ever see outside of Scripture itself.

That welcoming of sinners from diverse national, ethnic, economic, etc., backgrounds won’t break the PCA. Rather, by God’s grace that people-diversity will strengthen His Church. What WILL break the PCA is the diversity of theology and worship beyond the bounds of our Constitution and the regulative principle, both firmly based on Scripture, now found and growing in the PCA.

The empowerment and mutual accountability of Presbyterianism is fundamentally incompatible with tribal congregationalism. So, I’ll say it again: The PCA is sowing confusion in the wind, and will reap the whirlwind. We need to decide if the PCA will follow the church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6) or the church in Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13) and act now on that decision. May God give us the wisdom to take after that faithful church in Revelation 3:7-13.

Posted by: reformedmusings | May 14, 2014

Tale of Two Letters – A Response

Gentle readers – My good friend and fellow laborer-in-the-gospel TE Billy Boyce called me with some thoughts on my original post. We had an amicable discussion in which Billy differed with me in some areas. I offered Billy the chance to publish his thoughts on my blog if he so desired. By way of introduction, let me observe that Billy is solidly and confessionally Reformed, very intelligent, and does his homework. Below is Billy’s thoughtful response:

Recently, a friend and fellow elder, RE Bob Mattes, penned an article responding to a recent letter to the PCA from eighteen of her founders concerning the identity of the church. I always appreciate Bob’s research, yet disagreed with his analysis here. I consider Bob a friend and an “elder’s elder.” I value his experience and commitment to the Reformed tradition and our denomination. Though we disagree on certain things, we agree on far more, and when our opinions diverge, we still hold to our greater unity in Christ. We gladly labor together as elders at the same church in Northern Virginia, meeting frequently for conversation. This response is offered in that spirit, allowing us to continue conversation in the public forum as we normally would in person.

In his post, Bob suggests that the founders’ letter represents mission creep in the PCA, with the desire to be “broadly Reformed” representing a change from the PCA’s founding mission. While Bob offers insight into some of our denominational weaknesses, I believe that his article presents a truncated view of our history and identity. This discussion demonstrates the continued struggle to define the identity of the PCA as a Reformed church in the 21st century.

Interpreting the Past
Bob’s main contention is that the 18 elders have chosen to rewrite the original vision of the PCA, from “total commitment to the Reformed tradition” to, in his words, “big tent PCA”, i.e., “broadly Reformed.” Bob helpfully exhorts readers of the letter to remember the original vision of the PCA (hereafter OV) set forth in the 1973 “Message to All Churches”. However, he rejects the letter from the 18 as an adequate interpretation of the OV, advocating an interpretation closer to that of Dr. Morton Smith.

Much can be said regarding the history of the PCA and the OV. First, we must acknowledge that there are different interpretations of the original material. In re-reading the founding document, I noted a particular emphasis on uniting commitment to Reformed heritage with evangelistic zeal. Dr. Smith’s work retains these commitments, but casts them in the form of rigorous Southern Presbyterianism. While Dr. Smith’s view is an interpretation of the original vision, it is not the only one. Dr. Tim Keller, drawing on research by Dr. Sean Lucas, observes that the PCA was, from its founding, intentionally integrationist, with representatives from a number of different strands of the American Reformed tradition comprising her identity. Put simply, the OV alone does not necessitate Dr. Smith’s view or the view of the 18, but is broad enough to encompass both.

Second, when seeking to apply the OV to the present day, we must consider another major event in our history: the 1982 Joining and Receiving with the RPCES. The church that emerged from the 1973 OV retained much of its heritage, with many maintaining the emphasis on “the spirituality of the Church” and other characteristics of the older Southern Church. Meanwhile, the RPCES signified a primarily Northern church with a heavy emphasis on cultural engagement and a desire for unity against the background of divisive fundamentalism. Given the merging of these different strands, Dr. Francis Schaeffer exhorted the new church to practice great patience in order to more fully realize the Gospel in the world. Now, to some, the J&R represents a shift away from the OV, but to others, a logical and necessary realization of the OV (i.e., “We greet all believers in an affirmation of the bonds of Christian brotherhood. We invite into ecclesiastical fellowship all who maintain
our principles of faith and order.”). If this is the case, we must continue to let these various strands inform our Reformed identity.

What then of our commitment to the Standards? Bob sees strict subscription to the Standards as the only way of preserving “total commitment to the Reformed tradition”. Therefore, in the move to “good faith subscription” (GFS), the PCA jumped onto the slippery slope that led the PCUS astray. However, there are many who view GFS as the best way to realize our commitment to the tradition. The Westminster Divines purposely worded the Confession to be inclusive of a plurality of viewpoints on many issues; as Robert Letham demonstrates, the Westminster Standards are conciliatory documents. Additionally, mandating strict subscription alone does not guarantee true fidelity to the Standards. Too often in our history, “strict subscription” equals “subscription to one particular interpretation.” To be healthy, both strict subscription and GFS must actually be done in good faith. Thus, GFS can strengthen our commitment to the tradition, both in word and in intention. GFS at its best requires pastors to publically wrestle with the text and seek to understand its structure, nuance, and emphases, allowing the Confession to remain a vibrant document, speaking to every generation of presbyters. If Bob is right that GFS has divided us into tribalist camps, then we must take this as a call to do GFS better, striving to more strongly embody our commitment to our Reformed heritage.

Engaging the Present
In the quest to solidify the PCA’s identity in the coming generation, rehearsing history is not enough; we need to faithfully engage the present state of the church. In order to do this well, we must strive for more accurate categories and definitions. For instance, Bob describes the move towards good faith subscription as going “down the PCUS” road. Similarly, he opines that the term “broadly Reformed” “represents a slide back to towards the old PCUS ‘big tent.’ If the founders had really wanted a big tent, they would have stayed in the PCUS committed ‘to love and respect each other.’” Here, we must state emphatically that Big Tent PCUS and Big Tent PCA are completely different, and it is unfair to conflate them or say that one necessarily leads to the other.

Let’s go back to the OV. Here, the founders lay out the theological reasons for breaking camp with the PCUS, specifically the church’s “accepting other sources of authority, and from making them coordinate or superior to the divine Word.” This resulted in “a diluted theology, a gospel tending towards humanism, an unbiblical view of marriage and divorce, the ordination of women, financing of abortion on socio-economic grounds, and numerous other non-Biblical positions.” To claim that the theological battles facing the PCA now are on par with these ignores the evidence. While the issues of “paedocommunion, intinction, female pseudo-officers, Federal Vision, theistic evolution” are indeed contentious, and to many are deviations from the Scriptures, they 1) are not all held by a single camp in the PCA (i.e., some pastors may and do hold one and not the others), 2) emerge from different concerns and motivations (e.g. the motivation behind intinction is vastly different than theistic evolution), and 3) come from men deeply committed to the inerrant Scriptures. To paint these brothers with the same brushstroke as the pastors in the PCUS is simply inaccurate. As well, to suggest, as some do, that these views are all held by one camp of pastors (the liberals), and aided by the centrists (who are concerned about love and not truth), infelicitously divides the PCA into three camps, easily compartmentalized regardless of individual convictions.

As well, when discussing these matters, we need to jettison unspecified talk of left and right, and more carefully define conservative and liberal, for these too often carry around the baggage from either our political views or our church forefathers. Let’s be honest, the Federal Vision, whatever you think of it, is not to the “left” (nor “liberal” with respect to real theological liberalism – i.e., embracing of higher criticism, abandoning of the tenants of the Apostle’s Creed, etc.). When we label controversies and positions (of all sorts) as such, it draws unhelpful boundaries that work against honest, robust debate and allows brothers to be easily dismissed through caricatures and assumptions.

With a commitment to more accurate definitions, we see that being “broadly Reformed” is not simply a catchy phrase coming from some mushy middle, nor a slide into liberalism. We are not dealing with the same categories as former battles, and to label them as such prevents us from seeing what is really at stake. Given our history, we need to recognize that the PCA has always been “broadly Reformed” in that we have always had a diversity of views on certain issues matched with great unity on others. Thus, in the present, we need to continue nurturing this identity through a staunch commitment to forming study committees, and through robust and honest dialogue. To be “broadly Reformed” in the present is to engage a positive part of our identity, as we seek to embody the strengths of semper reformanda.

Entering the Future
The question remains, as Bob summarizes, what does it mean to be specifically PCA? From the OV to the present, we have worked to find a unifying identity, which recognizes the varying strands of Southern, Northern, Scottish, Puritan, Covenanter, and Dutch Reformed traditions in our midst. We are “broadly Reformed” with respect to this rich heritage, and yet conservative with respect to the character of the Scriptures and the application of GFS compared to other American Reformed denominations.

For us to better achieve unity in the coming years, we must restate our commitments. First, we are founded on the inerrant Word of God. Compared to other denominations, we honor this well; and to respect this foundation, we need to continue seeking humility, charity, and truth when we encounter those in our church with different opinions. Second, our theology and polity are given form in the Westminster Standards. It is lamentable that some of our elders tell of others’ lack of care for the Standards; especially in my (younger) generation, we need to renew our appreciation for and study of these documents with a robust commitment to public discussion in the spirit of GFS. Finally, we should engage our varied histories with integrity. Too often, cultural differences are misinterpreted as theological; frequently, brothers who, in reality, agree on many points can talk past each other because of personality or contextual differences, or simply because they are asking different questions of a common text. We must appreciate how our histories and contexts shape our theological expressions. The OV was born from the culture of the Southern Church, and we must understand how this cultural form impacts other theological commitments (e.g. how the “spirituality of the Church” impacts missiology). We need to wrestle with the cultural forms of the past and our current contexts to grow in maturity, truth, and righteousness. The answer is not getting back to the past, but embracing, nurturing, and maturing our combination of diverse strands of Reformed Presbyterianism that God has brought together in the body of the PCA. This will enable us to continue to navigate the issues we will face in the future. Thus, we can be broadly Reformed in the best sense: united in our commitment to the inerrant Word of God, given form by the Westminster Standards as our constitution, and embracing the rich, complex diversity of Reformed tradition within our walls. In this way, may we be a grace to the world, as the world experiences the Gospel in and through our church.

Posted by: reformedmusings | May 3, 2014

A tale of two letters

The Founding

On 7 Dec 1973, a new denomination sent A Message to All Churches of Jesus Christ Througout the World from the General Assembly of the National Presbyterian Church. The NPC changed names to the Presbyterian Church in America shortly thereafter. The PCA had split from the liberal-and-becoming-worse PCUS. The Message to All Churches laid out the reasons for the split (similar to the U.S. Declaration of Independence) and served as a notice of the new denomination’s beliefs. At the top of the list stood the inerrancy of the Scriptures, and their role as “the only infallible and all-sufficient rule for faith and practice.”

Against the big-tent liberalism of the PCUS, our founders wrote:

We declare also that we believe the system of doctrine found in God’s Word to be the system known as the Reformed Faith. We are committed without reservation to the Reformed Faith as set forth in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. It is our conviction that the Reformed faith is not sectarian, but an authentic and valid expression of Biblical Christianity. [my bold]

Note the “without reservation” adherence to the Westminster Standards. There was no “good-faith” subscription in view there. The PCA has already headed down the PCUS road on this issue. More on that later.

On the subject of theological error and church discipline, our founders wrote:

Views and practices that undermine and supplant the system of doctrine or polity of a confessional Church ought never to be tolerated. A Church that will not exercise discipline will not long be able to maintain pure doctrine or godly practice.

When a denomination will not exercise discipline and its courts have become heterodox or disposed to tolerate error, the minority finds itself in the anomalous position of being submissive to a tolerant and erring majority.

Anyone watching the two most recent cases against blatant teachers of the Federal Vision errors (pdf file), both of whom are now fellows at the latest incarnation of an attempted Federal Vision seminary, knows that the PCA has already started down the PCUS road in that regard. The PCA has become a tribal congregationalist denomination where particular errors find toleration in specific presbyteries that remain unaccountable to the denomination as a whole.

Please read that open message as it provides an anchor for the PCA as it considers its future. As the philosopher Santayana wisely observed: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The PCA is showing that it is not immune from that wisdom.

The Revision

A small group of 18 teaching elders who were around during the founding of the PCA in 1973 recently signed a letter (pdf file) to the new generation. I want to be clear up front that I respect these 18 elders for their sacrifices for, and contributions to, the church of Jesus Christ over many years. Nothing that follows is meant to reflect negatively on that respect. Nonetheless, my respect for them does not negate my critical thinking on the matters that they publicly present.

Early in the letter, the 18 signers endorse “good-faith subscription”:

Several years ago, after lengthy discussion, we affirmed “good faith” subscription which was a declaration of our commitment to love and respect each other and affirm doctrinal orthodoxy without becoming too broad or too narrow in the way we embrace our confessional standards.

So, since our 1973 founding, the PCA has “progressed” from “committed without reservation” to our Standards, to a “good faith subscription” approach that has opened the PCA’s door to paedocommunion, intinction, female pseudo-officers, Federal Vision, theistic evolution (e.g., Biologos), et al, all of which depart from the Scriptures and the Standards.

After observing that some think that the PCA is too strict and narrow while others think that the PCA is too broad, the 18 opine that:

…these differences of opinion reflect a healthy breadth of views and perspectives that produces an ever present need for love and mutual respect. It does, however, present the PCA with the need for our leadership to always be searching for the center so that unity might be maintained and our mission might be accomplished.

With all due respect to the 18 signers of this letter, that argument represents a significant departure from the vision laid out by the bulk of our founders in the Message to all Churches in 1973.

Keep in mind that only 18 men who were present at our founding signed this letter. Although many founders have gone to be with the Lord, many remain and did not sign the letter. Dr. Morton Smith comes immediately to mind for one. As our first Stated Clerk he had his finger on the pulse of the initial direction of the PCA. Dr. Smith’s How Thy Gold Has Become Din provided a PCA manifesto in the months leading up to the separation. Please read Dr. Morton’s address at the link.


While I do not believe that the positions from the new letter accurately reflect the consensus of the bulk of elders who founded the PCA in 1973, and hope that I have demonstrated this from original documents, I do believe that the letter agrees well with the more recent Original Vision Network started by TEs Paul Kooistra and Larry Hoop. While I appreciate the contributions that these men have made to PCA missions, their network steers us back to the PCUS “big tent.” For instance, they revised our founders’ words in the Message to All Churches to a vision that would now have us believe that our founders wanted:

a denomination committed to a broadly Reformed theological position, steering clear of both a formless evangelicalism with sketchy theological commitments and a narrow sectarianism that could consume our energies building a theological fortress;

Please go back and read the Message to All Churches and see if you can find a vision for a “broadly Reformed theological position.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. Back? Couldn’t find it? That’s because “committed without reservation to the Reformed Faith as set forth in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms” doesn’t describe a “broadly Reformed theological position.” The latter represents a slide back to towards the old PCUS “big tent.” If the founders had really wanted a big tent, they would have stayed in the PCUS committed “to love and respect each other.” Instead, our founders left an apostate denomination that trampled on both the Scriptures and the Standards.


The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics – the chief weapons buyer for the U.S. Department of Defense – has a great sign on his door. It reads: “In God we trust, all others bring data.” The point being that opinions are nice, but we need to see the data on which one based those opinions.

So, when I read the letter by the 18 elders, the first thing that I did was hunt up the original Message to All Churches and read it to see if the two documents were consistent. That’s what everyone should do whenever any assertion is made from history. History is best learned from original sources, not commentators decades or centuries later.

In this case, the recent letter by the 18 elders seems more in line with the revisionist and euphemistically-named Original Vision Network than the bulk of the PCA founders’ intent in 1973. The original vision is readily available for all to read in the Message to All Churches and Dr. Smith’s How Thy Gold Has Become Din. Please take the time to acquaint yourselves with these documents if you have not already done so.

In closing, I again want to be clear that I respect these 18 elders for their contributions to the church of Jesus Christ over many years. That said, I am not prone to hero worship, so although their work and sacrifices earn them a hearing by other elders like myself and the denomination at large, it does not earn them automatic agreement without the original historical context being considered. In this case, I find that the original documentation does not support their thesis.

Posted by: reformedmusings | April 19, 2014

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Upgrade

Today I upgraded from Ubuntu 13.10 to the just-released Ubuntu 14.04 Long Term Service (LTS) known as Trusty Tahr. I used the Update Manager which offered the upgrade today. Bottom line: no issues. Everything worked perfectly. No issues. I’m hammered for time, but perhaps will write more later.

Oh, one catch. VMWare Workstation 10.0.1 must be upgraded to 10.0.2 to work with the 3.13 kernel in Trusty. VMWare’s server must be hammered, because I have been unable to download the update tonight.

Posted by: reformedmusings | March 8, 2014

Uncle Sam’s healthcare scam – Dr. Seuss revisited

Awesome rework by Sarah Palin:

The words:

“I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his health care scam. I do not like — oh, just you wait — I do not like these dirty crooks, or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress steals, I do not like their crony deals. I do not like this spying, man, I do not like, ‘Oh, Yes we can.’ I do not like this spending spree, we’re smart, we know there’s nothing free. I do not like reporters’ smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope, and we won’t take it, nope, nope, nope.”

Very clever and sadly true.

Posted by: reformedmusings | March 6, 2014

Paying it forward – from the mouths of babes

Speaks for itself:

It’s easy to criticize the media when the get it wrong, as they often do, but we must be willing to cheer them when they get it right. CBS’ Steve Hartman nailed this story, telling it perfectly by letting the participants do the talking and tying it together nicely.

The greatest honors come from the heart and arrive totally unexpected.

One of my strongest and most cherished memories from over 30 years of service came right after the barbarianism of 9/11. Many of us who had served a lot of years felt like our job was to prevent such a terrorist attack from ever happening and that we had failed. The magnitude of that failure played out on TV constantly that week.

Every week for about a year before 9/11/2001, usually on Fridays, I drove a little bit off of my usual path to the Produce Place of Suntree for fresh orange juice on my way home from work. That freshly squeezed juice came literally straight from the tree and I found it highly addicting. The taste of OJ that fresh varies significantly between the orchards and trees, and I thought the supplier for the Produce Place produced the finest OJ to my tastes. I still miss that freshness. By 9/11/2001, since I had been coming to the market for about a year, they knew me and were used to seeing me. Folks were very friendly, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The first time that I stopped at the market for my OJ after 9/11, the manager strode quickly and purposefully across that busy market and grabbed my hand to shake it. With tears in his eyes and a firm grip on my hand, he thanked me from deep in his heart for my service for our country. He caught me totally off guard and I didn’t know what to say. His heartfelt gesture deeply moved me. I think that I thanked him and said something like that it was an honor to serve, which, of course, it was. Those couple of seconds remain blurred by the emotional impact of the event. That memory will never leave me. The grateful manager paid it forward.

I accumulated a lot of ribbons and awards over 30 years, but the one that I wear every day in my heart is that Produce Place of Suntree Thank You for Your Service Award. I suspect that Lt Col Frank Dailey feels the same about that little green Post-It note from 8-year-old Myles Eckert, and how it came from deep in Myles heart.

Paying it forward makes an impact and changes lives.

Posted by: reformedmusings | January 6, 2014

CyanogenMod 11 M2 Snapshot and Samsung Galaxy s3

My last encounter early in the CyanogenMod 11 development didn’t go so well. CM 11 is based on Android 4.4.2, an update from the 4.3.1 I was using until now in CM 10.2.1. The ‘M’ releases aren’t as stable as release candidates, but are more stable than nightlies. With the release of M2, I decided to give CM 11 another go.

I downloaded the M2 snapshot from CyanogenMod, as well as the accompanying 20131208 version of gapps, then copied them to the root directory of my internal SD card on the S3. I then updated ROM Manager, which in turn updated ClockworkMod Recovery to Upon restarting my phone into CWM, I installed M2 from the internal SD card, then flashed gapps, then restarted the phone.

This time, the Galaxy booted normally to the app optimization screen, then finished the boot normally. Awesome:


Android 4.4.2 running on my Galaxy S3, sweet!

Things worked so well, including the WiFi this time, that I updated to the 20140106 nightly to obtain some of the specific updates. I used the built-in CM updater and everything worked fine. So that’s what I’m using now.

The only issue that I’ve encountered is that the Privacy Guard icon and notification remain after the program that invoked PG has closed. I haven’t seen this before, but it’s a minor annoyance. All my apps seem to work fine, including Greenify and Xposed.

One disappointment is that CM 11 does not support ART, at least yet. I was looking forward to playing with ART, but repeated attempts to switch from davlik to ART produced promising reboots, but always back to using davlik. Perhaps down the road.

In the meantime, I’m groovin’ with CM 11 and Android 4.4.2.

Dr. R. Scott Clark has posted Part 2 of his excellent interview of TE M. Jay Bennett on the TE Meyers’ Federal Vision trial. In case you missed Part 1, you can find it here. As you might expect, the two flow together.

Part 2 delves a bit more into the unseemly manoeuvring by TE Meyers and his friends in Missouri Presbytery (MOP) to limit the prosecution’s ability to function in accordance with the PCA Book of Church Order. The actions explained by TE Bennett severely hampered the prosecution, whilst providing easy avenues for the defense to “run out the clock”. The transcripts make the tactics obvious even after the fact. Given the magnitude of the issues at stake, the prosecution should have been given both adequate time to prepare and present its case. It was not.

I commented in this post about my involvement as a prosecution witness in the case. In light of TE Bennett’s comments on his cross-examination of TE Meyers, I need to point out that I was not present for that cross because I had to catch my flight home. So, I want to make it clear that my previous post should take nothing away from TE Bennett’s observations about his cross-examination of TE Meyers.

So, where does all this leave us in the PCA? Certainly, there are presbyteries like Missouri, Pacific Northwest, Siouxlands, and perhaps a few others in which faithful officers cannot recommend churches to inquirers without personally knowing individual pastors who are orthodox and confessional. It also means that transferees from said presbyteries must be carefully examined in detail for their views. We saw that with Lusk when he tried to transfer to Evangel Presbytery a few years ago, and Leithart most recently. Though Leithart has not yet been examined, his work out of bounds teaching Federal Vision doctrine in Evangel’s geographic area has been rejected in accordance with the BCO. Faithful presbyteries must be on the watch and guard their flocks from FV wolves.

Dr. Clark’s excellent post on the parallels between Federal Visionists today and Arminians in the Reformed church centuries ago captures this watchfulness issue well. While the Federal Visionists deny on one hand that they hold aberrant views, they openly teach them outside of the view of the PCA courts. Although Meyers, Leithart, et al, remain “in good standing” in the PCA just as James Arminius did in the Dutch church in his day, they would not and should not be welcome in many if not most pulpits in the PCA or should they be permitted to spread their poison at General Assembly seminars. If confessional elders would not invite Arminius or Pelagius into their pulpits, then how could they in faithfulness to their vows invite a Federal Visionist? They cannot.

Confessional, orthodox Reformed elders in the PCA must stay diligent and informed in these trying times until we can change the BCO to correct these recent travesties. In the meantime, although we cannot at this moment directly treat the cancer in some presbyteries, we can and must contain the disease.

Posted by: reformedmusings | December 14, 2013

Lessons learned with CyanogenMod 11 Nightly on Galaxy S3

So, I’ve been humming along with the last nightly of the CyanogenMod 10.2.0 release (actually the post-release 20131206 nightly) based on Android 4.3.1 on my Samsung Galaxy S3. The longer that I use CM, the more I like it. CM is fast, smooth, and offers a good balance of features and customizations. No worries.

Over the last week, CM has been releasing CM 11 nightlies based on Android 4.4.1 kitkat for general testing on the Galaxy S3. Although fully and happily operational on Android 4.3.1, I’ve been keeping my eye on 4.4 kitkat. This past Thursday’s nightly for the S3 jumped to Android 4.4.2. My kitkat lust became uncontrollable, so I decided to check the forums and Google+ for user issues. Some lost their WiFi on the international version and there are issues with some of the Google apps, some had worse problems like boot loops, but some had no significant issues with the nightlies. Armed with unbridled optimism that overrode my better judgement, I decided to take the plunge on the CM 11 20131212 nightly.

I took all reasonable precautions. I had the installation files to return to 10.2.0 and the matching gapps on my internal SD card. I also had the gapps for kitkat there ready to flash. I always have Titanium Backup Pro keeping a current backup of my apps and settings. My Clockwork Recovery Mod (CWM) version was up to date. Checklist complete.

Further, when I booted into CWM, I first erased both the cache and dalvik cache for a clean start. I then flashed the CM 11 nightly and gapps version 20131119, in that order, from my internal SD. That should have given me a clean CM 11 system whilst preserving my apps and app settings. After everything finished flashing, I restarted the Galaxy. That’s when the fun began.

At first, the boot process would lock up early. After pulling/replacing the battery twice and restarting, the boot process started looping into  an endless auto-restart. When I’d had enough of watching that, I pulled/replaced the battery again and booted into CWM by holding the volume up, home, and power buttons down until the initial boot screen appeared, then releasing ONLY the power button until CWM appeared. I reflashed both CM 11 and the appropriate gapps, then restarted the phone.

This time, after a few boot lockup – but each one further into the process – the phone booted all the way to the opening lock screen before rebooting on its own again. It did this three times, each time a message appeared about Android updating the messaging, media, and another database respectively. After that, it was more boot looping once CM reached the lock screen.

OK, I had seen enough. I pulled/replaced the battery and booted to CWM again. This time, I cleared both caches and flashed CM 10.2.0 and gapps 20130813, then restarted. The phone booted normally, but I had no WiFi. Ugh. After fiddling with that for a while, I decided to bite the bullet, wipe the phone to factory clean and start over from scratch. By now my 1 hour project was at 3 hours and still running.

But I made a critical error in judgement because apparently my optimism remained unbridled. Instead of returning to a known working configuration like the normally-disciplined, experienced tester that I am, I decided to try the CM 11 nightly again from that factory clean state along with its associated gapps. Bad move. I again experienced boot lockups and then boot loops. So, I rebooted to CWM and flashed back to CM 10.2.0 and its appropriate gapps. This once again recovered the phone except for WiFi, which remained inoperable. I restored the system using Titanium Pro. By then I’d had enough and call it quits for the night. Net time invested: 5+ hours. Net result: back where I started except for the loss of wifi capability.

After trying FXR WiFi Fixer and Recovery on Friday to no good end, I reasoned that the only way back to full functionality was to again go back to a factory wipe and flash CM 10.2.0 with is associated gapps from a totally clean state. Before doing so, I updated Titanium Pro’s backup to the latest complete setup. That was mistake #2.

This procedure brought me to a pristine CM 10.2.0 state. Although Google offered to restore my apps and data over WiFi, I elected to restore everything from my Ti backup. Mistake #3. Some messed-up system settings that existed from the CM 11 nightly fiasco apparently survived in the Ti backup of system settings. This resulted in an endless boot loop when restarting. This time I knew exactly what I did wrong and I finally reined in my optimism, so I again factory wiped the phone in CWM, reflashed 10.1.0 and gapps just for grins, then allowed Google to restore my apps and settings. Lastly, I restored all the app settings data ONLY from Ti’s current backup. Success!

General comments and observations:

1. None of this was CyanogenMod’s fault. They post clear warnings in every possible location that nightlies are likely unstable and not suitable for normal use. While most are actually fine, there’s always the possibility of something important being broken in a nightly. That’s especially the case early in the early builds for a new major system version as was the case here.

2. Never let your lust for shiny new things override your experienced judgement. Violating this rule bit me 3 times: first, running a nightly based on a brand new operating system port; 2) not returning to a known state after the nightly hosed my wifi; and 3) restoring a system settings back up from a system that had issues, especially not knowing what settings might have survived from the earlier adventure.

3. If you don’t use Clockwork Mod Recovery on your rooted phone, you should. CWM saved my bacon time and again throughout this process. Of course, it plays an integral role in flashing custom ROMs to start with, but it has powerful powers to recover otherwise bricked phones. Don’t leave home while rooted without it.

4. Always start ROM flashing projects with a full battery. You never know how long these things will take.

I am still looking forward to kitkat in CM 11 when CM releases a milestone version or better. Until then, I’m very happy with the CM 10.2.0 20131206 nightly and Android 4.3.1. Lesson learned.

Dr. R. Scott Clark, church historian, pastor, and Westminster Seminary California professor, interviewed Rev. M. Jay Bennett for the Heidelcast. Jay was the lead prosecutor for the TE Jeff Meyers’ Federal Vision trial in Missouri Presbytery. The interview comes in two parts, with the second part slated for next week. In the first part that’s posted now, Dr. Clark covers Teaching Elder Bennett’s background, a bit of Federal Vision (FV) background, and the timeline leading up to the Meyers trial. The latter provides some insight into how the discipline process in the PCA proceeds. As usual, Dr. Clark conducts an informative and engaging interview which I highly recommend. Scott and Jay discuss a few anomalies in the case history, but so far haven’t mentioned the big one in my opinion.

In the trial record of case, on page 872, you see that Missouri Presbytery (MOP) was basically pushing TE Bennett out of the presbytery, which would, of course, make him unable to complain against the decision in the Meyers case. In the end, MOP succeeded and the PCA Standing Judicial Commission apparently let MOP get away with this ploy without even reading the record of the case. The bigger story is that MOP had kept men like TE Mark Horne, another Federal Visionist like Meyers, without call for over 3 years. Yet, TE Bennett, who opposes the unreformed FV, was being bounced almost immediately. The politics is pretty clear when looking at the bigger picture.

To be totally up front, I signed the original letter of concern mentioned in the interview and was a witness for the prosecution in the Meyers case, flying to St. Louis on my own nickle (i.e., at no cost to MOP) for the trial. I worked with Jay on my testimony, and found him a fair, honorable, and confessional teaching elder who deeply loves the Reformed Faith and understood the unconfessional nuances in the Federal Vision. The PCA owes TE Bennett a great debt of gratitude for standing firmly for the gospel in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Don’t miss part 1 of the interview, and check back next week for part 2. And you could benefit greatly by following Dr. Clark’s Heidelblog as many of us do.

I would be remiss without adding that Jeff Meyers, after being acquitted by MOP, now teaches with all the FV heavyweights at an FV school. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Posted by: reformedmusings | December 5, 2013

Greenify for Android a must-have to increase battery life!

Like most smartphone users, I crave more battery. Battery can be conserved by disabling all push notifications as well as location services, active screensavers, turn off radios not being used, etc. Even then, some programs insist on loading themselves into memory and eating your nanos and battery. There are programs that will auto-kill apps, but that can actually eat CPU time as well as the killed apps continually try to reload.

Virtually all social media apps load themselves, but so do most browsers, news apps, even shopping apps. Facebook and Google+ are amongst the worst offenders, but ESPN Score Center seems to want to vie for the top annoying position. It’s absurd that these programs always want to run in the background, eating your nanos and battery.

Enter Greenify. It doesn’t kill apps, but hibernates them. You can still call them back in the same state in which you left them. But in the meantime, they don’t eat your nanos or your battery. Awesome idea.

Greenify itself will automatically hibernate the list of user-installed apps that you specify. To hibernate system apps, you must use the donate version in combination with Xposed. Xposed is a framework that allows system changes to Android without having to flash new ROM pieces. It sounds scary, and should be used with caution, but actually works well. Be sure to read the background and instructions at this link.

Don’t Greenify everything. Nothing is free and Greenifying the wrong apps can cause issues with them. That’s especially true for system apps. For example, using the donate version of Greenify with Xposed, I added Google Play services to the hibernate list because is seemed to eat more nanos than warranted according to System Tuner Pro. That started some bizarre Android behavior until I took Play services off of the list. So far, that’s the only issue that I’ve encountered.

Does it work? You bet. Using Better Battery Stats, my Galaxy S3 ate between 2.5% with virtually no usage and over 4% of the battery per hour of normal use on a good day. A bad day could run 8 – 9%/hour or higher. Disabling location services and all push notifications helped, but I was still stuck with 3 – 4%/hour on a good day. With Greenify, battery drain dropped to less than 2%/hour consistently in my normal daily usage pattern tested for over a week. That’s about a 50-100% increase in battery life!

Greenify is a cinch to use, sporting a very user-friendly interface and good help available. I highly recommend Greenify, especially the donate version, as a valuable tool to speed up your phone and increase your battery life.

Posted by: reformedmusings | December 2, 2013

CyanogenMod 10.2 Released!

CyanogenMod released CM 10.2.0 based on Android 4.3. You can download it here, or simply update from your previous version:


The release candidate works great, so I expect even better things from the release.

This also means the work on CM 11.0 based on Android 4.4 will proceed at a greater pace. I’m hoping that the CM folks address some of the silliness that Google baked into 4.4, like losing the Recent Calls list.

Posted by: reformedmusings | November 24, 2013

CyanogenMod 10.2 Release Candidate 1 Available

The CyanogenMod team has been moving very quickly with version 10.2 development based on Android 4.3.1. This weekend, the first release candidate hit the download sites. I had been playing with a few nightlies, which have also proven stable, but there’s no guarantee with nightlies.

CM 10.2 RC1 is fast and stable. Updating went smoothly and I’ve encountered no issues so far:


The CM team is working on version 11, based on Android 4.4, in parallel with finishing the 10.2 development. I’m not thrilled with some of the changes in Android 4.4, especially losing the recent call list and incorporating Google+ data into everything, including caller ID. This approach seems to kill any hope of privacy even on your own phone. Hopefully, the CM team can correct these defects.

Posted by: reformedmusings | November 22, 2013

Windows 8.1 in WMWare Workstation 10 under Ubuntu Linux

First and to be perfectly clear, I am not even remotely considering going back to Windows. Good, we got that out of the way up front.

I have been running WinXP under VMWare Workstation in Linux for years for three reasons: Logos Bible Software, Turbo Tax, and Garmin GPS updates. That’s it, but all three are important to me and have no Linux alternatives. Logos 5 now only works in Win7 and higher, presenting a dilemma. I actually decided to abandon Logos and did so for a few months, but then found a Window 8.1 CD at Discount Mountain Software for just under $100 and I found it painful to abandon several thousand dollars of resources under Logos. DMS shipped promptly and I had the CD in just 3 days.

My reasoning in picking Win8.1 over Win7 was simple – I didn’t want to have to buy a new OS for my VM very often. Going with the latest for relatively cheap extends the time when I may have to do this again.

Installing Win8.1 into VMWare Workstation 10 proved a snap. Workstation automatically installed the operating system upon creation and also installed VMWare Tools for me. Whereas WinXP took 45 minutes to an hour to install from scratch, Win8.1 took just 16 minutes or so.

Win8.1 turned out to be as bad or even worse than I’ve read about. It may work fine on a touch screen, but it stinks on a desktop computer. This is what you get on startup:


You’ve got to be kidding me! If you dare click on one of those tiles, it then owns the screen and some useless box appears about how to swipe between programs. REALLY??? On a desktop??? They’re on some mighty powerful pharmaceuticals in Redmond. It took me a while to lose the stupid swipe hint box and I have no idea how I did it. I made the mistake of opening a picture and then couldn’t get rid of the full-screen app with no visible controls. I finally used the task switcher (upper left corner of the screen) to switch to the desktop and then used Task Manager to kill the app. There’s probably an approved way to do the same thing, but I didn’t find it in a reasonable time.

If you click on the little arrow in the lower left of the screen, you can swap to an applications list which is somewhat more useful:


I discovered that by hitting the escape key, I can get to a real desktop (pictured with a custom theme that I added later; the standard themes are incredibly lame):


That allowed me to install Logos 5, the Garmin Express updater, Olive Tree’s Bible Study, and eventually Turbo Tax when I get the download link. Good enough on that count, but how do I get rid of the stupid “Start” screen with the tiles?

The answer lies in the Control Panel -> Taskbar and Navigation controls (you can get to the control panel by moving the mouse pointer to the lower right corner of the screen, then clicking on the gear icon on the pop-up panel, then select Control Panel):


That dialog contains all the controls needed to bring sanity to Win8.1:


For a change, the settings proved self-explanatory. I unchecked showing Start screen with the tiles, substituting the app list display when I click on the “Start” icon. If you have a lot of apps, this app list could get very difficult to scan. Since I only use a handful of apps that I pinned to the task bar, I don’t need that screen often at all.

For completeness, here’s a Logos 5 screen showing the Passage Guide on Psalm 11 with some of my resources:


The Exegetical Guide for Psalm 11 looks like this:


Before closing, I have to sing the praises of Workstation 10. Workstation 10 is the nicest upgrade yet from WMWare. It supports advanced 3D graphics modes for Linux and Windows guests. I gave the Windows 8.1 VM 1 processor with 2 cores, 3 GB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive. That provided excellent performance. Because Workstation will mount a virtual disk in Linux when the VM isn’t running, I was able to transfer the data files I desired from the WinXP virtual hard drive to Win8.1 by sharing the appropriate folders through Linux and Workstation. Very simple and effective. I had a lot of old garbage in the WinXP VM, so had to transfer very little data to Win8.1.

One last observation on Windows 8.1. The transition for a normal user from WinXP or even Win7 to Ubuntu or similar Linux distribution would be far easier than the transition to Win8 – FAR easier. I use Win7 at work and have used WinXP since its introduction, and I had great difficulty trying to figure out how to do simple tasks in Win8.1 until I discovered how to keep the “obsolete” desktop as the primary display to make it work roughly like Win7. I still don’t know how to close a full-screen app from the tiles or app screen without using Task Manager to kill it, and I’ve been using and mastering computers in every form since the early 70’s. Win8 may be OK on a tablet, I don’t know, but it’s a disaster on a non-touch screen desktop computer. Ubuntu Unity is a breeze to use by comparison. I have set up complete computer novices on Ubuntu and they have zero difficulty with Unity. I wouldn’t think of giving them Win8, especially if I had to support them after setting them up.

So, I now have Logos 5 running like a top, and at the same time positioned myself for another long stretch without sending more money to Micro$oft. Mission accomplished for years to come.

Posted by: reformedmusings | November 3, 2013

Lightning Calendar Problems with Thunderbird on Linux

The Thunderbird team recently surprised the Lightning team with compatibility issues. Thunderbird 2.6.x broke something concerning the Lightning calendar extension, but apparently only under Linux. The Lightning team performed magnificently, putting out quick fixes within a few days of each issue. The Lightning Project blog has an excellent explanation and a version compatibility matrix. I recovered my calendar capability on Thunderbird with that post’s help.

That’s what I love about open source – pride in their product and rapid response to issues.

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