A post on weight lifting and “working out”

I am not the most “buff” person in the world, but I am reasonably strong for my size and have done a number of different strength programs with varying degrees of success.  While this topic may appear mundane, it actually highlights an aspect of American thinking that is not always, pardon the pun, healthy.  In the 1800s traveling salesman would promise “snake oil” that would cure baldness, erectile dysfunction, shyness, etc.   Anyone stupid enough to buy this deserved to lose their money.

It’s the same situation today.   Americans want the “dream body” in a few days with relatively little effort.  Here is the problem:  working out is…well…hard.   You are destroying muscle cells and dealing with the lactic acid bath that soon follows.  It is not for no reason that New Year’s resolutions last ten days.  It isn’t fun…at first.

Lifting weights mirrors economic investment (godly dominion man).  You will not see any real gains for about four weeks.  You will not see any substantial gains for at least six.  And to make it worse, since you are looking at yourself in a mirror everyday, and since any gains (by definition) will be small, the odds are you won’t see any gains (though they are there).

However, there are legitimate venues for working out.  I’ve tried a good deal of them.   The ones that promise painfully hard work over a long period of time are generally worth the time (and maybe the money).

Scooby does a good job exposing all the snake oil products.

The Good Ones:

Old-Fashioned weight lifting.  As with any workout program, a lot depends on your genetics and body type (I know it is not politically correct to mention it, but genes and DNA really do make a difference).  Get a decent weight lifting book and assuming you have access to weights (non-negotiable, obviously), then this can deliver reasonable, long-term growth.

P 90-X.  Currently the most popular.  Pros:  it really does give you practical strength in key, core areas.  Every workout also boosts your cardio.   If you continue with it for 90 days, you will see results.   Cons:  it is kind of pricey and you will have to come up with your own weights (dumbbells up to 40 lbs).  Also, it has an insane learning curve.  You simply won’t be able to do the first few workouts for the full hour, and don’t pretend you can do the ab-ripper workout right away.  You can’t.  This is really discouraging for most people and they simply quit.   Further, while you will get stronger and get rid of fat, if you are little and wiry to begin with, you will not pack on muscle mass.

Bodyweight:  it’s free.  And it works.  Even better, most people will spend 30 dollars on the ultimate chin up bar whereas this guy will show you how to get the same results for free (hint: use a towel).

I modify my own workouts.  Some of p90x’s workouts are really good (legs, chest and back, and plyometrics).  Some are stupid (Kenpo), and I am not fully sold on their different phases.

Neutral to Bad

Men’s Health tips.  If you go to the men’s health website (and I recommend you don’t, since they are pagan fornicators), they will give you dietary and other such tips on weight lifting that promise you instant results.  Like anything in life, if someone promises you instant results, they secretly want your money.   Still, some of them are halfway decent.

I really don’t like the “get lean muscle” look.  I am currently growing my beard out and trying to pack on mass.  Basically, I want to look as opposite from the Jersey-shore metrosexual as I possibly can.

The best workout: a mixture of bodyweight and old-fashioned weightlifting.  Every two weeks I do a few P90X workouts to “shock” my muscles.

Theotokos Reexamined

Any defender of the Council of Ephesus is quick to point out that a denial of the use of the term “theotokos” to the Virgin Mary is Nestorian.  Theotokos, popularly translated “Mother of God,” is used to force opponents into a dilemma:  If Mary is indeed the Mother of God, then why do you not venerate her?  If theotokos does not designate such, on the other hand, then Jesus was just a man, not God.

It’s a sharp argument.  Some well-meaning Protestants have recognized a problem with this argument, but generally lack the conceptual tools to deal with it.  Drake’s recent writings have demonstrated the ambiguity that early church theologians had concerning the word “God.”   In responding to Anchoretic claims and apologists, I will demonstrate that they, too, are concealing an ambiguity on this term.

If Anchorites want to gloss Theotokos as “Mother of God,” then they need to abandone some of their triadology.   For according to numerous Orthodox scholars (Fr John Behr, Fr. Thomas Hopko), the term “God” refers primarily to the hypostasis of the Father.  Worse, it is the evil, sinful West that glosses “God” to refer to the divine nature.

Therefore, the following options are available:

  1. Stop using this line of apologetics against Protestants.
  2. Accept Augustine’s reconstruction of Trinitarian theology (begin with the essence, not the hypostases; it’s not too big a jump.  You are already doing it with Theotokos).

The Law as Social Pattern

I am indebted to Daniel R. for suggesting a number of differences between recent American Theonomists and the earlier Scottish theocrats.  One of the distinctives of American theonomy is a tendency towards a libertarian economic order.  In short, they see the government’s role as negative (e.g., we pay taxes so the government can kill evildoers, Rom. 13).  Supposedly, the Scottish theocrats (and Bucer) would see the government as positively prescribing righteousness.


Reflecting on Rushdoony: Ten Years Later

It was around ten years ago that I was introduced to the thought of R.J. Rushdoony.  I am not entirely sure if that is a good thing or not.   I will put my cards on the table:  this post will be largely appreciative of most of Rushdoony’s work.  However, to anticipate objections, I will list the problems with Rushdoony–and even more particularly, his followers–first, then I will end with the good.

Where he is wrong, he is big-time wrong.  Ironically, this is actually a good thing.  Yes, his cutting himself off from the church probably didn’t help his cause.   His insistence on the food laws is so contrary to even the most prima-facie reading of the New Testament, it’s hard to even imagine.   Given all of that, is anyone really tempted to follow him on these points?   I doubt it.   And if such a person is willing to follow him on the food laws, that person was probably unhinged before he read Rushdoony.

Did he pick the wrong kind of theonomy?  I don’t hold to the Bahnsenian theonomic thesis just because I don’t think it can stand exegetically.   The problem, though, is that Bahnsen was such a masterful debater, all of the Reformed world (well, RTS and Westminster) were too scared to debate him.  Therefore, Bahnsen won by default.  Unfortunately, I don’t think his theonomy works.   Fortunately, one can get roughly the same bottom-line package from Rutherford.

Myopia.  I hate statism as much as the next guy.  I get the impression, however, that Rushdoony made the negation of statism the focal point of his theology.  When you read his book on the early church, you get the impression that Athanasius was primarily concerned with attacking Big Government.

The Good

He is probably the reason that the State hasn’t arrested your pastor for having a Christian school, or arrested your mother/father for homeschooling you.   One of the worst ironies in 20th century Calvindom is that The reformed seminaries spent so much time attacking Rushdoony and Bahnsen, when in fact Rushdoony regularly appeared as a key witness on behalf of homeschoolers as they faced jailtime.   These court victories no doubt formed case laws and precedents that allow many to home school today.

Engaging writing.  He read a book a day for fifty years.  He spent three hours a day in Bible study.  His writing style is always forceful and interesting.

Wider perspective on life.  People who read widely and travel widely over many decades have a rich perspective on life.   His lectures on history are always fantastic.  He is able to find that rare anecdote from some ancient volume.

He prophesied the coming crisis.  As America spirals out of control, most people will start reading his stuff on politics and economics.   Start with The Politics of Guilt and Pity.

He made Calvinism applicable.  What’s the connection between economics and Calvinism?  Rush explored those areas.

Forceful lecturer.  Some people thought his “grandfatherly voice” was boring.  I always thought he was quite forceful in the pulpit and lectern.    Legend has it–not really legend, actually happened–that he was allowed five minutes to speak to the Mississippi State Congress on Law and Society.   He gave a stirring talk and literally ended his talk on the last second of the five minutes.   You can listen to free lecturers here.

The Problem with his Followers

Many of his young acolytes had only a rather tentative grasp on the Reformed faith.  They read Rushdoony books by the dozen, yet had likely never read Owen or Calvin; certainly had not read Turretin.   The Bourgeoisie Reformed responded that you should read Calvin, not Rushdoony–but that, too, is false.  The problem is his followers should have spent a few years reading only the magisterial Protestants, then Rushdoony.

Where I specifically disagree with Rushdoony

He bashes experimental Calvinism.  I don’t.  There appears to be a prima facie tension in Reformed history between the dominion and conflict strand (represented by Rushdoony) and the experimental strand (represented by Banner of Truth).   There should be no conflict.  One can bridge this gap with the theology and practice of the Scottish Covenanters.  Read Richard Cameron and David Cargill sermons preached only weeks before their martyrdom.