Saturday, February 19, 2005


OK, This is a CRIME

I have shied away from the Terri Schiavo story. My reasons are complex, but they center on the fact that I believe medical science has created ethical dilemmas that we are simply not equipped to face. I call it the "we should just not go there" principal. For example, implanting multiple fertilized eggs forces people into enormously difficult decisions about abortion. If that means some couples will remain biologically childless (like say, my wife and I) so be it -- mankind made it through numerous centuries that way.

Anyway, that means when I run across stories about medical ethics, I tend to tune out. But then, Catez at Allthings2all had to go and put up this post with pictures of Terri. Plain and simple, this woman should be allowed to live and any "husband" that thinks otherwise is unworthy of the title. Anymore and I will cuss, or worse...


Complex Gospel?!

Adrian Warnock answers a great question that Rebecca Writes asks with a very positive affirmative. But it is just the first question that Rebecca asks. She continues with this one
I'm asking, What's included in the whole? How complex is it, really?
My answer? As complex as the character of God!

That is a very simple answer with extraordinarily complex implications. The 'simple gospel' discussion is about a starting point for a life-long and utterly transforming journey. The simple gospel is a description of 'enough' to convince someone and to make sure they are not mislead.

But, once having given ascent to the 'simple gospel' we now walk with the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit, and that simple gospel expands to fill every corner of our existence.

Here in lies one of the great issues with evangelism, and it is why the simple gospel discussion has been so compelling. It is simply impossible to transmit to someone the totality of the gospel, we do not know it ourselves, it is a process of discovery through a lifetime. And even then we cannot know it all, because we lack the capacity to fully comprehend God Almighty.

What a great question!



So the bloggers piled on with the Eason Jordan thing, but the MSM has enough restraint not to do such things. Then explain this NYTimes piece. Look, the sex scandals in the Roman Catholic church are awful, but now that they have been brought to public view, the church is working hard and doing a good job of correcting the situation, Is there really anything to be gained from making newly revealed, 30-year-old accusations headline news other than piling on? Pray for our Roman brethren. They have to heal a deep sickness within and fight external forces as well.



Milt Stanley of at Transforming Sermons provides and interesting link to a post at Adventures in Following Jesus.

Milt picks up on a question that Adam asks, "Will their current identity define their mission or will their mission define their identity?," and opines that this does rightly identify a tension that most congregations live with. I agree.

Adam; however, drives forward from that question and says the following
Perhaps we need to figure out how to weave things like revolution and change back into the fabric of what a church is understood to be.
Change perhaps, but "revolution" is a very strong word. Those who are so anxious for change run as much a risk of throwing out good stuff as those afraid of change risk holding on to bad stuff.

One of the key issues that has always concerned me is that we worship a timeless and unchanging God. Our sole purpose is to reflect Him. We are not very good at doing that reflecting thing and we should change to do so better, but what we reflect does not change one iota. Therefore, after 2000 years, "revolution" sounds to me like we might be trying to change what we reflect instead of simply trying to reflect it better.

Change should be organic to the church, but it should not be revolutionary. That means change will be slow, painstakingly slow, often imperceptibly slow. In the wonderful world of chemistry that I inhabit there are silicone oils, liquids mind you, that can take several days to pour from one beaker to another. There may be an analogy in that.

A long time ago, in a place far away, and never read, I wrote this piece and this piece on the subject of change in the church. I offer and recommend them again here for your consideration on this subject.


Saturday Humor (Taste Warning)






Cosmic Salvation?

DrAJ at SmartChristian inserts a new concern into the 'simple gospel' discussion begun by Adrian Warnock. DrAJ quotes part of Romans 8 and then states:
The Gospel of Christ is both individual and cosmic...
Adrian responds to DrAJ with a post in which he agrees that the gospel has a broad message, and that there will always be points of disagreement between Christian brothers, and finally he calls for grace on our discussions
We need more grace with each other. May God grant us the ability to be true to his word but full of love for one another.
As I have said a couple of times now, I like Jollyblogger's idea that Jesus is the gospel, and the rest of it is a discussion of pedagogic technique and theological understanding. Based on this insight, I can agree with both men.

'The Simple Gospel,' that is to say the minimal presentation of the work of Christ that we present to people in order to persuade them to invite Jesus into their lives is but a starting point. The whole gospel, that is Jesus himself, has something to say to us about absolutely ever aspect of our lives. That is the essence of my post about transformation to which Adrian kindly linked.

If we realize that Jesus is the Gospel and everything else is an intellectual formulation for discussion purposes, then His presence will override the heat of the debate and we can find the brotherhood of believers that is born of and supported by the Holy Spirit.

I must take exception with DrAJ on one point though. As I read the Romans 8 passage cited, I do not see an 'organic unity.' Rather I see creation waiting on our salvation -- "...creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God." Personal salvation is the means by which the cosmos will be saved. There is a definite prioritization here.

God gave us dominion over creation. (Genesis 1:28) The road to saving the cosmos is through us. If one wishes to save the cosmos, one must necessarily begin by saving us.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Won't Be Long Now

Somewhere, right here in America, is a lawyer smacking his lips over this article. The "I didn't mean to kill sixteen people, I couldn't help myself, I ate paint chips as a child" defense is coming down the pike any minute now. And to think, we thought we'd heard it all with the Twinkie Defense.


Book Recommendation

A few years ago, the wife and I went to an exhibition at the Gene Autry Museum, now known simply as the Museum of the American West. (Never mind that the singing cowboy's money paid for the darn thing, political correctness must be served) Anyway, the exibition was a history of the California Gold Rush.

I paid the extra bucks for the "audio guide" and ended up listening to a little less than two minutes of it. According to that guide the history of the gold rush was not, say, funding the North in the Civil War, no it was the oppression of the Chinese and the rape of the land. The guide had nothing good to say about anything!

It's very good to know that someone out there is still writing decent history books.


Cool Things From Around The World

But the strength of the tempest has them marveling over the dying star's capabilities while also wondering if major species die-offs in the past might have been triggered by stellar explosions.
You mean -- man is not the source of every species death since our evolution? Imagine that!


A Place I Should Never Go

Usually, if people get sick at a restaurant it is because of a problem in the kitchen. However, if I ate at this restaurant, it would be for an entirely different reason. EEEEUUUUWWWW!


I'll Blog As I Can This Weekend....

I'm off to pick up the In-Laws for a visit.


Points From a Parable

Once again, something from my high school Bible study is going to end up here.

John 15:1-11 (NAS)
1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every {branch} that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither {can} you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. 8 "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and {so} prove to be My disciples. 9 "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. 11"These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and {that} your joy may be made full.

Once again, I am forced to observe that mere ascent to Jesus as Lord and Savior does not appear to be sufficient for salvation. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." We have to abide in Jesus, the vine. There is some work involved here. I think that this may be part of what Adrian is driving at when he quotes Piper here.


Another Place the Military Will Help -- Without Credit

This story (told here as well) about stranded starving children in Afghanistan is horrifying. Supplies are not needed, what is need is a way to get supplies to the people -- helicopters are the ONLY option in this weather. How much you want to bet the US Military will step up, solve the problem, and get maligned -- all at the same time?

If you know anyone in the miltary chain of command, please give them a call and make them aware. Bet you won't have to ask twice.


Approaching the Simple Gospel from a Different Direction

Fellow Warnie Winner, 21st Century Reformation has a very interesting post on his adolescence. In it, Brad laments that the church seemed irrelevant to him as an adolescent because it was more interested in self-help than world-help. He also wonders in light of that impression from his youth
Where should the gospel start? What should the church become in light of HOW WE DEFINE THE PROBLEM?
In some ways he is joining the now two-week-old Simple Gospel discussion.

This train of thought takes me back to Jollyblogger's point that Jesus is the gospel, simple and complex. As Jollyblogger says, with the simple gospel we are seeking a way to tell people about Jesus. No here's a question that bothers me -- Why is this question so hard?

Let me lay this out for you. We are trying to tell people about Jesus and get them to respond to Him. Jesus is God. God, by definition, is the most beautiful/attractive/good person/thing/diety imaginable and unimaginable. Things should go pretty easy on this one, but they don't.

The answer lies, of course, in the fact that God rarely reveals himself to us directly, rather he chooses to reveal Himself to us in each other. Thus people see the beautiful/attractive/good only as it is reflected through us.

This, I think, gives us a good answer to the question of how to present the gospel -- We need to work very, very hard on being better reflections of His glory.

This is easier said than done. I can think of no more worthy or difficult task.


Scripture Break...

I King 19:1-18

1 Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." 3 And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers." 5And he lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, "Arise, eat." 6 Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you." 8So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

9 Then he came there to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 10 And he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." 11 So He said, "Go forth, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.

13 And it came about when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" 14Then he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." 15And the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; 16and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17"And it shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18"Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."


Some Interesting Evolutionary News

From Nicholas Kristof, comes this NYTimes op-ed which weighs in on the fact that evolution may have developed in a manner that leads to religious devotion. Pharyngula has a very technical post disputing Kristof's claim.

The technical side of this discussion does not do a whole lot for me. I'm with Pharyngula, they are reading way more into the data than is there. But that's not the point -- people keep getting wound up in this whole "creation v. evolution" thing. As I said in what I hope will be the only post I ever do on Intelligent Design they are not necessarily competitive ideas. Calm down people!

On the subject of evolution, I thought this article was cool and should be shared.


On the Subject of Pollution

Regular readers no doubt have gotten the impression that I think much of what passes as environmental concern today is really disguised self-interest, and often bad science. That does not mean; however, that I do not think there are some environmental concerns that do need attention, though not generally regulatory attention.

One thing that really needs attention is nuclear pollution. This story is on the forefront with issue of nuclear proliferation rising in both North Korea and Iran.

Nuclear power generation is not that big a concern to me. When small countries use nuclear power, they general buy the plants from sophisticated nations that make sure it gets done right. That is not true with nuclear weapons though, nobody is talking to anybody else in that field.

The United States has far and away been the most environmentally conscious nation when it comes to the development, construction, and storage of nuclear weapons, and weapon fuel. Generally our allied nuclear powers have exercised similar caution. Though even we have had our issues.

Our nearest competitors, the Sovs...well, if Chernobyl happened in their nuclear power industry, can you imagine what their weapons industry was like? I'd give you a link but most of what I can find in English is of the breathless Greenpeace kind and not worth the read. The head of the Russian State EPA equivalent, Alexi Yablakov, once told me that there were many sites in less populated areas of Russia far worse than Chernobyl.

If the Sovs were doing this sort of thing, what is happening in nations like Iran and North Korea with even less resources? Nuclear safety and pollution prevention/abatement costs BIG money, and these guys just don't have it.

There are a lot of reasons to be against nuclear weapons proliferation, some of them more important than this. But even if nuclear weapons are never used again in anger on the planet, their continued development by less wealthy nations, trying to work in secret, poses a huge environmental risk.

Just something to think about.




You have to love environmental activists -- they have such a sense of proportion and morality. See this piece from the Times of London. A Little About Everything comments on the story as well.

I shared some hotel space with Greenpeace some years ago when I was in Kiev, Urkraine, visiting Chernobyl. They are a lovely bunch. That was when I was learning about Russian drinking habits. One very late night when I returned back to my hotel after a 40th birthday celebration and lesson in Russian habits, several of us designated the Greenpeace van as our territory. Perhaps the most finest political statement I have ever made.


From Yahoo News comes this piece about a coral atoll that could disappear if sea level continues to rise? Not hardly -- The article quotes sea level rising at a rate of 0.08 in/year. If we accept the figure for the atoll of 6.5 feet above sea level, then it will be 975 years before the island sinks, Don't you think all the ice will have melted long before that?

But wait there is more. Why does ice float? Because it is less dense than water, that's why. That means that when ice floating in the ocean melts, sea level should decrease not increase. You know the polar ice cap at the North Pole -- that is just a floating island of ice -- no land. Same for the Antarctic Ice Shelf, though not the continent itself, Not as simple as you thought - huh?

Finally, there is this piece from WSJ this morning. Can you say agenda science? Boy I sure can.


I am not in expert in animal speciation, but this article makes me wonder. As best as I can tell, we are making finer and finer distinctions about species. No longer is a squirrel a squirrel. If the ear tufts on this one are an average of 0.012 inches longer than on this one, they are different species. In other words we are moving, as best as I can tell, from micro-evolution to nano-evolution. Thus, if I have some piece of land that I want preserved for my use, but I am too cheap to buy it, I just distinguish a species and the ESA takes care of the rest. Hmmmmmm.......


From the Edge of Taste

This occasional, but at least weekly, post was intended to indulge my lowbrow sense of humor without rendering my blog completely intolerable to most educated people, but it seems to be taking on a life of its own.

First, there is this cartoon.

Then there is this piece, once again from Ananova.

As our cockroach eating friend prepares for his bout with the Guiness Book, one has to wonder if he will use this to gather his record setting meal. I was originally going to include this story about cockroach pheremones in today's "Pollution," but it just fits so much better here -- don't you think? One wonders, how long will it be before this new pheremone is found to be an environmental problem of some sort? And so it goes.


Friday Humor

As the crowded airliner is about to take off, the peace is shattered by a five-year-old boy who picks that moment to throw a wild temper tantrum. No matter what his frustrated, embarrassed mother does to try to calm him down, the boy continues to scream furiously and kick the seats around him.

Suddenly, from the rear of the plane, an elderly man in the uniform of an Air Force General is seen slowly walking forward up the aisle. Stopping the flustered mother with an upraised hand, the white-haired, courtly, soft-spoken General leans down and, motioning toward his chest, whispers something into the boy's ear. Instantly the boy calms down, gently takes his mother's hand and quietly fastens his seat belt.

All the other passengers burst into spontaneous applause. As the General slowly makes his way back to his seat, one of the cabin attendants touches his sleeve. "Excuse me, General," she asks quietly, "but could I ask you what magic words you used on that little boy?" The old man smiles serenely and gently confides, "I showed him my pilot's wings, service stars and battle ribbons and explained that they entitle me to throw one passenger out the plane door, on any flight I choose."

Thursday, February 17, 2005


You Have To Love The Irony...

Alanis Morrisette, from this to this. (HT: Drudge) Only in America!


A Recycled Punchline

Remember my post about Barbara Boxer underwear? Insert the same punchline here.


Literature Appreciation

I mentioned that I am reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky at the moment. Adrian Warnock today links to a Malcolm Muggeridge book that lists good 'ol Fyodor as one of the more influential Christian figures of late. As I was reading C and P today, I ran across a passage that is the best description of being in a depressive state I have ever read:
A strange time came for Raskolnikov; it was as if fog suddenly fell around him and confined him in a hopeless and heavy solitude. Recalling this time later, long afterwards, he suspected that his consciousness had sometimes grown dim, as it were, and that this had continued, with some intervals, until the final catastrophe. He was positively convinced that he had been mistaken about many things then; for example, the times and periods of certain events. At least, remembering afterwards, and trying to figure out what he remembered, he learned much about himself, going by information he received from others. He would, for example, confuse one event with another; he would consider something to be the consequence of an event that existed only in his imagination. At times he was overcome by a morbidly painful anxiety, which would even turn into panic fear. But he also remembered that he would have moments, hours, and perhaps even days, full of apathy, which came over him as if in opposition to his former fear—an apathy resembling the morbidly indifferent state of some dying people. Generally, during those last days, he even tried, as it were, to flee from a clear and full understanding of his situation; some essential facts, which called for an immediate explanation, especially burdened him; but how glad he would have been to free himself, to flee from certain cares, to forget which, however, would in his situation have threatened complete and inevitable ruin.
I am more of an essay and non-fiction man than a literature man. When I read fiction, it is for plots and action, not insight (i.e. Tom Clancy - Yes!, Ann Tyler - not so yes) But every now and then a passage like this jumps out and gives me an insight into myself and humanity that I might not otherwise have gotten. I have never done what Raskolnikov did, but I have certainly felt almost exactly like that passage describes.

And while we are on the subject of book passages I can relate to...

Some time back, I am reading The Last Lion by William Manchester, A Winston Churchill biography -- probably the best. I ran into a passage that I have permanently kept because I think it describes me and it does my ego well to think that Wisnton Churchill and I were alike. The passage described Churchill's reaction to his time in POW camp as a young man during the Boer Wars.
Winston’s response to imprisonment tells a great deal about him. He felt disgust, despair, rage. This is not a universal reaction to restraint. Many public men have adjusted to it without great difficulty; it has served as a temporary refuge for them, a place for reflection, study, and writing. Mohandas Gandhi, now toiling in South Africa as a leader of Indian stretcher-bearers, would later flourish in British prisons. But not Churchill. He found, he wrote, ‘no comfort in any of the philosophical ideas which some men parade in their hours of ease and strength and safety.’ His wrath and tremendous frustration probably arose from his depressive nature. He needed outer stimuli, the chances for excitement and achievement which were his lifelong defences against melancholia. The prisoner-of-war camp was like being back in the harness of school. It was worse; their long tin POW dormitory was enclosed by a ten-foot corrugated iron fence rimmed by barbed wire, watched by armed guards fifty yards apart, and brilliantly illuminated at night by searchlights on tall standards. Elsewhere the war continued, great events were in progress, but here he was penned in, entirely in the power of the Boers. He owed his life to their mercy, his daily bread to their compassion, his move¬ments to their indulgence. In this atmosphere he found himself picking quarrels with other British officer inmates over trivial matters — he couldn’t tolerate their whistling— and took no pleasure from their company. He felt, he wrote, ‘webbed about with a tangle of regulations and restrictions. I certainly hated every minute of my captivity more than I have ever hated any other period in my whole life.�


Justice Served But Discussion Needed

There has been a story circulating, though on a very limited basis, that I think needs a lot of discussion. (HT: Evangelical Underground) The is the version told by the American Family Association. (Donald Wildmon -- whose name is rather descriptive, don't you think?) Here is the Christian Broadcasting Network version. (Yep -- that's Pat Robertson) Finally, WorldNetDaily chimes in with a somewhat less breathless, but nonetheless dramatic, telling.

There is a huge dearth of information about this story, and if you read the accounts, you would think this would be a huge deal. The story concerns some Christians in Philadephia that protested?...demonstrated?...witnessed? at a gay festival of some sort and were arrested, and some are being tried, for felonies related to hate crimes, specifically "Ethnic Intimidation." The accounts I have cited try to cast this as they are being prosecuted for simple speaking the Word. I have to doubt this final charge.

I am strongly suspicious because the more mainstream Christian organizations that would normally be all over something like this, ADF and CCJ, are strangely silent. One must wonder why.

STOP THE PRESSES! Even as I post, this story comes up saying the charges were dropped against the remaining four defendants in the case (the other seven had been kicked earlier) One is very pleased to know that American jurisprudence has not completely lost its mind yet -- and that is the most likely reason the more mainstream organizations sat on the sidelines, they knew it would go away. But that fact notwithstanding, there are a couple of points I wanted to make so I'm going to go ahead.

I have a sneaking suspicion these 'demonstrators' were operating without a permit and were likely provoking a confrontation of some sort. In other words, they were likely engaged in some sort of illegal activity. It is these illegal activities that underlaid the hate crime charges.

Look, it is just stupid to protest homosexual people. Individual, or even groups of homosexuals need evangelism, not protesting. Internet Monk did a great job making an argument for this back in January. IM and I part company; however, when it comes to the institutionalization of homosexuality. This is a threat to society, not just Christianity, and I do think the institutionalization of homosexual is a place to protest, BUT WITHIN COMMONLY ACCEPTED CIVIL BOUNDARIES. The so-called "Philadelphia 11" screwed up because the they aimed at the wrong target and they shot with the wrong gun. Christians just need to be smarter about these things.

The other point that is important in this situation is that it does point out that so-called "hate crime" legislation may be used in this unsavory fashion at some future date. They tried it here, they are likely to try it again.

Up until the advent of hate crime legislation, it was a common legal idea that you could judge the intent of a criminal, but not his/her motivation. Hate crime legislation obviously changed that. It really is the beginning of some sort of 'thought police'

I am grateful this came out as it should, but I am concerned what the future holds. I think we would be wise to organize now and lobby against and actively seek the repeal of hate crimes legislation. If we don't do it now, it is likely to become a legal 'fact' much like Roe v. Wade, which we now pretty well just have to live with.


Goofy Headlines

This headline just made me laugh...
Panda poo excites experts

This headline; however, is the most likely explanation I have found yet for this blog...
School's Cafeteria Food Makes Children Ill



Take the time to look at this Volkswagen commercial in Quicktime. (HT: In the Agora) The technical making of this spot is amazing, but the spot itself hurts my soul.

Why do we need to mess with greatness? Gene Kelly's "Singing In The Rain" is widely considered the finest musical number ever put on film -- why mess with it? If they wanted to put the VW in the otherwise unaltered number, maybe edited to a minute -- cool. This; however, is an abomination, like painting graffiti on a Rembrandt.


"Double" Evil

In my post last night about why I am not a Pentecostal, I mentioned that I think some of the admitted shortcomings of Pentecostals are a "double" evil. I wrote on this idea, at some length in a place long ago, far away, and never read. It explains what I am thinking much more thoroughly.

I wonder what all this says about the discussion brewing around Bruce McLaren's "A Generous Orthodoxy?"


Maybe the MSM Isn't So Bad After All

This story from Pravda is presented without an ounce of indication that it is tongue-in-cheek. I think that is why I like Pravda so much, all the journalism of the MSM with the sensibilities of the Weekly World News.

While we're discussing Pravda, check out the only story I have ever seen in a newspaper that is so chock full of drinking advice. Having been to Russia, and supped with many Russians -- trust me, they do not need drinking advice. It's like the old, bad joke -- "I don't have an alcohol problem, I love the stuff!"


Peggy Noonan Gets It

This is a great piece from Peggy Noonan.


Great Minds Think Alike

Part One

The Warnock discussion of the simple gospel continues with gusto. Yesterday, Adrian pointed us to a post by Patriot Paradox using the John 3:16 as the simple gospel.

At around the same time, Joe at Evangelical Outpost posted the same thing.

I'm still backing Jollyblogger's point that JESUS is the gospel. After that it is all just a discussion of how we tell people about Him.

Part Two

Both Adrain and DrAJ at SmartChristian post on Bruce McLaren's new book "A Generous Orthodoxy" yesterday. Having not read the book, I don't have a lot to say, but I find it interesting that both Adrian and Dr. AJ point out that McLaren seems to have been so generous in his 'orthodoxy' that it is not really an orthodoxy at all. Such a thought makes me fear for the future of the church.


Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa

Powerline posted last night on the evils of Jimmy Carter. As history continues, my opinion of his Presidency continues on an ever downward spiral. Powerline's post certainly increases the speed at which I am descending that slope. Carter is a recent topic for conversation becasue the Bavy is naming a sub for him. A Little About Everything posts on that here.

I was very young, very idealistic, and very stupid -- I voted for him the time he got elected -- I most certainly did not the time Reagan whooped up on him. I voted for him because he was an outspoken Christian. (There's a study in how much the definition of the word 'evangelical' has morphed over the years.) This was before I went to seminary and before I had enough life experience to teach me that there were some awful Christians out there.

I posted last night about 'Why I am not a Pentecostal.' I tied it into a post by Adrian Warnock examining some of the consequences of abandoning the theology of penal substitution. (Adrian keeps hammering on that subject here and here.) My thesis was that some ideas are best judged by their consequences, as opposed to their derivation.

Adrian's post pointed to negative theological consequences of abandoning penal substitution. I think Jimmy Carter's Presidency points to a very practical one. That consequence is a failure to understand and acknowledge real evil. I am not talking about common sin here, I am talking about genuine evil -- life-taking, genocidal, earth-threatening evil. Adrian mentions that abandoning penal substitution destroys the doctrine of original sin, and I think that leads to the failure to understand evil.

The Powerline post is about how Carter approached the Soviet ambassador for help in his run against Reagan. Only Nazism has been a more virulent evil on this planet than communism. (Which is why, by the way, we made a temporary ally of Stalin) Only someone without an understanding of evil could do what Powerline reports on Carter doing.

I ask all who hear to forgive me my youthful bad decision. I thank God for the wisdom of years. I ask God for wisdom in the church to stick to right doctrine and to use that right doctrine rightly in the world.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Why I Am Not Pentecostal

One of the finest teachers I have ever had was Russ Spittler, former Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Fuller Theological Seminary. Russ is retired now. Russ is a Pentecostal. I learned from him in class, but argued with him mightily over lunch from time to time. That was a long time ago. I accidentally ran into him just a couple of years ago when he was guest preaching at a church I attended just prior to his retirement, some 25 years after I had studied under him. He did not remember me; I guess my arguments did not make an impression.

When I argued with Russ, it was about Pentecostal theology. To this day, I cannot see where scripture demands a necessarily independent Holy Spirit baptism. Even if you grant that such an experience is always unique and separate from other spiritual experiences I REALLY don't see justification that it is always accompanied by an utterance in tongues. With Russ, that was all I could find to argue about with him, he was and is a good man. I just wish that was all I could find to argue with concerning Pentecostalism in general.

The other day I ran across this good 2003 post concerning Pentecostalism. The author is pentecostal, but he is very open and honest about the drawbacks to that particular branch of Christianity.
Third, it can elevate ungodly men or women into positions of authority based on their charisma rather than Christian character. Pentecostals seem to attract con artist (i.e. Elmer Gantry and The Apostle). These leaders can be spiritual abusive, embezzlers or sexually corrupt.

Seventh, we are afraid of rationality and science—to many Pentecostals these disciplines are the enemy of faith. College (even Bible college) is viewed as somewhere young people go to lose their faith (as well as their virginity). This discredits us in the eyes of many Americans who have advanced and continuing educations. We are often dismissed as uneducated and emotional—we were voted those most likely to maintain that the world is flat.
I have an unfortunate amount of personal knowledge concerning the elevation of ungodly men and women in the pentecostal church.

These objections to pentecostalism were drawn to mind when I read this post from Adrian Warnock. Adrian's post is on an unrelated subject, but I love his approach to the topic. He quotes R.L. Dabney extensively to illustrate that in the absence of a doctrine of penal substitution the gospel pretty well unravels. I am a big fan of judging the validity and worth of an idea, or even a movement based on its results and consequences. In Adrian's case, the lack of penal substitution leads to a whole bunch of theological consequences that result in Christianity being reduced to little more than just another self-help movement dressed up in religious clothes. Even if you can make a good case prima facia case for dropping penal substitution, the consequences of making that case are horrible enough to drop the attempt.

This is precisely how I feel about pentecostalism. My arguments with Russ Spittler were inconclusive. (Well actually he clobbered me, but then he was a professor and I was a young foolish student full of passion and devoid of reading. Fortunately my passion kept me from conceding.) There is a case that can be made for pentecostal theology. That fact notwithstanding, its consequences are, in my opinion, too horrible to contemplate.

My bachelor party featured friends from both the pentecostal tradition and my own "frozen chosen" brand of Presbyterianism. Someone observed over dinner, before the party degenerated into more boyish fun, that Presbyterians never accomplish really great things, but then they never get so utterly corrupt either, while pentecostalism can see the heights of "success" followed quite rapidly by the depths of corruption. Sadly the depths of corruption often reverse not only success garnered, but maybe more.

The great corruptions of pentecostalism do the church so much harm that I wonder if we do ourselves a service by counting them as part of the fold? Evil, done in God's name, is in some sense "double evil." Not that Presbyterians, or the reformed church in general, doesn't do some pretty heinous things, but I think it is much less prone to it than pentecostalism -- and it is much more prone to self correction and denouncment of the problem.

I reject pentecostalism utterly, not because of its theology but because of its consequences. The consequences of ideas are, in the end, what really matter.


A Great Simple Gospel Insight

Jollyblogger has put his two-cents into the 'Simple Gospel' discussion, and it's a master stroke. His primary premise, if I may paraphrase, is that the Simple Gospel is Jesus.

I am somewhat embarrassed that I did not make this observation myself. His point is that the formulations that were being discussed were pedagogic devices for trying to explain Christian faith to the uninitiated, or the initiated for that matter. So right, so right.

Adrian quoted me in the early part of the discussion saying, "I love a simple gospel -- It does not get in the way of Jesus." With that quote, I was trying to make some of the same points that Jollyblogger is making.

I really like Jollyblogger's discussion about the fact that a need to identify a time and place of conversion drives the need to have some formulation to which people give assent.

This discussion can get really involved at this point, which Jollyblogger admits. I think it all revolves around people's need for assurance of salvation. One of the reasons I'm a Calvinist is that there is no assurance in that scheme, you simply have no choice but to act as if you are.

Some of my earliest posts were about the fact that I think God's judgment, that is who will and who will not make it in the end, is a far more complex question than any of us really care to admit. My love for Adrian's wife's simple gospel is not rooted in a desire to establish some measure by which we can say "Now you are saved," or "Now you are not." My love for that formulation was born of it's emphasis on confession and repentance, and its consideration of an encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for that great post Jollyblogger!


A Hit!

Yesterday's post on preaching seems to have struck a nerve. It has drawn a lot of comments and some nice links from Transforming Sermons and Stronger Church.

Based on the reaction, maybe I did not overstep my boundaries as I feared. I'll post some more later.


More Russian Chest Thumping

Here's another one of those Pravda headlines that makes me nostalgic for the Soviet Union.
Russians conquered Mars 30 years ago
The story is about a simulated mission to Mars the Russion Space Agency will engage in sometime this year, that has 30 year old roots. Of course they have never been to Mars, but you have to love the bravado.


Is the Left Wing Born to Whine?

I have never in my life wanted to shake a man's hand and tell him to "shut up" at the same time as I did when I listened to this on NPR. When he describes his activities in support of his son and his son's colleagues in Iraq, he sounds just like my wife and I. We've done all the same things he describes.

So why does he take exception to the "Support Our Troops" signs on vehicles? And why does he whine about it so? (listen -- he really does whine) He claims because the signs are really code for "Vote Republican."

Garbage! -- The signs are a direct response to Vietnam when most of us stood by and let a few truly radical far lefties destroy moral among the troops. I don't think all but the most heartless want to let something like that happen again.

What is most revealing about this whine is the left's perpetual preoccupation with how anything affects them, that is to say "ME." No, this guy can't be happy because people whose politics are 180 degrees from him are sending his son stuff too -- NOOOOOOO, He has to whine because the stickers share space with Bush/Cheney stickers.

Rather than whine, why doesn't he get one and put it next to his Kerry/Edwards sticker. -- Sheesh!


More on Charismatic

DrAJ at SmartChristian has joined in the discussion that Adrian Warnock and I have been having about the word 'charismatic.' DrAJ supplies precisely the term I have been looking for -- "Third Waver."

As I said, I think such a term is needed. "Third Waver" does not exactly carry with it the scholarly authority of "cessasionist" or "charismatic," but it works. Maybe we ought to find the Latin equivalent just to make ourselves sound smarter? ;-)


Good News!

I was glad to find this post. The Swedish pastor charged with hates crimes for preaching against homosexuality has been exonerated. There may be some hope yet.


Too Much Time -- Not Enough Sense

The breadth of human behavior amazes me.

From Ananova comes this story of a grandmother that thought it would be funny to stage a fake bank hold-up.

From Florida there is this story about a woman who got a DWI. What was she under the influence of? -- Listerine!

You have to laugh -- It's healthier than crying.


More Easongate Posturing

The posturing continues all over the Internet about Easongate. The line seems to go that bloggers were not engaged in journalism, but simple head-hunting.

The initial blogging leader on this story, Hugh Hewitt, certainly was engaged in journalism, as were the usual suspects, Captain's Quarters, Easongate, Michelle Malkin, et. al. When Hugh points this out on his numerous media appearances lately on the subject, the refrain is that they grant the front line bloggers journalistic status, but not us little guys, we really were head-hunting.

As I general statement, I do not accept that, but in this specific instance, I will -- I was head-hunting. I think this is a perfectly legitimate blogging function in some cases.

Eason Jordan had a job that required public trust. Long gone are the days that a television journalist could change the course of a war ala' Walter Cronkite -- Thank God that level of public trust is gone. But it is still necessary to have some level of trust between the news gatherers and readers and the public.

At Davos, Jordan eroded that trust significantly. Even if he did try to modify and retract the worst part of his assertions on the spot. The fact that such an accusation was his first instinct eroded this particular member of the public's trust enormously. When the revelations about Portugal came forward it was no longer a matter of eroding trust -- it was gone.

When the trust was eroded, he could no longer do his job effectively. That's why I sang out. When the trust was gone, CNN had no choice. No trust, no viewers. No viewers, no advertising. No advertising, no money. Now they REALLY have no choice.

Yeah -- I was headhunting and I'm, proud of it. I'll defend it to the end.


Transforming Churches

I posted on Monday on "transformation" as our Christian mission. A thought during the night -- I have seen many a reformed church try to adopt the forms of the more successful "charismatic" churches. (see the discussion of this term below) Generally it results in failure. Could it be that they take on the form without undergoing the transformation?

And this raises an even more important question -- can they be transformed, and yet remain essentially reformational in their form? Sounds ideal to me!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Well, What Do You Know

Tonight I am watching television -- The PBS show NOVA. (Pretty good show when they do science and stay away from politics, but that is increasingly rare.) Anyway, tonight's episode concerned the restoration and preservation of the "charter documents of the United States" - the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

Inspired, I went an picked up a copy of those documents and started reading. I was quickly reminded that the part of the Declaration we all remember ("We hold these truths to be self-evident...) is really the preamble. The Declaration is primarily a list of grievances against the King of England. Quite a list!

As I read through the grievances I ran across this little gem:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
"Swarms of Officers," there's an image not hard to imagine, but awful to contemplate. Think about that the next time you are working your way through the alphabet soup that is our government bureaucracy!


Preach on, Preach on

I miss preaching. I mean I really miss it. I hear a lot of sermons anymore, but very little preaching. I am not a pastor, so needless to say, I do not have a pulpit. I am; however, an elder in the Presbyterian church, which means I do function as a liturgist and scripture reader from time-to-time. I am a pretty straightforward scripture reader, it's the preacher's job to set-up and break-down the scripture, It's mine to read it.

Liturgy is another thing. Liturgy is less and less common. I think that is because of ignorance; people do not know, and are not taught, the purpose of the liturgical order, and therefore simply assume it to be form without substance. Therefore, when I am serving as liturgist, with the very brief moments I have, I attempt to say to the congregation, "Listen, this is important, here's why." This usually takes the form of a one to five sentence introduction to the congregational prayer of confession. -- that's all the time I have.

What is amazing, and sad, is that I have people tell me that my brief comments are more meaningful to them than the sermon. People hunger for God's Word. Why don't we give it to them?

I cannot begin to know the answer to that question. I think it has something to do with some of the things I discussed about transformation. But I think there is more. Of course, the answer to why questions is as varied as the people trying to answer it, and I am not going to attempt to guess at people's motivations.

We can; however, teach people both how to preach and how to listen to preaching. As the Simple Gospel discussion has continued, Adrian Warnock has been a great guide on preaching that same Gospel. He quotes Charles Spurgeon about speaking truth with tenderness. Adrian again quotes Spurgeon about preaching with passion and force. Milton Stanley at Transforming Sermons chimes in with an "AMEN" to both sentiments. Finally Adrian points to a great resource, 9Marks and its defense of and resources for expositional preaching.

A tender but forceful, simple gospel -- that is quite a challenge. I think it calls for several things on the part of the preacher.

First, the preacher must be relational -- that means he must be about the business of meeting greeting, and BEFRIENDING his flock. A friend can say things to me without offense that if said by a stranger would only anger me. As Adrian quotes Spurgeon:
Now, if I have to tell anyone certain unpalatable truths which it is necessary that he should know if his soul is to be saved, it is a stern necessity for me to be faithful to him; yet I will try so to deliver my message that he shall not be offended at it.
Friendship bestows on a relationship a much higher level of faithfulness than is possible for strangers. It must be a genuine friendship as well. Glad-handing will not do. It is much harder to be cruel to a friend than it is to a stranger or even an acquaintance. Relationship is the source of tenderness.

Secondly, the preacher must not let his studies divorce him from the commonplace. In my field, science, engineers -- those that build things, consistently make fun of scientists because the lab guys do not have any idea how things work in the "real world." The lab guys are incredibly brilliant people, but often goofy. It has been my pleasure to meet two Nobel laureates in Chemistry in my life. One of them was required to have the local police follow him home at night because he so frequently got lost! Preachers cannot afford to get lost on the way home. Being attached to the commonplace is the source of simplicity.

Finally, I think a preacher must be devotional. I am not talking about studying here -- I am talking about devotion. This is not learning the Word, this is adsorbing it, making it a part of the very fiber of your being. This is about prayer, about genuine conversation with the Almighty -- especially the listening part of that conversation. Devotion to God breeds the necessary force and passion for good preaching.

Some may think that since I am not a preacher, I have overstepped my boundaries here. They are entitled to their opinion. I am; however, a rabid consumer of preaching, and therefore should know a great deal about what makes it good and what doesn't. I love great preaching. I love a passionate and simple word from a friend. I am just doing what I can to get more of it.


Some Thanks Are Necessary

I am having good traffic today. That is in large part due to some generous links from some kind people.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost links to my continuing efforts to debunk the story about nuns in India demanding conversion to Christianity prior to granting tsunami relief aid. Thank you Joe for joining the battle against this very ugly rumor.

Amy's Humble Musings mentions my posting addressing hers about the need for Christianity to be transformational, to be distinguishable from the general popular culture. I loved her encouraging comment on my post -- "Preach on, my friend..." Thanks Amy!

Finally, Catez Stevens at Allthings2all appears, based on her frequent comments, to have become a regular reader. It's always great to have a fellow Warnie winner on board!


I Hope This Situation Improves

It has been quite a while since I have anticipated a vacation as much as I am the one my wife and I have planned for this year. We will be cruising the Baltic Sea aboard a brand new luxury ship, the Seven Seas Grand Voyager. That's the same ship that just weathered 45 ft. seas and force 11 gales in the Med, resulting in broken bones for some passengers.

Please pray for a MUCH calmer Baltic in August!


So I AM a charismatic

Adrian Warnock responded to my piece yesterday searching for a different term to describe those like myself that are not cessationists, but are not a part what the common vernacular calls "The Charismatic Movement."

Adrian points out that as a theological term, a charismatic is "someone who believes the biblical charismata are available today as opposed to having ceased like a cessationist." He then goes on to state that he is happy to wear that label. By that definition so am I.

But sometimes we have to concede more common, if less precise, and less useful definitions of words to in a public discussion. If I am in a discussion with someone that is already a charismatic, I will happily use the term as Adrian defines it.

However, among those of the reformed persuasion, which is where I spend most of my time, that word is used as a perjorative. If I were to claim it, I would automatically be dismissed as a lunatic. Thus my search for a different term.

I think this raises an interesting question about Godblogging. Those of us that have a certain level of knowledge can talk in a sort of shorthand. But this is a VERY PUBLIC discussion forum. I wonder how many are put off by that shorthand, that might otherwise join the conversation? And once again we come back to the 'simple gospel.' Hmmmmm....


Bad Christians II

Salon's Daou Report gave me the link to this lefty blog, "MyDD." MyDD points to a website called "Rapture Ready" which published something called the "Rapture Index" as a measure of prophetic activity. I refuse to link to this stuff because it's just asinine. Jesus plainly said Mark 13:32-33 - 32 "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 33 "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.

It is shear foolishness to try and predict such things. Hal Lindsey proved that back in the '70's. (Hard to believe that book is still for sale, isn't it?) Whoever is publishing this web site needs a trip out behind to outhouse.

But the foolishness does not end there. MyDD uses this rapture sight nonsense, in a February 14 post, as evidence to support the assertions that Bill Moyers made in a op-ed piece a couple of weeks ago. But wait, Powerline fully deconstructed the Moyers piece on February 6. Powerline was so thorough that their local paper printed a retraction, as did the Washington Post, and Bill Moyers apologized to James Watt.

So, we have bad Christianity trumpeted by a lefty blogger in defense of a falicious op-ed piece. I think they call that a "trifecta."


Bad Christians I

If Christianity is to survive in this world, those who abuse it from the inside must be rebuked as much and as strongly as those that oppose it from the outside. Today we are confronted with a couple of examples regarding this maxim.

This story comes from WorldNetDaily about a Scottish Pastor that apparently writes that God sent the Tsunami, " order that they may know their vices." The pastor also makes reference to Noah's flood.

But after Noah's flood didn't God promise to never do such a thing again? Gen 8:21 - And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

I am not one of those that think that God is not fully in control of the world -- He is. But I do not think God takes earthly retribution either -- He promised He would not.

Guys like this give the rest of us a bad name. Christ brings redemption to all those that will have it -- not condemnation. Spread the Word.


Another Reason to Oppose Late Term Abortion

We all know the moral arguments against abortion in general and especially against late term abortion. They are powerful. This story from the Sunday Times of London made my skin crawl. Quoting a doctor involved in the case of a baby born AFTER an abortion attempt:
“Late abortion raises serious practical, ethical and professional concerns. The dilemma of being telephoned about an infant born showing signs of life following termination of pregnancy is one that many paediatricians have faced. If viable, and resuscitated, those infants who survive may suffer significant illness.�
Ya think? This happens often enough that pediatricians have to worry about it?

That's not abortion, that's torture to the mother and the child. Dear God help us!

Monday, February 14, 2005


Transforming Christianity

Last week's extended conversation on the Simple Gospel continues. Adrian Warnock drives it forward with his relentless since Saturday quoting of Charles Spurgeon. In one of his Sunday Spurgeon posts Adrian notes, "The simple gospel changes us." Talk about pithy!

I have long been of the opinion that the church at large sells itself short when it offers only salvation. Christ's mission was one of transformation. John 10:10 - "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." When you save a drowning man, you give him more life, but not abundant life. Paul said 2 Cor 5:17 - Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. This is not just being saved from hell. This is radical stuff.

Amy's Humble Musings points out that the church has lost cultural influence because it is not sufficiently distinguishable from the greater cultural. (HT: Transforming Sermons) If we were transformed instead of merely saved, would not such a distinction be obvious? Come to think of it, Milton Stanley may be seriously on to something calling his blog "Transforming Sermons."

I am certain that if we got serious about transforming and not just saving, that the pews would contain fewer people and budgets would be smaller. Nonetheless we might really change the world this way. The megachurches place very little in front of their "membership" in terms of challenges to transformation, that's probably why they are "mega." However, I think "mega" is completely antithetical to how Christ intended for us to do this.

How do you call people to transformation? Well you can issue the call from the pulpit, but you cannot exercise the accountability. Was it the 5000 that Jesus fed that transformed the world? No -- it was the 12 that He walked, slept, ate, joked, and worked with that changed even the way we count time.

I do not, by the way, mean to sell salvation short -- it's a good thing. I just think it's a better thing when it is a by-product of transformation.

Rom 12:2 - And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.


Christians Tastelessness Denied


Yahoo India News has a post dating back to mid-January, alledgedly reporting on nuns in southern India demanding Christian conversion as a condition of receiving tsunami aid Below are the numerous posts I have done on this topic.

The story seems bogus on it's face because of a lack of details and because such an action would be a violation of widely-accepted Christian doctrine. This story has spread through the left-wing blogosphere like wildfire as evidence of their utter conviction that Christians are evil.

To date I have contacted Catholic Relief Services, one of the largest relief organizations in the world and received a flat denial that anything like what is reported could have happened on their watch. -- see below. I have calls into the Los Angeles Archdiocese and an email into the Vatican for comment as well. I have sent emails to all the government offices in the local region of India I could find -- some 50. To date, no comment from any of those contacts.

I have; however, heard from the Chairman of the Board of Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, one of the leading protestant denominationally affiliated missionary organizations in America.
Before reading your article this weekend, I had a long conversation with an Afghan Muslim leader whom I met while we waited at the pharmacy in San Francisco for a prescription for our children. After our initial nice comments, I told him I was a Presbyterian Minister. He gruffly remarked that I was controlled by the Pope, who wanted to dominate the Muslim world. Rather than be defensive, I said, " Let us assume that I was controlled by the Pope. Who told you this fact?"

He said that it was a common topic of the Mullah's teaching in Pakistan, that all the Christian sects were simply front agencies for the political efforts of the Pope to dominate Islam.

This sub-text to the story (although formed in fantasy) could explain the sensitivity of other national reporters in interpreting the events, and prayers of relief workers as conversion efforts.

This raises the honest question regarding what is the motive of the religious worker who responds to this unprecedented global disaster?

Last week I hosted a prayer gathering for Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian leaders from the Continents afflicted by the Tsunami to pray for the victims and survivors, and to raise funds for the relief efforts.

The two hour long service was held in our gymnasium so as to not have any religious symbol which would offend other faiths. I opened the service by saying that we wanted to come together not to judge each other, or to evangelize each other, but to share in our collective grief for the tragedy of many nations. And that we gather to do what we do best in each of our traditions: we are compelled to pray to our Lord and Our God. We were called upon to do this without trying to be overly sensitive to each other, without trying to convert each other, without trying to justify our own religious tradition.

Our gathering was a wonderful building of bridges between our leaders. We raised ten thousand dollars at the event, but more importantly we raised the level of trust we had for each faith community by working together. I said in my greeting: we believe that the Light shines in the darkness, and therefore in my tradition it is Jesus Christ who shines brightly as we gather together for our prayers of grief and solace.

Greg Roth

That a misunderstanding could have occurred between the villagers and the missionaries is a very real possibility, but that's not the point. It is awful journalism to offer a story like this completely uninvestigated and unsubstantiated. There is enough ill will directed at Christianity today for us to allow stories like this to go unchallenged.

Original Post - 2/10/05 4:18PM

Yahoo News carries this story, courtesy of Asian News Intenational.
Jubilant at seeing the relief trucks loaded with food, clothes and the much-needed medicines the villagers, many of who have not had a square meal in days, were shocked when the nuns asked them to convert before distributing biscuits and water.

I have to wonder about this one. The relief organization is not named -- though the presence of nuns is indicated which would narrow the field pretty significantly.

For the time being, I am going to write this off to bad journalism. If a Christian organization really did do this, then I'm all over them like a bad attitude, but I don't know who to get on. The way this piece is written, it's almost as bad as Eason Jordan's off-handed accusation at the military.

I sure hope this is not true. I have sent an email to ANI for more info. We'll see.

UPDATE 2/11/05 7:30AM

No response from ANI in about 16 hours. I have placed a call to Catholic Relief Services for comment, but as yet have been unable to speak to anyone directly.

UPDATE 2/11/05 9:33AM

I have just gotten off the phone with Jeffrey Griffith, Communications Associate for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the largest Catholic relief organization in the world, and one of the largest responding to the tsunami in general. Mr. Griffith firmly denies any involvement of CRS with any action of the type described in the article. Mr. Griffith emphasized that any such action would be "against policy" for CRS and that they are "not engaged in proselytising." According to Mr. Griffith, CRS offers relief aid to all regardless to ethicity or religious affiliation, and that CRS employs people of all religions .

I called CRS because the story indicates that nuns were present, and that is the only clue available as to the idenitiy of the relief organization that might be involved. This story has now spread all over the Internet, with over 10,000 Google hits. This story is looking more and more like a back-handed slap at the church. More to come.

UPDATE 2/11/05 1:40PM

I have a call into the Los Angeles Archdiocese for comment.

I have heard again from CRS and they have pointed me to this page on their web site regarding guiding principals. Here are some pulls from that page:
Catholic Relief Services work is founded on the belief that each person possesses a basic dignity that comes directly from God. Because of this belief, we advance the intrinsic value and equality of all human beings, and strive for systems and procedures that demonstrate fair and equitable treatment of all people.

We understand ourselves to be a part of a wider global family and believe that our responsibilities to one another cross national, cultural, and religious boundaries. Our work worldwide is a concrete expression of the interdependence of all people in community with each other as we seek to fulfill our responsibilities to our brothers and sisters worldwide.

We also work with institutions of other religions and secular organizations that share this commonality of purpose.
(emphasis mine)

Lest anyone should argue that this is a bad story and not in need of much refutation, I would point the reader again to the over 10,000 Google hits on the story mentioned above. Yes, most of them are left-wing radical bloggers, but note also that some are Arab News Services. We ask why they hate us -- well allowing stories like this to spread unchallenged might be a good starting point.

UPDATE 2/11/05 7:30PM

Still no response from the LA Archdiocese. I have also sent an email to the Vatican information office requesting comment. I have located the web site for the government of the Indian province where this story is reported to have occurred. I have written to them asking for any information they may have and any more local contacts they can recommend.

Once again, I want to emphasize how important this confirming or debunking this story is. SmartChristian has done me the courtesy of a post on this topic. The first comment (and only at time of this posting) is:
Given the treatment I have been given by the church and its resultant effects on my daughter, it does not surprise me at all that this is going on, and I surmise that is not just one incident.(sic) See my blog if you doubt me.

Such sentiments are being echoed throughout the parts of the blogosphere that many of us do not venture into. We are sinners, and therefore, the church makes mistakes - some of them quite costly. Can we afford to stand accused of a mistake we did not make?

UPDATE 2/13/05 2:10PM

As more evidence that this story has got to be bogus, I refer you to this post at 'Eternal Perspectives.' (HT:Adrian Warnock) This "exposipost" on the parable of the good samaritan indicates how completely antithetical to the teachings of Jesus behavior of the type described in the stroy would be.

My emails went out too late Friday to hit the India state government offices before Saturday tehir time. I am still hoping for information from them once the week gets started.


How Blogging Should Be Done

Warnie Winner, Milton Stanley at Transforming Sermons acknowledges that he made a hermeneutical error in his Evangelical Environmental post this morning. Furthermore, he points to a post that provides some relevant hermeneutical guidelines. That's classy, really classy. If only Eason Jordan had had that much wisdom.


Duckwriter Relents!

Duckwriter acknowledges my call this morning for his promised post on Christian Ethics. Looking forward to it Charlie!


This is the Pravda I Love

Regular readers here know that I like to read through the 'Pravda' web site. I am eternally grateful for the death of the Soviet Union, but I have to say when I read the headline for this story, I grew slightly nostalgic for the old days of utter propaganda.

American press makes ridiculous comments about post Soviet states


Penguins and Protests

Rememeber last week when I expressed wonder at why the actions of a German Zoo were not being met with protest? OOPS! -- I may have given the wrong people the wrong ideas.


Banks and Pluck

This landed in my inbox today. Again, who knows if it's true, but it is enjoyable.


Shown below, is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by a 96 year old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire income, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that hereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press the buttons as follows:

1. To make an appointment to see me.
2. To query a missing payment.
3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
4. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.
8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.
9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year.

Your Humble Client


Valentines Day Post

I love my wife very much. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Happy Valentine's day Honey! Here's to many more Valentines together!


Warnock Strikes Again

It is not my intention to make this blog an "all Adrian, all the time" thing, but dang, the boy just keeps good conversations going. If you visit Adrian Warnock's blog, it is obvious that he spent the weekend immersed in Charles Spurgeon. As someone who has posted Spurgeon himself, I must confess that is not a bad way to spent the weekend.

One of the questions Adrian poses is "Was Spurgeon a charismatic?" Truthfully, I don't care that much -- Spurgeon was a great preacher and worth listening to, even if he thought that he was attended to at night by little green men from an alien world. But Adrian is really using this question as a jumping off point to get us to read some older posts he did on Cessation and Charismaticism.

This issue is one I need to set aside the better part of a day to prepare a really meaningful post about. I discussed some of it over the weekend.

There is something I would like to say on the matter now, however. "Charismatic" is a very loaded term. In my thinking it refers not to those that believe the Holy Spirit is active in revealing God in the present day, but rather, it refers to those that believe either Pentecostal theology concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or those with an unhealthy focus on the more miraculous manifestations of the Spirit, often to the exclusion or dismissal of those with less spectacular gifting.

As Adrian is using the word, I would qualify as a charismatic, and so, at least as far as I have read would he. I, for one would prefer a different label. I am not a cessationist, but I am not what I commonly think of as a charismatic. As I said before, I am more of an Elijah-at-Horeb-still-small-voice manifestation of the spirit kind of guy. What's a good word for that?


Calling Out Duckwriter

Ten days or Two weeks ago, Duckwriter and I had an email exchange. We were discussing the lack of outrage amongst the Godbloggers at the use of a Down Syndrome afflicted young man as a living bomb during the Iraqi elections. I made an off-handed comment about how I felt the theological principal of "all sin is the same" had been misunderstood and misapplied to the point that Christian Ethics had pretty well turned to mush. Duckwriter asked permission to quote me while writing a post on Christian Ethics. I'm still waiting.

Last week, Warnie winner Challies had a great post on Total Depravity. I agree with all that Challies had to offer in that post, but it sure does make a good jumping off point for the discussion Duckwriter and had started.

I have avoided posting on this topic, despite a real urge to do so because I wanted to give Duckwriter first crack. Charlie -- you have a week before I go ahead anyway.


The 'Evangelical Environmentalism' Discussion Continues

Over the weekend, Warnie Award Winner, Transforming Sermons promised to offer some biblical principals for "Evangelical Environmentalism." This morning he made the first such post on his "To The Word" blog.

I was hoping for better things. His opening statement:
Present rates of human impact on the environment are unsustainable.

This is the common mantra of environmental activists, but it is in no way necessarily true. As I have said repeatedly, defending or denying this statement is a HIGHLY TECHNICAL discussion. The best overview on the matter I have read remains "The Skeptical Environmentalist" by Bjorn Lumborg. This book should be read by anyone that wants to enter a discussion of environmentalism. In it Lumborg argues that human creativity makes the impact sustainable -- that in fact the negative impacts are a part of human development that are naturally compensated for as progress continues.

I do not have time for a complete exegesis of Rev Stanley's post, but I also think he engages in the grossest sort of proof-texting.
Even after the fall, everything God created is good (I Tim 4:4)

I Timothy 4:4 is a part of a passage in which Paul is addressing false teachings about acceptable dietary practice amongst Christians. The old "should Christians keep kosher?" discussion that prompted the meeting in Jerusalem between Peter and Paul.

This is why I remain grossly concerned about any discussion of "Evangelical Environmentalism." There is so much crap about the environment out in the public sphere, that it is almost impossible to put your hand in and pull out a good starting place.


The Posturing Begins

The Eason Jordan story is now a cause for much posturing as the MSM fights for life. From the NY Times:
With the resignation Friday of a top news executive from CNN, bloggers have laid claim to a prominent media career for the second time in five months.

Not bad for the Times, but the piece goes on to describe that Easongate is very different than Rathergate because Rather did something very wrong in the rules of journalism while Jordan simply lipped off. A vague hint at the McCarthyism charge made in more rabid quarters.

The Wall Street Journal voices much the same opinion. Powerline has a good analysis of the Journal editorial.

I can't believe people still don't get this. I haven't read anything in a blog anywhere accusing Jordan of breaking the rules of journalism. He has stood accused of slander against the United States Military -- simple as that. The blog swarm resulted because of the semi-monopolistic nature of the MSM, and because we felt like people in positions of such importance should not be slandering the military. I don't think anyone called for his job because he did it poorly, ala Rather. I don't think anyone would have called for his job had his statements not been slanderous in nature.

Therein lies the crux of the matter. His statements were more than merely voicing an opinion. They were slanderous. Everyone is right in pointing out that he committed no journalistic gaffe. What he did was much worse.


Pushing the Edge of Taste

If you are not a fan of somewhat tasteless, very insulting comedy, you may not of heard of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. This character, originally started as a puppet bit on Conan O'Brien, starts out pretty much like any standard Don Rickles bit. But when he gets to the apology, the " I kid, he's really a great person." Triumph skips a couple of beats and hits them with his classic tag line, "For me to poop on."

The genius of the routine is that tag line could only be funny coming from a dog. As you probably figured out when you read my description, it's not funny coming from a person. At least until I ran across this. I'm sorry, but I just could not resist.


Life Imitates Television

Do you remember the old television series "The Prisoner?" It was a science fiction/spy series about a man trapped on an island guarded by strange ball-shaped machines. Now comes this from the Telegraph of London. It is truly amazing how what we watch on television as children affects us when we grow up to become adult engineers.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


More Charges without Evidence.

Bertrand Pecquerie at editorsweblog opined on Saturday that the blog swarm that went after Eason Jordan were the "sons of Senator McCarthy." As Powerline points out, this charge was inevitable.

The Deacon at Powerline points out that Jordan had several options, most of which I "offered" to Mr. Jordan in the heat of the story, and that he chose not to avail himself of any of them.

Mr. Pecquerie spills bile as opposed to offering any substantive defense of Mr. Jordan. It is just the old, tired, free speech cliche'. No one denies that Mr. Jordan has the right to say what he did. He has not be jailed, or even threatened with jail. He has committed no crime.

He just shot of his mouth and made a scurrilous charge. He is allowed, but he must bear the consequences of his utterance. Frankly, he has gotten off easy.

By the way, Mr. Pecquerie, please note that I have resisted the temptation to refer to you in some unsubstantiated, unflattering manner. I have no more evidence that you are a raving-lunatic-idiot-with-little-understanding-of-the-fact-that-having-the-right-to-do-something-does-not-always-mean-you-should-avail-yourself-of-it, than you do that I am a McCarthyite -- so I shall continue to resist.

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