Saturday, February 26, 2005


In Memoriam......

I noted a couple of weeks back that a friend of mine had died. His memorial service was this afternoon so I would like to pay him some tribute.

His name was Charles N. Svendsen. I first met Charles when he was about 78 years old and well into his retirement. His son, Charles T. Svendsen, was my pastor at the time. (I have included middle initials because they both hate the Sr.-Jr. thing) I was new to the congregation and Charles T, having found out about my background, talked me into teaching an adult Sunday School class on I Timothy. Into the first class walked this elderly gentleman that introduced himself by the pastor's name, and soon I learned that my pastor was the copy, not the original.

I have no way to describe Charles N, save as a great man of God. Interestingly, he was a cessasionist, but I'll be doggoned if I couldn't almost literally see the Holy Spirit about him the more I got to know him.

He was also an ardent calvinist. I have pretty much always been one myself, though not strict one. He changed that. It was an easy class to teach because most weeks he brought me a book that gave me the materials I needed for the next lesson. A while later when he and his wife had to move into an assisted living center, he doubled the size of my theology library because he would have no room for the books, and he had given his sons copies years earlier. He introduced me to John Piper who, when I read him the first time, it felt like he was singing to my soul.

Some people you meet and you know you have experienced just a little bit of God. I have been priviledged to meet more than one, but less than five. He was one of them.

His son John, also a pastor and NOT a calvinist, said of him today, "It mattered to him greatly that God is the source of faith, but it mattered to him immensely more that that faith rested in God." I wished I'd said that, and I hope someone can say it about me someday.

Finally, for the service this afternoon, we sang good old hymns. They are becoming increasingly hard to find these days. I am going to put one below because it was just perfect, and because I think it says so much more than a years worth of services with modern worship music.


Do People Want Terri Schiavo To Die?

Yesterday's news reports on the most recent stay for Terri Schiavo were most interesting. They were all over that map interms of presentation. Even within a single web site, like CNN, the link would say one thing and the headline another. Some intimated that the judge hard ordered the feeding tubes removal in three weeks, and others concentrated on the stay. Why such a wide divergence on what precisely was yesterday's story? Are their people out there anxious to see her die? That possibility just makes me sad.

Blogs for Terri continues to be the best place for all the latest.

Please go to Terri's Fight and donate today. the next three weeks are likely to see enoromous legal bills. Also check out their "myths about Terri" page. It is very informative.

Please pray!


The Trend INDEED Continues

Yesterday's post about the rise in blogging on what I call "self-help" Christianity seems to have spotted the beginning of something really serious. The posts on the subject continue to pop up.

Dawn Treader posts on his concerns about the Emerging Church movement and links to a number of other posts that share that concern. Is the emerging church movement the same as the "self-help Christianity" trend. I think so. This website, dedicated to the movement, describes itself in some interesting and troubling ways.
the emergence of the postmodern era (1960 onward) is only now beginning to impact the world and the church in a profound way. most folk know about luther, calvin and the reformation. some have likened what is taking place in the church today to a "second reformation."...begin swimming (even with a paddleboard) within the postmodern culture...the church should not fear postmodernity, as it provides us with a new context, and thus a fresh opportunity to get real, to drink deep from our own wells, and go back to our own future...
What is the "postmodern era" if not the self-obsessed culture we find ourselves immersed in? Note also that the Dawn Treader post links this clearly with Joel Osteen, already roundly swarmed by Internet Monk. Osteen proudly claims the self-help label. From updates in Monk's post, "He's ok with being called a motivational speaker."

I love this post from yesterday by 21st Century Reformation.
I was having a discussion with a non-Christian friend of mine today at my work...and I asked him, “If Christian’s lived in a way that was distinct in the way we related to money. If we cared for one another, if we had high financial integrity and lived as if were not ruled by greed, if Christians showed that we loved people more than money, if we built hospitals and tried to prevent crime by building community centers and generally did good works, how would that effect our cause?”

To this he responded, “That is my whole thing. I can’t see a difference.”
"Swim within the postmodern culture"--Indeed!

The question I have is, "Does culture define God?" Of course not! It is very "me-centric" to think that God, or the church has to somehow adapt itself to the current culture. It defies the very definition of a monotheistic, omniscience, omnipotent, and omnipresent God. This stuff smacks of ancient mythology when the gods were little more than superheroes.

Today's post from Challies reflects on this subject as well.
The church is the hope for our world, and it seems to me that the church can only bring to the world the hope she possesses if she is strong and healthy. All around us we see people proclaiming news of the churchÂ’s illness and offering both diagnosis and cure. Yet most of these cures are not working, for they are not drawn from Scripture. Bookshelves at Christian bookstores are groaning under the weight of books about how to make churches bigger, stronger and more appealing to unbelievers. Some authors have interviewed new believers to ask what drew them to church, and others have turned to hardened unbelievers to ask what might draw them to church. I have read many of these books - probably too many - and it seems that none of them hold the answers, for while churches are springing up all over our continent, the number of church-goers continues to decline. Furthermore, the theology of the "average church-goer" continues to worsen as new and exciting teachings are introduced to the church, many of which have no biblical basis.
I like his statement that the church is the hope for our world, but we really have to change our view of what the church is. It is, simply, a group of people. It is not defined by size, meeting place, financial soundness. It is the Body of Christ. We need to stop building our institutions and start building His body.



The Episcopalians are being slowly, painfully evicted from the Anglican communion. Yesterday the was a bit on Boar's Head Tavern about it, and an article in the NYTimes today. The issue, of course, is the elevation of an avowed and practicing homosexual to office of bishop by the Episcopalians.

Since the Reformation churches have split, combined, re-split, fought, argued, changed... almost continually. This does not trouble me terribly. This particular split troubles me for two reasons. My denomination, PCUSA, has faced and is continuing to face the homosexual ordination issue, and we will likely split if it comes to pass. We will not be able to do it as cleanly or neatly as te Anglicans and Episcopalians. For us it will be a feast for lawyers. Secondly, to the best of my knowledge that such a difference in doctrine has occurred based on extra-Biblical concerns. Homosexual ordination is not a question of applying a hermeneutic from within scripture, it can only be arrived at by applying extra-Biblical hermeneutics.

At such a point, I truly wonder if schism is sufficient. Denouncement is mandatory. But I wonder of the interdenominational community of faith should not rise up and "strip" the parting faction of the title "Christian?"


McClellan or Grant? That is the Question

Hugh Hewitt has called Vox Blogoli 2.2. The essential question surrounds the current filibuster of conservative judicial nominees in the Senate. The Dems have threatened the Republicans with a complete shutdown of the Senate should the Republicans elect to take what has been described as the "nuclear option," which is to modify the rules of the Senate an eliminate the filibuster. Hugh's question is should the Republicans respond like General Grant, that it to say, press the fight on the line that has been drawn, or should they respond like General McClellan and seek to muster their forces and collect more supplies in preparation for the battle on more favorable terms?

Simply put, the "McClellan" option is a no-starter. Why? Easy -- there will never be enough supplies or a better strategic situation. There are only a couple of better situations that I can imagine. One would be, of course, that the Republican majority gets larger than 60, thus cloture could be invoked. I find this unlikely, while the country has tipped rightward, and will likely do so some more, I don't think that much. Such substantial majorities are, I believe, a thing of the past. In this media driven age it is too easy to convince too many people to some point of view, regardless of how ill-informed, or simply dumb that point of view may be.

The other situation would be that enough Dems would vote with the Republicans to invoke cloture. So long as the purse strings are controlled by the usual suspects (Kennedy, Clinton, Boxer, et. al.) I find this equally unlikely. The issues associated with judicial appointment have become bedrock issues to the Dems, and with the election of Howard Dean to the chairmanship of the DNC, the bedrock has gotten heavier.

So we are stuck, more or less, with letting the filibuster stand, which is a victory for the Dems, or we go nuclear (Grant) and let them do their worst. Hugh describes their worst as "going Gingrich." Well, it did not help Newt much, so why do we think it will help the Dems much here?

That said, I think the Republicans need to be really smart in doing this. The Dems are relying on the MSM to help them make this look like the Republicans are the bad guys. That needs to be overcome. Hugh suggests that the NRSC should set up a resources page for activism on this issue -- great idea. Presumably the leading activists on this would be us bloggers. Which is how the MSM will be overcome; as it has been a few times in the past now.

More, I think the Republicans need to do everything they can to not make this discussion center on abortion. I do not believe that Roe v Wade can be overturned, it has become a fact of life. The phrase "Right to Choose" has become, to a very considerable portion of the population, apple pie. Once the phrase is uttered, they shut down their cognitive capacities, they won't hear arguments about legislating abortion, or distinguishing between 1st trimester and 3rd trimester. Nope, rightly or wrongly, it's apple pie. This, of course, is why the Dems have more or less made it a litmus test.

That said, the Republicans have a considerable current advantage if they can turn this on the issue of gay marriage. Based on the last election, gay marriage is clearly in heavy disfavor among the general population. While not a hard and fast rule, pro-life judges are likely anti-gay marriage, and the converse. The last election and recent rulings make it apparent that the Dems are determined to force gay marriage into public life via judicial fiat since the legislative route is clearly closed to them. That's the story line, and it needs to be hammered into the American consciousness over and over again.

Now, it may take a little while for that story line to develop, so the Republican might be wise to wait until a little later in the session to push the button, but push it they should.


Fossils Found

Check out this story from CNN Science & Space about finding very ancient crocodile skulls in the Australia.
A new species of crocodile which lived 40 million years ago has been discovered in tropical Australia, filling a gap in the evolution of the prehistoric-looking crocodile, researchers said on Thursday.
What they don't tell you is that very nearby, they found the skeleton of a man, dressed in khaki, and the words "There's a beauty!" had been scratched in the mud and fossilized for eternity.


Einstein Was A Fool!

No really, the Russians have proven it with these experiments. I just have a couple of questions.
  1. Why are experiments like this only reported in Pravda?
  2. Why do they always happen in some vastly unpopulated region in far eastern Russia?


Speaking Of Mean Jokes

This NYTimes piece is about a kid that pretty much made a fool of himself on the internet and is now have a hard time with the embarrassing notoriety. I had seen the video clip in question. The high school kids in our Bible Study showed it to us.

Kids make fun of other kids, fact of life. I made fun and was made fun of. But when I was a kid it was about getting a reaction. You did it in person to "get a rise." Or, alternately, you made a fool of yourself to get attention. But this anonymous stuff over the internet somehow just strikes me as mean. I am betting the kid did it to get attention, but because of the anonymity, all he has gotten is scorn, not very good attention.

I do not think the lack of connection with other people bodes well. How do we get kids to connect with each other, and not just with an image or idea of another?


Church Humor

Found a list of religious jokes. (HT: It Takes A Church) Some are tasteless, some mean, but most funny. Now I have to add one:
Why don't Baptists have sex standing up?(Two beats)It might lead to dancing!(rimshot)

Friday, February 25, 2005


Now HERE Is A Trend

Boy, in the last couple of days there seems to be a plethora of postings on what I tend to call "self-help" Christianity. I first noted the trend when Le Sabot Post-Moderne provided this pointer to a post by Batesline.

Batesline makes a very cute, but very worthy breakdown of theology into Cat and Dog schools.
What's the difference between dog theology and cat theology?

A dog says: "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me. You must be God."
A cat says: "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me. I must be God."
But it doesn't stop there. Transforming Sermons and Stronger Church both gave pointers to this post from notes from the front lines.
But that's what bothers me about all the Purpose-Driven stuff and Joel Osteen. They've turned the Bible into a program -- worse, a self-help program. They've got us digging through Scriptures to see what we can get out of it for ourselves, what the Bible passages say about ourselves.
All of this stuff really speaks to me. I have been troubled about this trend for quite sometime.

When I discuss this with people deep into the trend, they tell me that we have to do what is necessary to attract people to the church. There's a problem though, people never seem to move past the "seeker" stage. Most of these posts relate the issue to missions. I can't disagree with that, but I wonder what else this trend says. Can we be sure that we have brought these people any eternal assurance? I can't answer that, but I sure do wonder about it.

I love the Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
It is not about us, it IS about God.

UPDATE Right after I put this post up, I mean RIGHT after, I went to Adrian Warnock, who provided this pointer to an article by Charles G. Finney.
How To Preach Without Converting Anybody

Preach on every doctrine that centers the attention on man rather than Jesus. Teach every doctrine that makes man the center of God's attention rather than God the center of man's devotion. Tell people only what God will do for them.
The Trend Continues.


Can You Say 'Heinous'?

FOXNews reports that con persons (how's that for PC?) are taking advantage of the families of our men and women serving in uniform, especially those who are posted overseas, and unfortunately those who have lost someone. Jail is too good for such people. Siberia comes to mind.


Evangelical Expectations

Remember on Monday when I posted the five things that I thought it was worth the church spending its moral authority on in the political arena? I seem to have been on the front of a trend. Stones Cry Out posted on a similar topic yesterday. (HT: SmartChristian) Here's SCO's short list:
1. Value Character
2. Support Human Rights
3. Develop a Consistent Ethic of Life
4. Honor and Protect Families
5. Help the Poor and Imprisoned
6. Be Responsible Citizens
7. Be Good Stewards
8. Do Justice
9. Recognize Evil
10. Seek Spiritual Vision
11. Demonstrate a Graceful Spirit
12. Share Your Faith
I do not have much problem with anything that is on the list, but I would order them differently, putting the last 6 first and reordering them some, but it's a good list.

Then he breaks it down some more, and the disagreements start to appear. I disagree with him entirely on the death penalty. I think he is soft on war and homosexual unions.

Then there is the whole environmental stewardship thing. As I have said again, and again. Yes we should be environmental stewards, but what that means is hugely debatable. Furthermore, I do not think that is an area that the church should put political capital behind it as an issue. SCO has a great point about how ineffective government is at feeding the poor. BINGO! When it comes to the environment as well.

This is worth a read, but keep your critical thinking cap on.


Pray For The Pope

He is doing better, but has a long way to go. I DO NOT WISH THIS MAN ANYTHING BUT THE BEST, but having said that, there must be behind the scenes whispering about a replacement. We need to pray for that as well.

Send the Pope an email and wish him well.


Scripture Break...

Job 1:21
And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."

1 Cor 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?


Terri Schiavo -- The latest


Terri's feeding tube to remain in for at least 3 weeks! PRAISE THE LORD!

Original Post

Now I know the blog swarm about Terri is working. Little 'ol me was interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer concerning the grass roots activism that has sprung up around the story.

The Vatican has issued an appeal for Terri's life. That's BIG time.

Blogicus posts to a number of videos of Terri. They are moving and disturbing. This woman cannot be allowed to die, at least not under these circumstances.

I refer you to a this and this previous post of mine for more details and thoughts.




Adrian Warnock points to a post by Half Pint House questioning infant baptism. Adrian is not a proponent of infant baptism and explains why, and as usual does so well. But he also throws down a gauntlet, "Let me know if you get answers to these questions. As a non-paedobaptist I doubt you will get very clear ones" Well that is a challenge if I ever heard one.

HPH's questions seem to center on the "necessity" of infant sprinkling for the children to be in the covenant. I am going to try and address this as neatly and CLEARLY as I can.

I do not think any sacramental observance, baptism and communion for us Presbyterians, is necessary for God to do anything to me or for me, or anyone else for that matter. Baptism is not necessary for God, but it is absolutely vital for us.

Becoming a Christian, saying 'yes' to Jesus, saying the sinners prayer, or in "Adrianspeak," responding to the simple gospel is the beginning of a journey, not it's end. I believe that it is absolutely necessary to publicly announce the beginning of that journey. Baptism is that announcement.

Jesus commanded baptism because he knew that we need to make such pronouncements. These pronouncements put us in a position of accountability to the greater community, there is no going back on it now. They also give us assurance that the commitment we have made is real. I probably prayed the sinners prayer a dozen times, until I made a public pronouncement(though not baptism), and then I knew it was real.

Baptism is unique as such a pronouncement because of its deep symbolism into death and resurrection.

Having said that, baptism is necessary, not to enter the Kingdom or covenant somehow, but simply because it was commanded.

Now, as to infant baptism...I cannot begin to understand God's judgment regarding children not yet able to respond to the gospel on an intellectual level. That's His business. But, because I believe baptism is about us, and not about Him, if it grants assurance to parents and or the congregation, then I am all for it.

For us Presbyterians, infant baptism is prescribed. I am an Elder in the Presbyterian Church and have therefore pledged to be guided by its doctrines. The doctrine is old. I believe its roots lie in efforts to maintain some priestly role for the clergy. Many Presbyterian congregations provide for infant dedication or baptism at the request of the individual family. I am a proponent of such, but do not push the issue hard if opposed because of my pledge to uphold existing doctrine.

What I am saying is that, because it is commanded, baptism is necessary. But it is about us, not about God. That said, when it happens, or even if it happens more than once, is a question to be answered based on what will produce the desired effect in the individuals involved.

I should note that I was re-baptised as an adult because the church I joined in my one foray away from being Presbyterian, would not recognize my infant baptism. Sometimes, it is just about obedience.


Mission Stats

Crossroads has a post with some very interesting financial statistics from around the church. I agree with some of her subsequent rant, and some of it I don't, but she sure does raise some great questions. Here's my question -- When the American church is as extraordinarily wealthy as it is, is a tithe to mission even sufficient?


Sage Advise

This sermon from John Piper is superb.
First, I am saying that the work of God's Spirit in your life happens through the Word (the Scriptures), and the work of the Word in your life happens through the Spirit. The Spirit and the Word are inseparable in producing change in our lives (call it obedience, or sanctification, or fruit of the Spirit, or holiness) – from the first act of regeneration to the final act of glorification. God works by this Spirit through his Word to accomplish his saving purposes in our lives....Another thing I am saying in this main point today is that prayer is our response to God in reliance on his Spirit; and meditation is our response to God in reliance on his Word. In prayer we praise the perfections of God through his Spirit, we thank God for what he has done by his Spirit, we confess our failures to trust the promise of his Spirit, and we ask for the help of his Spirit – all in Jesus' name. Prayer is the human expression of treasuring and trusting the Spirit of God....And a third thing I am saying is that prayer and meditation are inseparable in living the Christian life. Prayer without meditation on the Word will disintegrate into humanistic spirituality. It will simply reflect your own fallen ideas and feelings – not God's. And meditation without calling on God in prayer will create proud legalism or hopeless despair. You will try to live the Word in your own strength and will think you are succeeding, and become a proud legalist; or you'll know you are not succeeding, and will give up in hopeless despair. Those are not the only alternatives. My point is: God's will is that prayer and meditation always stay together. In prayer we call on God's Spirit for his help to change; and in meditation we see the truth that inspires the change when the Spirit is at work.
This blog is called "Blogotional" because I believe that personal devotion, dedication to reading and meditating the Word and prayer are the only suitable foundation for a Christian life. There simply is no substitute for a daily devotional.



Item One

Did you ever wonder why new environmental problems seem to pop up all the time. Could it be that there is money to be made in finding them? This story shows where the government is looking to give away money concerning environmental projects in a very broad field. This story is similar, but instead of watersheds, it affects agricultural production. It always pays to follow the money.

Item Two

Speaking of agricultural production, there is this piece from Scientific American, arguing that global warming is not a result of industrialization, but rather started some 7,000 years earlier with the development of agriculture. I have not had the opportunity to read anything but the few paragraphs at the link, but A friend has and he reports the article as good work. Remember yesterday when I said that I had quit a few science journals because they had become too agenda driven. SciAm was one of them. I cannot comment on this article, that is a general statement. But I do have this question -- are we supposed to quit growing food now?

Item Three

Last week in this space, I wondered about nano-evolution. Is this article more evidence of that phenomena?

Item Four

Nanny State Warning: Watch your salt. I'll mind my own food thank you!


From the Edge of Taste

Ananova strikes again with this winner:

Police hunt poo protesters

Don't you just love alliteration?


Friday Humor

This from my inbox:

My name is Billy Evans. I AM A very sick little boy. My mother is typing this for me, because I can't. She Is crying. The reason she is so sad is because I'm so Sick. I was Born without A body. It doesn't hurt, Except when I try to breathe.

The doctors gave me an artificial body. It is A burlap Bag filled with leaves. The doctors said that was the Best they could do ON account of us having No money OR Insurance.

I would like to have A body transplant, but we need More money. Mommy doesn't work because she said nobody Hires crying people. I said, " Don't cry, Mommy and " and She hugged my burlap bag. Mommy always gives me hugs, Even though she's allergic to burlap and it makes her Sneeze and chafes her real bad.

I hope you will help me. You can help me if you Forward this email to everyone you know. Forward it to People you don't know, the too. Dr. Johansen said that for Every person you forward this email to, Bill Gates Will team up with AOL and send A nickel to NASA. With That funding, NASA will collect prayers from school Children all over America and have the astronauts take Them up into space so that the angels can hear them Better.

Then they will come back to earth and go to the Pope, And he will take up A collection IN church and send All the money to the doctors. The doctors could help Me get better then. Maybe one day I will be able to Play baseball. Right now I can only be third base.

Every time you forward this letter, the astronauts can Take more prayers to the angels and my dream will be Closer to coming true. Please help me. Mommy is so Sad and and I want A body. I don't want my leaves to rot Before I turn 10

If you don't forward this email, that's okay. Mommy Says you're A mean and heartless [#%*!@] who doesn't Care about A poor little boy with only A head. She Says that if you don't stew IN the raw pit of your own Guilt-ridden stomach, she hopes you die A long slow, Horrible death and then burn forever IN [a hot place].

What kind of cruel person are you that you can't take Five [little] minutes to forward this to all your Friends so that they can feel guilt and shame about Ignoring A poor, bodiless nine-year-old boy? Please Help me.

I try to be happy, but it's hard. I wish I had A Kitty. I wish I could hold A kitty. I wish I could Hold A kitty that wouldn't chew ON me and try to bury Its turds IN the leaves of my burlap body. I wish that Very much.

Thank You,

Billy " Smiles " Evans

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Is Removing Terri Schiavo's Feeding Tube Murder?

Right up front: I am not going to answer that question in this post, I am just going to raise some questions about it. I think it is a question we need to ask.

One definition of murder is: To kill brutally or inhumanly. Keep that in mind as we go through this.

If food and water were withheld from some other helpless individual would it be murder?

If it was a baby, you betcha. Not a good analogy you think -- a baby is equally helpless, cannot feed itself, and is little more than responsive to stimuli, what;s the difference other than chronological age and how the individual came to be in that condition? Besides, there is the contention that with therapy, Terri could eat without assistance. We don't know.

Starving or dehydrating a living thing to death is cruel.

This is inescapable. If I had a pet that could no longer take food and I did not wish to go to the time, energy, and expense to put in a feeding tube, I would at least put the pet down. The last time I did put a pet down, I had the common decency to hold her until she passed. Furthermore, I think because one human being is inflicting this starvation on another, this is more than simply cruel, it is inhumane.

Isn't this really be a form of 'assisted suicide?'

I don't see how. Set aside for a moment the question of whether 'assisted suicide' is acceptable or not and grant that it is. Assisted suicide requires the positive, active consent of the person dying. Take Kervorkian, for example. He set up his apparatus, but it was still the individual that pushed the button.

Terri is not in a position where she can participate in her own death in anyway but suffer. Any statement by her husband concerning her purported desires is suspect because of the possibility that his motives are mixed. We can never answer the question about his motives, but we can acknowledge the possibility exists, and that qualifies as "reasonable doubt."

Absent some confirmable desire on Terri's part, I don't see any way this can be construed as suicide.

If not murder, what?

Euthanasia. That's the only term I can think of. Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, © 2002 defines euthanasia as
the act of killing someone painlessly (especially someone suffering from an incurable illness) [syn: mercy killing]
Two points:

I am not prepared to say that this is murder, but I sure do not know what else we can call it.


Have You Written A Soldier Today?

Have you visited Anysoldier and written a soldier today? If not, why not? Don't tell me because you don't think it matters that much. It does. Read all about it.


Agenda Science

I wish I could say that I find this NRO Piece surprising. As someone who routinely reads peer-reviewed science journals, and has dropped a subscription or two for this issue, it's not news to me, but that doesn't make it any less sad.
If this trend continues, the scientific and medical communities are playing a very dangerous game. MIT scientist Richard Lindzen once commented, "Science is a tool of some value. It provides our only way of separating what is true from what is asserted. If we abuse that tool, it will not be available when it is needed." Yet a troubling number of journals and scientists are doing just that. If the institutions of science do not face up to this problem, we face the prospect of a "post-scientific," relativistic reality. The public that trusts scientists to benefit them deserves much better.
It is not hard to understand this trend, the MSM routinely takes what the journals publish and sensationalizes it anyway, so why should "People" get all the circulation writing about an article published in the "New England Journal of Medicine?"

In one sense, this is just more dumbing down of America, but they are right, we need to keep some smart people around.


Schiavo Case Makes the Big Time

The Blog Swarm seems to be working. Articles appeared today in the BIG TIME press. There is this from Newsday. The New York Times, biggest of the big, also chimes in. Both pieces are more neutral than I would like, but at least the whole populations is becoming engaged.

Because the news is slowing down with the recent 2-day stay, stalwarts Allthings2all and Wittenberg Gate are posting news as it arrives, but taking a rest otherwise. They've earned it, and they will be back when it matters.

I refer you to my post of yesterday for a list of potential actions, and a healthy dose of the necessary outrage.

BlogsforTerri battles hard. Their latest plea is to call the White House comments line. Here's the number: (202) 456-1111. Call today!


The Message and the Messenger

Crossroads has an interesting post contrasting a modern traveling evangelist with their 18th century counterpart. The difference lie primarily in the money and related perks afforded the modern evangelist. It is an interesting little read.

But in the end, it's what's inside that counts. What concerns me so gravely about the modern movements which enrich the "pastors" so is that they border on, if not cross into, idolatry.

We use the word "cult" as a perjorative in this day and age. Christians use it to define oddball Christian manifestations -- David Koresh, Jim Jones, traditionally Mormons (but they are changing slowly). Christians also use it to describe simply oddball devotion, like the "Moonies." The world uses it to describe religious groups, which would include all those mentioned as well as Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and the rest. Let's talk as Christians for a minute.

When does a legitimate Christian group cross the line into the cultic? I would argue that is does so when the messenger, whether a person or an institution, becomes the object of veneration, in place of God, that is to say the message. And isn't that a form of idolatry?

Idolatry of this sort is insidious, and it takes many forms. It ranges from the horrific, like the Jonestown massacre/suicide, to the mundane, like the incredibly wealthy pastors we see today. In between lay a whole host of sins and evils. But they are symptoms; symptoms of the idolatry that eats at the soul of all involved.

Idolatry is a word out of fashion in this day an age. When it is used it is used in reference to money, or TV, or something other than the church. I think we need to rethink that.


Too Much Time On Their Hands


Reading Tips


Religion Among Teens

The AP yesterday released a story about the religious convictions and knowledge of teenagers.
The majority of American teens believe in God and worship in conventional congregations, but their religious knowledge is remarkably shallow and they have a tough time expressing the difference that faith makes in their lives, a new survey says.
I'm not sure of this is good news or bad news. I am very pleased that kids believe in something besides TV, video games, and the music du jour, but, like most of the parents before them, I am concerned why they do not explore their faith in depth.

David Limbaugh has commented on the piece at his blog.
Now here's the real "Duh." This last paragraph is so obvious it's barely newsworthy. But while obvious, it's often denied by our culture. Of course the devout will have better emotional health, academic success, community involvement, etc. And abstinence programs work too!

I can't help but stop here to interject a relevant aside. When I speak before groups around the country on the subject of Christian persecution/discrimination in America I often point out how the First Amendment's Establishment clause has been turned upside down by the courts. While the framers intended the clause, like its Free Exercise Clause counterpart, to guarantee religious liberty, activist courts have turned it into a weapon against religious liberty -- for Christians that is. One example I use is the many high schools which prohibit valedictory speakers from invoking Christ in their speeches before the student body because of "the separation of church and state."
I absolutely agree with everything that Limbaugh is saying, but I think it belies a problem with the current rise of religion in America.

Faith is being recast as another self-help movement. Actually, this has been happening for years as pop-psychology has slowly crept into the pulpit and ministry and group therapy has replaced bible study. But now the movement is going big time. FAITH MAKES YOU HEALTHY, WEALTHY, AND WISE! Healthy and wise one hopes for from faith, wealthy is another thing.

But here is the bottom line -- faith in God is not about me, it's about God. We start off seeking salvation, but if we stop there, we run a terrible risk. God cannot be boxed into a small corner as political movement, or addiction breaker. He is a life consumer. He is the end all and be all. He is the Alpha and the Omega.


Soldier Stuff

Odds and Ends from the world of our fighting men and women....
What happened then, however, has transformed the relationship between the Iraqi soldiers and the skeptical Americans who train them. Using a tool they welded themselves that day at a cost of about $40, the Iraqis dredged the canal through the cold afternoon until the tan boot of Spec. Dakotah Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, appeared at the surface. The Iraqis then jumped into the water to pull him out, and went back again and again until they had recovered the last American. Then they stood atop the canal, shivering in the dark.

"When I saw those Iraqis in the water, fighting to save their American brothers, I saw a glimpse of the future of this country," said Col. Mark McKnight, commander of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, which had overall responsibility for the unit in the accident, his eyes tearing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005



Every time I hear "freedom," I think of William Wallace. But Rusty Peterman at Believer Blog reminds us that freedom is a serious theological concept. (HT: Transforming Sermons)

In an age when morality and behavioral restrictions are leaving the church at a rapid clip, I always get nervous about discussions of Christian freedom. Rusty puts it very well though
More and more, I am finding freedom from the power of sin. God has given me a new heart, a new desire, and a new power in me, just as He promised (Ezekiel 36:25-27). He makes the difference. He gets all the credit. I have no reason to boast about anything that I do, like the spotlight is on me. I remember what Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing� (John 15:5).
Christian freedom is not about doing what I want, it is about being free from what I want to do what God wants. That's exciting!


European Christianity

Josh Clayborn of In the Agora had a great post yesterday on the state of European Christianity. (HT: SmartChristian)
As the Enlightenment took hold of Europe, the American counterparts interpreted it in a much different light. Grace Davie, an expert on religion at Exeter University in England, offered this explanation: In Europe, "the Enlightenment was seen as freedom from religion ... getting away from dogma, whereas in the [US] it meant freedom to believe."
What an amazing insight. Makes you marvel at the wisdom of America's founding fathers.

I have always thought that the church/state separation so often discussed is a two way street, that is to protect the church from government as much as the other way around. Look at the result, Christianity has flourished in America. Could it be that such was the founding fathers intent, instead of the other way around? I would argue in the affirmative on that assertion. A minimalist government such as what ours was designed to be, will have limited authority. Among those limitations is moral authority, that should rightfully come from the church. A society cannot function without moral authority, thus they intended religion to flourish, just to flourish alongside government instead of as a part of it.
When historians go to record human history over the last century, the rise and fall of communism and the expansion of American and capitalistic ideals may well be the dominant theme. But the explosion of Christianity in developing countries, and the simultaneous decline in Europe, is one fact that deserves a prominent place in the record.
Josh goes on to develop that quote into a discussion of economic development and its coupling to Christianity. I just think it speaks to the fact that the Holy Spirit isn't going to waste much time where nobody seems to want Him. I pray daily that we never get to such a place in this country.


More U.N. Missteps

Claudia Rosett has been doing yeoman's work uncovering the many and varied scandals, missteps, and stupidities of the United Nations. Today she chimes in with a piece about the mishanndling of Nort Korean refugees escaping into China. I'm beginning to wonder if the UN is not more trouble than it is worth?


Terri Schiavo: From the Mouth of Babes

UPDATE 2/23/05 2:00PM -- THE LATEST A local Florida has granted Terri's parents another 48 hours to seek legal remedies before her "husband" can remove the feeding tube. Praise the Lord, Continue to pray.

Today's Original Post

Amy's Humble Musings posted on Terri Schiavo yesterday, and it was a gut wrencher.
...Terri Schiavo with my six-year-old standing over my shoulder. Not wanting to influence his reaction, I gave him a factual run-down on the case. Just the facts. When he became visibly upset, I asked him about his tears. He replied that he was afraid of what would happen if "they" decided we should stop feeding our eight-month-old Baby Cakes since she can't feed herself (except in the recent case of her swallowing a Lego), and he doesn't want our Rebekah to die. As a side note he also asked, "Well, why did her husband marry her [if he doesn't want to take care of her]?"
What is wrong with us that a six-year-old gets this, and courts, and activists, and other adults do not?

Amy also provides links to this video and this video. I defy anyone with half a heart to watch these and think this woman should die. (Do NOT watch them without tissues available) BlogforTerri has a post answering any technical questions you may have concerning the videos.

The Wittenberg Gate is keeping "Bloggers Best" going. Thank you Dory -- It's a tremendous effort!

As I have said, helping this woman die is just vile, utterly contemptible. Permanent vegetative state - my eye. But starving her to death, you realize of course that is what we are talking about here, that drops into the realm of torture, both to her and to those who love her, which most decidely does not include her husband.

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Joni Erickson Tada yesterday on his radio program. Joni pointed out that if, in the end, Terri's husband is allowed to starve her to death, that we will have reduced severely handicapped people to chattel, subject to the whims of their "guardians." That idea is so contemptible, so utterly Hitleresque, that my hands shake as I write it.

Do what you can. Write Jeb Bush. Send money where it can help. Join the Email Campaign. Send more money where it can help even more.


Christian Words

Internet Monk posted a great essay yesterday about the changing vocabulary of Christianity.
It occurs to me that it is no longer any news that Christians have abandoned the distinctive vocabulary of faith. I am not making a shocking announcement to say that in our attempt to become acceptable to the larger culture, we have surrendered the words that define our faith. Today, illustrations about squirrels, beavers and geese are expected to be our communication with the world. Christian music has adopted the vocabulary of romance. God is my girlfriend, faith is falling in love, the Bible a love letter and so forth. Preaching has adopted the vocabulary of modern psychology and the self-help industry. Sin is a lack of self-esteem. Christ came to give us meaning and purpose in life. The church is a support group, preaching a motivational talk. Oprah and Dr. Phil, not Paul and Moses, provide our new vocabulary.

When the history of modern evangelicalism is written, I predict that the abandonment of the vocabulary of faith will loom large as an explanation for the demise of Christianity in American culture. Despite what the Willow Creek-ologists tell us, "seeker sensitive" Christianity is not a surging cultural force, but a movement leading masses of Christians into retreat and cultural surrender. Islam is surging in America, and you will not come across many "seeker-sensitive" mosques. Cultures and sub-cultures that retain their distinctive vocabularies retain their distinctive identities. Just ask rap musicians, who don't feel the need to talk like everyone else to sell their music. If you don't get it, you're going to have to ask. Meanwhile, the slogan of American evangelicalism might be "Prepare to be assimilated."

What I find stunning is the inability of the advocates of vocabulary abandonment to see that there is a genuine difference between a church that proclaims a message of sin, justification and redemption and a church that seeks to produce the feeling of "a big hug from God." I learned this lesson as a youth ministry specialist, one of those people with the job of keeping the kids interested in church by running a program that resembled church as little as possible. It is no surprise to me that so many of today's adults despise anything that looks traditional or classical in Christian worship. We fed them a diet of pizza, trips to the beach, concerts, games and the appropriate musical soundtrack and kept them far away from what was going on upstairs. We endured Sunday morning with the promise of "youth stuff" the rest of the week. While most of us never abandoned the Bible, many did, and we did practice the principles of communication that the seeker sensitive movement holds sacred. So if you are looking for someone to blame that adults now want to applaud at Holy Communion, blame me. (But they paid us to do it.)
I could not agree more with his sentiments about youth ministry. I too did much of what he did, but I fought the trend. Once kids said yes to Jesus, I tried to move them forward to deeper things. Maybe that is why I did not last very long in this type of ministry.

I have complained and complained about the modern culturalization of the church. Particularly in that place long ago, far away, and never read. Here I complained about the personality cults that develop in modern worship forms. In this post I complained about substituting entertainment for worship. Finally, here I argued that it is not about church growth anyway, that it is about disciple growth.

Attracting people to church is easy. Even getting them to say "Yes" to Jesus is relatively easy. But getting them to grow to maturity, now that is hard. The challenge facing the church today is not attracting people, it is changing people. As IM points out, vocabulary is a big part of that.

The forms of Christianity are not arbitrary, they are the work of centuries of effort to be God's people in a broken world. We abandon them at our risk.


Koko, The Sexual Harrassment Gorilla

Some guys have no taste at all. They just insist on being extraordinarily rude and vulgar around women. They are pigs. I guess they are gorillas too?!


Pray For Quake Victims In Iran

This is the last thing they needed!


Fighting Words!

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost issued severe fighting words yesterday.
I’ve always thought that Superman was the worst superhero in the history of comics.
I must assume Joe is not a true fan of the medium. (Actually Joe's post and the links he gives are very funny, but if you can't argue in good humor about comics....) The list of truly lame superheroes is spectacular, but you must have inhabited comic shops on a weekly basis for years to be familiar with them, most of them have only lasted an issue or two.

My favorite was "Dazzler." She was an invention of Marvel Comics specifically because they had Bo Derek signed to do a movie during the height of the roller disco minute. She was built like Bo and had powers designed specifically for the special effects capabilities of the time. Jeez, what a loser. No superhero ever dies, they just try and revive the character, as Marvel has through the years.

Any character that has ever lasted as long as Superman (and there are not many) has been pretty lame at one time or another. Never read a Batman from the period of that TV show, your eyes will hurt! Thanks for bringing this up Joe!


Theological Perspective

Yesterday. I posted on comments from Amy's Humble Musings and John Piper concerning some recent work by George Barna. Barna was introducing data that "theology matters." I agreed.

My more perceptive readers will recall that on Monday, I somewhat downplayed the idea that "theology matters" when it comes to evangelizing Muslims.

Contradiction? I think not. I think my post of last Saturday said it all. Theology is for the community of faith. Any Christian should, no must, take the time to think about what they believe about God.

But when it comes to evangelism, we are simply introducing someone to a Savior. We should not complicate matters by insisting that someone ascent to a specifc way of thinking about God. Let God guide them as they mature in their relationship to Him.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Pravda: Ignorant Of The Internet

Remember when the Governor of the Great State of California was a mere movie actor? One of his more forgettable movies was "Junior." In it, he got pregnant. Stupid dumb comedy, Right?

Not according to Pravda. Today, they featured this headline:

Taiwanese American Lee Mingwei has already become first pregnant man in history

Not that I am picky or anything, but do you think Pravda has ever heard of or Both of them point out the Lee Mingwei is an artist and the web site Pravda got the story from is a put-on, some sort of "conceptual art" thing.

But then I really shouldn't blame Pravda, they are just practicing journalism in the fine traditions of Dan Rather.


Dennis Prager Strikes Again

A couple of weeks ago I posted on Dennis Prager's column series on Judeo-Christian ethics. Today, he adds to that series, with the best entry yet.

Dennis discusses the underlying motivation behind leftists stances on a variety of issues.
With the decline of the authority of Judeo-Christian values in the West, many people stopped looking to external sources of moral standards in order to decide what is right and wrong. Instead of being guided by God, the Bible and religion, great numbers -- in Western Europe, the great majority -- have looked elsewhere for moral and social guidelines.

For many millions in the twentieth century, those guidelines were provided by Marxism, Communism, Fascism or Nazism. For many millions today, those guidelines are . feelings. With the ascendancy of leftist values that has followed the decline of Judeo-Christian religion, personal feelings have supplanted universal standards. In fact, feelings are the major unifying characteristic among contemporary liberal positions.
Doesn't that ring so true? Read the full piece and you'll really get the idea. Austin Bay Blog, Hugh Hewitt's "Blog of the Month," posts some of his experiences with the "feeling" phenomena.

I have been reflecting on that in relationship to the church, How many issues facing the church today are a result of people feeling when they should be thinking? Issues related to homosexual ordination and marriage are because people "feel" that it is wrong to deny homosexuals "happiness." (As if, that is the only way they can be happy.)

What really gets to me is when we start shaping our theology. Parableman just yesterday discussed annihilationism. Adrian Warnock has been doing yeoman's work trying to maintain the concept of penal substitution. The decline of penal substitution and the rise of annihilationism have both come as people have increasing "felt" that a loving God cannot be punitive. This feeling comes from people that did not like being punished by their parents, so they decided that it was wrong to punish kids, and the idea blossomed from there.

Just because punishment felt bad when we were kids, we are going to overturn theology? Besides, isn't a bad feeling what punishment is supposed to be about? If you associate a bad feeling with something, you won't do it anymore.

Based on that, avoiding bad feelings can result in inappropriate behavior. Can we really want feelings to be the basis of morality, values, or theology?


A Great Question

Reliable Adrian Warnock asks a great question in a post today.
...thus if one passionately believes ones colleague is wrong then loyalty at that point means pointing out the error of his ways. For a Christian the next question is how do we do that and still love the person?
I do not have much issue with this. It is rare that I have a dislike or hatred for an opponent in a discussion. Generally, in discussion in church when people accuse me of being "unloving," they are simply making an accusation because they do not have a reliable counterargument. Because they just "feel" they are right. (See next post)

The question I would ask is, how do we get thicker skins? How do we learn that opposition is not definitionally unloving?


Incarnational Ministry

Brad Hightower, at 21st Century Reformation, posts links to a couple of sermons about "incarnational ministry." As an old Young Lifer, incarnational ministry is my bread and butter.

The idea is a simple one. In order to reach us, God felt it necessary to incarnate Himself in the form of Jesus. God did not wait for us to reach out to Him, He reached out to us. One YL leader puts it this way
What's really neat is when a kid starts to see me as their friend and not someone who is unapproachable.
Jesus added many dimensions to our relationship with the Lord Almighty, among them is friend.

It is this idea of incarnational ministry that makes me so wary of the mega-churches. How can friendship develop in such an anonymous environment? We need to live Jesus to the world. How are you doing on that?


More on Church Change

Milt Stanley of Transforming Sermons picks up on my post (in response to his) concerning change in the church.
The problem, I should have made more clear in my original post, is not with maintenance per se, but with the social-club mentality that so easily creeps into churches. Part of our emphasis should indeed be inward, but not simply to make ourselves more comfortable. Christians are called to be disciples, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
I agree that inward focus in not about comfort, but I have a somewhat different vision for church. I think church is to equip individual Christians, and is therefore, in a sense, primarily inwardly focused. Those individual Christians are to be the outward focus! God, in the form of Jesus, came to us. We in turn need to go to the world, not expect it to come into our doors. (More on this idea in my next post!)


Bloggers Jailed!

Some places in the world do not enjoy the freedoms we do in America, or in Europe. This blog is dedicated to bloggers that have even been jailed for expressing themselves. I commend it to your attention.


GREAT! Speaking

Rick Brady, who apparently has not posted since Martin Luther King day back in January, had a great post on that day. He reprints MLK's "I have a dream speech,"

My college speech professor said there were only two great orators of the 20th century, Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King, Jr. I am inclined to agree with him. I have listened to the "Dream" speech time and time again, and it never fails to stir me deeply, generally to tears.

This link will enable you to hear that 16 minutes of oratorical glory. I hate what has happened to that dream. Please listen to the speech and share the dream.


Too Cute

There seems to be this thing about "cat" blogging. My wife and I have two cats and spoil them to death, but I have resisted the urge. This is not either of our cats, but call this my cat-blog for a lifetime. If you're a cat lover you'll smile. If you're not, you'll never be bothered again.


Support Our Soldiers!

This NYPost story really bothers me. (HT: BOTWT) The story is about sixth graders sending a soldier letters filled with political vindictive.

My wife and I write to soldiers regularly. We have asked the kids in our High School Bible study to write too, and they have, faithfully. My wife and I read what the kids write, but we have never censored the letters. Our kids, some 6-7 years older than the kids cited in the story, rarely venture into politics. Our kids when they have drawn near the line were smart enough not to say anything that would cross the line into not supporting the soldier. Had they, my wife and I would have simply withheld the letter and discussed it with the kid the next week, asking them if they might not want to change it. If they didn't, and still wanted it sent, we would have, with a cover from us explaining our own feelings.

Based on our experience, I cannot believe sixth graders write this kind of stuff without prompting. This is just low, no scratch that, it's evil. Kids this age should be allowed to be kids. Stuff like this just robs them of the opportunity. If adults want to deride the military, they should have the guts to do so themselves.

UPDATE: One Hand Clapping has comments as well.


Terri Schiavo Lives Another Day

A local judge has issued a one day stay in the Schiavo case. Prasie the Lord for this day!

Pray for tomorrow, and the days following. There is a hearing tomorrow, pray for it, pray for wisdom for all involved.

Go to BlogsforTerri and donate to their advertising campaign.

Write Jeb Bush and pleed for her life.

Then pray some more. Then pray again.


This Has Got To Stop

The old saw goes that weirdness starts in California and travels east. HOGWASH -- it starts in Europe and travels to California, then eastward. These stories, one from England, and one from Australia. (OK, not Europe, but somewhere between us and them culturally) I truly hope are an exception to that generalization.

Both stories concern obesity. The Australian one is actually fairly typical of some of what we see here, public health menace, blah, blah, blah. Nanny State stuff.

The Brit story is terrifying. They have defined a syndrome of some sort for a morbidly obese guy, called it mental illness and taken him away. Literally. This is a little beyond nanny state, this is nanny-police state.

Public health my eye. Public health is about transmittable illness, typhoid, AIDS, etc. Fat is not contagious -- sorry to break it to you.

The current fight against obesity is based on single payer, i.e. governmentally provided, health care. Obese people are "a disproportionate burden on the system." Didn't Hitler justify killing the Jews using similar logic? Sounds like a good reason to pay cash for health care to me.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am obese, not as obese as I used to be having worked pretty hard in the last year, but I have a ways to go to drop out of the category. I pay for my health care - people, especially my wife, love me - I am a productive member of society. Try and take me away and I will do a little more than go crying -- count on it.


Real Growth

Amy's Humble Musings picks up on a post from Desiring God, John Piper's great site discussing the importance of doctrine.

Both Piper and Amy pick up on the irony that George Barna, chief statistician of the church, is generating data about the importance of Biblical orthodoxy and doctrine. I agree with both of them, but feel the need to defend George Barna a little.

There is an old phrase, "You get what you measure." Barna has provided a measure of church success. I agree that this is troubling, how can you measure success, when success is the grace of God, and that by definition is limitless and immeasurable. I agree that Barna has been instrumental in turning the church in many avenues to a trend seeking, pew counting machine.

But having said that, George and I worshipped in the same congregation for a short period of time. I didn't really know him, but certainly know a lot about him. Like all of us, he is just a guy doing what he thinks God has called him to.

I think Amy and Piper's point is a great illustration of God's grace. God is using George's statistics to drive things in a good direction, even if it took a while to get there.

God's wisdom is way beyond ours. There have been more than a few times I have declared a Barna survey misguided, or even trash, in planning meetings. I don't see irony here, I see growth, and I prasie God for it.


Life Imitates Art

One of my favorite television programs ever was "SCTV". This Canadian production was somewhere between sketch comedy and an actual plot. It featured the misadventures of the cast of characters surrounding a tiny little television station. In one specific episode, the station's signal was consistently interrrupted by a Soviet television broadcat.

My favorite Soviet show from that episode was "Things That Fit Into The Soviet Union." It featured a large map of the Soviet Union on a back wall, with two guys with same-scale velcro appliques of various countries, US states, etc. All they would do is show, in a most bragidousious way how much of the rest of the world would fit into the Soviet Union. I howled, it just cracked me up.

Anyway, I could not help but remember and laugh when I saw this headline in Pravda:

Putin wears a 60,000-dollar watch in comparison with George W.Bush's Timex for $50

I know I am shaking in my boots knowing that Putin's watch is more expensive than Bush's.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Write Jeb Bush Now!!!!!!!!!

Allthings2all, she who turned me into a Terri Schiavo activist, reports today that Terri's parents lost their latest legal maneuver, but there is more to try.

Catez also reports that Jeb Bush could act and urges writing him. Here is his email Please write him right now!


Does Rude Justify Rude?

Do you find people using cell phones around you, or interrupting conversation with you to answer them rude? Well, it is. But I don't think that justifies rudeness in return. This NYPost story discusses devices you can buy to jam cell phones.

Tell you what, next time I am using a cell phone rudely in your presence, just tap me on the shoulder and say "Excuse me..." I promise not to resent it, and you won't start a fight.


What Is Worthy of the Church's Moral Authority?

This morning I posted on using the moral authority of the church to force people to some behavior because someone thinks that a certain behavior is necessary, particularly when the church and Scripture are not entirely clear on the issue.

That set me to thinking -- What issues around today are worthy of that moral authority, particularly in the societal and political realms. That is to say, what issues do I think the church should lend its moral authority to in order to change the societal and political climate.

I trying to develop this top 5 list I used three basic criteria:

A) Scripture is clear on the issue without the use of external hermeneutical tools. Some might call this "historical Christian understanding," but I am going to stick with the sentence as I have drafted it. I think it is less prone to misunderstanding.

B) There is sufficient consensus within the greater church on the issue so that Christianity will not appear somehow split on the issue of concern.

C) The issue is vitally important to human and/or societal survival, even aside from religious or spiritual considerations.

And so, without further introduction, my list of five issues that the Church should be putting its moral authority behind. They are in order of importance, most important first.


Christians cannot afford to stay on the sidelines when entire people groups are being wiped from existence out. The church's failure to speak out about Hitler's evil, and it's relative silence about the evil of Stalin are to its shame. Come to think of it, I haven't heard much from the church on Rawanda. This is pure evil -- Why are we quiet?

Abortion and Related Issues (Stem Cell, for example)

This is really just an extension of the first issue. From a spiritual standpoint, this disregard for life can only lead, in the end, to murder. Would Terri Schiavo even be an issue if people had not been previously desensitized by things like abortion?

Institutionalized Oppression

Whether it is chattel slavery or Jim Crow in the US, apartheid in South Africa, or the caste system in India the church should be at the forefront. It certainly was in the civil rights movement in the United States, but the problem continues to exist throughout the world. We should be equally active.


Yes, its a sin, but more importantly sexuality is necessary to the propagation of the species, and the preservation of society and the general moral order. Yes, we have technology never before available to achieve reproduction, but it can only rob us of our essential humanity. I do not think is coincidental that the fall of many great empires was accompanied by a rise in homosexual practice and acceptance.

Character In Leadership

The last several years are an object lesson in how important this is. In a country with a secular government, I am not talking about making sure our leaders are Christians -- that can be a huge disaster. (e.g. Jimmy Carter) What I am talking about is making sure our leaders are people who are direct, strong, and true to their word. If Bill Clinton had George W. Bush's character (even without his religious commitment) I would have disagreed with his policies, but not felt him a truly bad President.

Well, that is my list. What's yours?


This is Cool

The Beeb has a great story about the latest discovery from Mars, water near the equator. Can I go and check it out?


Scripture Break...

2 Cor 5:16-21(NAS)
16 Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.


In Case You Are Wondering

If you read the description of my blog above you may be wondering where those "devotional thoughts" are. Well, since starting the "prayer blog" for GodBlogCon 2005. most of them are ending up there. Please, visit, read, pray.


Dealing with Churches

Todd Rhoades of Leadership Network at his blog "Monday Morning Insight" posts on a John Duncan article "Six Reason People Leave Your Church" (HT: SmartChristian) It is an interesting and very practical read.

When I read such things though my mind always drives back to the fact that if the church is reflecting Christ, and Christ by definition is attractive, then where is the church failing to reflect Christ.

So for example, one of the reasons listed is Poor Leadership. The author says this
Since I was their leader, they pointed a finger at me. I had only served the church for six months, but I tried to cure the church with my own diagnosis and prescription. I did not listen to my people. I attempted to solve the dilemmas on my own. The result? Members left the church.
Wise words, but I think a deeper look is called for. I love this piece from John Piper. Piper discusses "Marks of a Spiritual Leader." I especially love this mark:
Meditate On and Pray Over His Word

But how shall we sinners come to have this kind of confidence in God? Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ." And Psalm 119:18 says, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." These two texts together show us that faith in God is rooted in God's Word. When we hear God's Word, especially the preaching of Christ in whom all the promises of God have their yes, we are moved to trust him, but this does not happen automatically. We must pray that our eyes be open to the true significance of the Word of God in Scripture. So the spiritual leader must be a person who meditates on the Word of God and who prays for spiritual illumination. Otherwise, his faith will grow weak and his love will languish and no one will be moved to glorify God because of him.
When I fail as a Christian leader, in my congregation, in life in general, or with this blog, the first thing I do is turn to the Word. I ask God to transform me and to fill me.


Blog Swarm For Terri Schiavo Continues

If the Technorati Search on 'Terri Schiavo' is any indication, then there a lot of people doing whatever they can to save the life of this woman. BlogsforTerri posted an attack plan last Saturday. Note this item
BlogsforTerri will conduct large email and telephone campaigns to target Florida residents and at the national level - both directed to Legislative members, the Governor, and President Bush. Our goal is one million emails to the Florida legislature, and the participation of resident of Florida that we can convince that Terri deserves to be evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team of rehabilitaion therapy experts. Terri has until now, been denied all forms of rehabilitation, even all forms of stimulation.
Here is the link to the Florida Legislature. Join the swarm, send an email. Her feeding tube is due to be removed tomorrow -- Act Now.



I have heard from my friend Jared Leinart in Iraq again. When I read the matter of fact way in which he describes what are very dangerous activities, and the fortitutde with which he and his soldiers go about their jobs, I know they really are heroes. If you are not already, go to Soldier's Angels or Any Solder, find a soldier and support him or her.
It has been a busy week for us here in Mosul. We are continuing Task Force Bullet and Task Force IED. Both of these missions are very similar. We escort Explosives and Ordnance Disposal (EOD), better known as the bomb guys to sites where people have found Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) or Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) or weapon caches. We basically provide security to EOD enroute to these sites (some as far as 20 miles outside of the city) as well as when we get to the site. We also help them with destroying these devices using explosives or even using a sniper rifle to set it off. Occasionally we have to transport the devices back to a holding place on our base (don’t worry…far enough away from us in case it blows).

Well back to this week…while enroute to one of these missions we had an IED go off right next to our last vehicle. Praise God it was one of our armored tracks (tank looking vehicle without the big gun on the top). Four guys (SSG Sykora, SGT Johnson, SGT Surowiec, and PFC Landfald) received shrapnel to the face. We high-tailed it to the hospital and they were treated and released with a few stitches and some great stories to tell the grandchildren. PFC Landfald received most of the shrapnel but still had the strength to hit on the nurse that was working on him.

The very next day, we had another IED go off behind our last vehicle. This one was quite a bit smaller and no one received shrapnel, however, immediately after the blast, the convoy starting receiving small arms fire. We were able to return fire and killed two of the estimated five insurgents that had been firing at us. The others ran off into a residential area.

Then yesterday, while on site trying to place an explosive charge next to an IED with a robot (better it than us) we again started taking fire from an abandoned building about 200 meters away from approximately 4 shooters. We had about 4-50 caliber machine guns, 3 smaller machine guns, and about 10 rifles send rounds into the building. One of the sad parts is that there were Iraqi families on the streets not far from us. These insurgents don’t care who else they hurt. Again, we had God looking out for us as no one was hurt (other than the insurgents).

The other day we responded to a call where a mortar had landed inside of a school courtyard but did not explode. It was sticking out of the ground. When we arrived, we had all of the school children get far away and then we took care of the mortar. Afterwards we spend some time handing out coloring books and crayons. Many of the children had never had crayons before.

Many of you are asking about what our days are like. Yesterday, we woke up at about 6:00 and started working on our vehicles to make sure they are running well. We spend about an hour working on the vehicles, checking radios, and making sure weapons are cleaned and operational. By about 8:00, we get called out on our 1st mission. It is a call of a grenade and a mortar round that an infantry unit has found and needs picked up or blown up. When we get there, we starting looking around and come up with: 56 hand grenades, 1 mortar round, and about 100 fuses (the things inside of a grenade that make it go BOOM). So being the true engineers, we piled it all up, added some C4 (plastic explosives) and blew it up. As soon as we returned to our base, I checked in and was briefed on another mission. A marine unit wanted us to clear an 800 lb pound bomb that landed but never exploded. While enroute to this mission, we came across a infantry platoon that had a road blocked because they thought they had an IED. We sent the robot up to set a charge and blew the suspected device. It was a bomb that was hooked to a cordless phone (like many of us have in our homes). It was set up so the insurgent hits the ringer button on the base and it sets off the bomb from far away. The bomb was a box full of nuts and bolts, shaved pieces of metal, etc to cause more damage.

By now it’s about 1:45 and we head to the 800 lb bomb. By the time we analyze that (had to be dismantled) it was 2:30. On the way back to the base, we come across another infantry unit that had a suspected IED. We investigated and found 2 130mm mortar rounds (big boom) hooked to a two-way radio that you buy at Radio Shack. Again, we put an explosive charge on it with the robot and blew it.

It’s now about 3:45 when we get finished and we’re about to roll back to base when the radio chirps up and we have another mission. This one is another IED mission (of course all of these missions are on opposite corners of the city). This is the mission where we were sending the robot up to set the charge when we started taking fire. By the time we got done with this mission it’s now 5:30 and we head to a local base and get a bite to eat (the first meal of the day). We get back to our base about 7:30. We then try to wind down for the night, but at 11:00 pm we get another call to head about 20 miles southeast of the city for another IED call. We gear up and head out the gate and immediately after getting out of the gate we get a call of a possible vehicle IED (car bomb), which has priority. So we immediately turn the opposite way and head back into the city. We get to a scene with a bus that has a suspected device in it. We set a charge under the bus, blow it, then walk up and investigate. Seeing what was left of a bomb, we then throw a thermite grenade which will set the bus on fire. We leave and head out to the original call. This call is a suspicious device on a railroad crossing. We again, set the explosive, blow it, and investigate. From what remained, it didn’t look there was an explosive charge so we load head up head home. By the time we get back it’s 3:30 in the morning and we collapse. This is one of the long days, but we usually go from about 6:00 until 8-10 o’clock.

Well, enough of my war stories. Like I said earlier, God is truly looking out for us. We have been blessed to not have any serious injuries and morale is high amongst the guys. Every one of the guys has done very well and I am very proud of each of them. Please continue to pray for the safety of our troops and that the Iraqi people see the good that we are trying to do.


Another Reason I am A Calvinist

ChronWatch posts an essay asking "Can Muslims Be Evangelized?" (HT: SmartChristian, who in turn HT's Postmodern Areopagus)The essential argument of the piece is
Since Orthodoxy has been the flavor of Christianity closest to Islam for most of its existence, the Muslims have, in a certain sense, been inoculated against Christianity. When we receive a vaccine, we get enough of the virus to promote a systemic physical defense against it, but not enough to make us sick. Similarly, the Orthodox provide Islam with just enough Christian doctrine to know how to refute Joe Christian, but not enough to be converted by that doctrine.
The problem I have with this is that I do not think people can be argued into faith in Christ. As I said in my piece on Intelligent Design
Considering first the importance of philosophical arguments, or apologetics, to advancing the Gospel and to personal faith. Apologetics are often a large obstacle in the road to a relationship with Jesus. Many are the testimonies that discuss the need to have some sort of "proof" of a god before the individual could consider the God of Christianity. However, for the vast majority of people who include such concerns in their testimonies, confess that once they have established their relationship with God, that relationship was much larger than could possibly be contained in some intellectual exercise.

The most influential apologist of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis, whose testimony is very much based on finding an appealing apologetic, admitted in his recount of the greatest personal crisis of his life, the death of his wife, A Grief Observed, that those apologetics were pointless in the face of his despair. Lewis concedes in that book that his faith, his personal surety - developed through personal experience, that there was a loving God in his life, was all that kept him faithful in a time when life was simply senseless.

Such testimony tells me that while apologetics may be an obstacle to creating belief in the non-believer, if we cannot overcome that obstacle with the cosmological argument, there exists a path around it. That path may be more difficult, it may be harder to find, but if in the end faith matters more than intellectual ascent, then there is a way to build the faith regardless of the intellectual objections.
Bottom line, the path to salvation is paved by the Holy Spirit. I'm fairly confident that He can overcome any obstacle, apologetic, theological, or otherwise.

Theology is us, the community of faith, we should all decide what we believe about God, but it is not the means by which we do evangelism, we do that by faith, and with boldness. The 'simple gospel' rides again.


I Wish More Christians Were A Little Smarter.

Stuff like this just makes me wince. You have to love Michael Spencer's BHT take on it
I will GLADLY stand up and say No thanks. I'll take New Age Wacko for $200, Alex. Anything but this. I prefer the resident alien theory in Scientology.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.


Christian Effects

Next Reformation has a recent post entitled "Paul and the empire," that is interesting reading. (HT: SmartChristian) in the risen Christ was not simply an individual, private decision that only affected his or her choice of activities on Sunday morning or Wednesday night. This decision had massive social, religious, and political implications.
So true, so true. But Next Reformation continues, quoting Richard Horsely,
"His missionary work…must be conceived not simply in terms of a traveling evangelist offering people a new religious experience, but of an ambassador for a king-in-waiting, establishing cells of people loyal to this new king, and ordering their lives according to his story, his symbols, and his praxis, and their minds according to his truth. This could only be construed as deeply counter-imperial, as subversive to the whole edifice of the Roman Empire; and there is in fact plenty of evidence that Paul intended it to be so construed, and that when he ended up in prison as a result of his work he took it as a sign that he had been doing his job properly.”
That faith in Christ must, of necessity have implications on every aspect of our lives and how we conduct them is not debatable, but that it is directly politically subversive is. For every statement of Paul that seems politically subversive, there are other statements that support the social order, even in seeming contradiction to Christian morality, for example Paul's admonishment to slaves and masters. (Eph 6:5-9)

God's intention is to save and change the world, it's in the how that we run into problems. As Christians, we are not to sit idly by while the world spins around us in orbits increasingly distant from God. But by the same token, we worship a Savior that came humbly and sacrificially. God's chosen method of salvation was most decidedly not political revolution. He could have given the Jews the means by which to conquer the world. Jesus could easily have fomented revolution against the Romans. But instead, Jesus chose to die and be resurrected.

God chose to save the world by saving us. Our salvation will affect everything, but we must be wise and judicious in when, why, and how.

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