Saturday, March 05, 2005


Who Are "The Least?"

This week's Vox Apologia is hosted by Amy's Humble Musings and the topic is The Least of These. First of all let me begin by thanking Amy, it's a big chore.

I think I shall start by looking at the entire scripture from which the subject phrase is drawn.
Matt 25:31-46

31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 "And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? 38 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 'And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44 "Then they themselves also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45 "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46"And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
As I have thought about this topic, I have come up with three approaches to it. The first would be to relate the story of the time I got into a fight with ushers at the church I was attending because they tried to keep a VERY smelly homeless person out of the worship service. But I think that sentence alone gets the point across pretty well.

The second approach I came up with was to examine this passage in light of the parable that immediately precedes it. You know, the parable of the servants and the talents. But I posted on that preceding parable just a few days ago. Comparing the two parables comes down to a simple conclusion, God values both stewardship and charity. There I have finished that approach.

Which leaves us with the third approach, which is to ask the question, "Who are 'the least of these?'" Of course, anybody who has done this passage in a Bible study has the quick answer -- the starving in Africa, the homeless on the streets, the oppressed in (choose your oppressive nation here)....This is a very fair answer. I do think God is speaking of such people when He speaks of "the least of these." But I don't think He stops there.

God equates "the least of these" to Himself. Does that mean that if we are amongst the "haves" of the world, that we are not as close to God as the "have nots?" Are we all called to vows of poverty? Jeez, I hope not.

We are admonished not to seek equality with God.
Phil 2:5-8

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
So maybe we are not supposed to be poor, but we are called to "empty ourselves." What's the difference between a vow of poverty and "emptying ourselves?" Well, one happens on a physical level and the other on a spiritual level.

We are called to spiritual poverty. But if we are all spiritually poor who gets to be the righteous? Why we do! There, is that enough of a circle for you.

Time to bottom line this. We are BOTH, "the least of these," and those who are supposed to provide for them. I love that idea because of how mindful it keeps me of the fact that I have nothing to offer, save for that which God has supplied.

I see far too many people who have a patronizing attitude when it comes to dealing with the poor and hungry and oppressed. Oh sure, they are willing to throw money at them, but they want to keep them separate somehow. How can we keep them separate? -- WE ARE THEM.

I have no illusions about "the nobility of the impoverished," many of them are just mentally ill, stinky people. But on a spiritual level, so am I. So go ahead, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, comfort the oppressed, but please don't do so out of your wealth. Do so out of your poverty. This is not about benevolence. This is not about bestowing out of your plenty. This is about sharing out of your poverty.


The NCC Gets Dumber

Well I know when I've been called out. In a post this morning, SmartChristian says:
I expect to hear from you John on this.
Well, I can take a hint. Andy links to an "open letter" from the National Council of Churches on environmentalism. He also points to some great comments by Alcaide's Cafe on that NCC document.

I find myself torn between an immense desire to simply mock the NCC and the need for serious response. Alcaide's Cafe has already done a pretty good job of tearing the thing apart, but I will add my two cents. Five ways this "open letter" is bad or suspect.

It Is Socialistic
...the special responsibility that falls to those of us who are citizens of the United States. Though only five percent of the planetÂ’s human population, we produce one-quarter of the worldÂ’s carbon emissions, consume a quarter of its natural riches, and perpetuate scandalous inequities at home and abroad.
I have said before that environmentalism often expresses itself as socialism, but this is one of the most blatant examples I have seen. There is a Biblical case to be made for Christianity being socialistic, but there is an equal Biblical case to be made that it is capitalistic. Given that the church seems to thrive in capitalistic environments, I choose capitalism every time.

It Is Based on Bad (Agenda) Science

Alcaide's Cafe did such a good job of tackling this point, I'll just give you the link again and let you read it.

It Exhibits Bad Priorities
...other creatures should not be treated merely as instruments for our needs and wants. Other species have their own integrity. They deserve a fair share of Earth's bounty- a share that allows a biodiversity of life to thrive along with human communities.
I defy anyone to show where in scripture other species are granted "their own integrity." They are given us for our dominion. Yes, we have a responsibility to treat them well, but that is a far cry from their "own integrity." Jewish scholar, Dennis Prager, is fond of posing a question, "If you have a choice between saving a stranger and saving your dog, who would you save?" Can anyone tell me where is scripture you could justify saving the dog? Owing kindness to other species is a far cry from granting them their "own integrity."

It Exhibits Bad Theology
To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly; it is sin. As voiced by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for creation: To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation . . . for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands . . . for humans to injure other humans with disease . . . for humans to contaminate the Earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances . . . these are sins.
Would you please find that particular sin for me from this list:
Deut 5:6-21
6 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 7 'You shall have no other gods before Me.

8 'You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 9 'You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

11 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

12 'Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 'Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; {in it} you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 'And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.

16 'Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.

17 'You shall not murder.

18 'You shall not commit adultery.

19 'You shall not steal.

20 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

21 'You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.'

The NCC Is A Bad Organization

If there is a wacko cause the NCC has been in it. Just look at what they are concerned about for 'justice.' See Terri Schiavo's name there anywhere? Hummm?

Bad Science, Bad Theology, Bad Organization. Sounds like a 'hat trick' to me.


Are You Praying For Terri Schiavo?

Given that the courts don't operate on the weekends, there won;t be much in the way of Terri news for a couple of days. But you can still go to Terri's Fight (see graphic in the blogroll) and donate.

Be sure and go to the Terri Schiavo Aggegator for all the latest postings.

Let me call your attention to a couple of great posts. This post from Shock and Blog makes a wonderful point about what possible motivations could there be for killing Terri.

This post from Pro Life With Christ addresses itself to abortion, but is really about the fact that repeated, crying, almost nagging prayer is effective.

Are you nagging God about Terri? Getting in His face every day and begging for her life? Try it, it might work.



The LATimes finds itself in the midst of a blog swarm over its North Korean puff pieces. The stories were awful. So, do they respond by writing on the bloggers reactions? Of course not -- they respond with this letter to the editor calling for normalization of relations with that awful rogue state. But didn't reporter Barbara Demick say in an email, "It certainly was not an endorsement." Then where are the condemning words?


Saturday Feature - Comic Art

I am going to begin today a regular Saturday Feature -- Comic Art. I will be mocked, but I think that comics books represent the great overlooked American art form. Yes, there is much out there that is mundane and prosaic. But there is also much out there that is just fantastic.

New printing technology has greatly expanded the art in recent years. No longer are comic books constrained to pencil/ink/primary colors. Books are now painted, with images that run off the page. Traditional six-panel layouts are increasingly hard to find. Some of this new stuff is mind-blowing.

However, that said, the master remains pencil/ink/primary colors. There is nothing better, anywhere, than Jack Kirby. Stan Lee was the idea man, but Jack "King" Kirby is the guy that made Marvel Comics happen. I never liked him better than when he drew Thor's mythical home, Asgard. His full page renderings of that fabled city remain for me the pinnacle of comic art.



Church News

There are a couple of great posts out recently on church. I sometimes get so frustrated at church that it makes me really happy when I find people that seem to get it.

That certainly is the case with this post from Bill Streger.
Whether God gives us 100 people or 100,000 - may he give us the grace to say along with Paul, "I knew nothing while was among you except for Jesus Christ and him crucified."
Would that such was heard from every church across the land!

Then there is this piece from Challies. He is decrying the change in the role of 'pastor' as a possible source of many of the problems in the church today. I agree with his diagnosis, but I am not sure I agree with his cure.

Preaching the Word is indeed missing in much of what is happening in the church today, and it is indeed the source of many problems. That said I do not think the solution lies in stemming the tide of democratization that is changing the church. Rather I think it lies in demanding more of those that come into leadership.

Challies is right when he says, "I wonder if we are elevating the role of the laity or reducing the role of the clergy," but I think the answer to the problem lies not in somehow restoring the clergy, but in asking more of the laity.

We are all members so of the 'royal priesthood' (I Peter 2:9) -- we should act like it.


Blogging News

As Joe Carter has mentioned, the NYTimes has a piece out today on religious blogs. I frankly do not know what to make of the piece. It says very little and seems simply to go out of its way to be inclusive of all religious viewpoints. They take special care to mention other religions than Christianity, which is fine, but the article says nothing other than there are blogs of every religion. Well, DUH!

It seemed like all they were trying to do was announce GodBlogCon without being too obvious about it. There was one line that sort of honked me off:
But whether conservative or liberal, most religion-based blogs seem to be created by people on the extremes of the religious spectrum.
That statement belies such a gross misunderstanding of what actually comprises the religious spectrum, that I do not even know where to begin. It also shows that the author cannot differentiate between the 1000's of two reader blogs out there and the ones that matter, which are all from well in the middle.

Then there is this survey about who does and does not blog. Money stat: 92.5% of bloggers are under the age of 30! That makes me one of the very old men of the blogosphere. Not sure how I feel about that.


On The War Front

I found this particular little web page through Vodkapundit. It is called "Terrorist Scorecard," and lists all the known known Al Queda leaders, there function, status and last known location. Some might think such a thing tasteless or repugnant, but ask yourself if you don't think they have similar things on their cold, bare, cave walls? I am especially fond of the ones whose current location is listed as "Hell."

Then there is this piece from Major K in Iraq. It is the story of four Iraqi policemen that sacrificed their lives to save American soldiers. I wish I could pay for the funerals.

Compare that with the other side that used retarded teenagers as suicide bombs

The next time a person tells you about how they hate the war and our military, remind them that we inspire men to great deeds while they prey on the weak for their own gain.

Major K, I salute you and your colleagues in the US Military and in the Iraqi security forces as well. God Bless You and thank you for your service. Pass the word.


It's Official, I'm a Genius

No really, a silly web test has declared me as such. (HT: Mysterium Tremendum) I took something called the The Commonly Confused Words Test.

Any regular reader of this space knows that I make a lot of typos, spelling errors and word confusion. Heck, I've even had 'copy editor' comments left about my word confusion. Thus, when I approached this test I expected only mediocre results. Yet, here is what they had to say about me at the end:
English Genius

You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!
Go Figure. Now all I need is a 'gold star.' Take the test yourself, it's fun.

Friday, March 04, 2005


On Church Leaving

Boy am I glad to see the stuff I found today. (HT: SmartChristian) Next Reformation has a post that links to two articles, both by Alan Jamieson, a New Zealand sociologist that works in a ministry to people that are leaving church. The articles appear in in 'Reality' which appears to be a New Zealand based Christian magazine.

The articles appear to be part of an on-going series. Jamieson has interviewed a significant sample of people who have left church and has some interesting findings. In the second article, he finds four categories of people that have left church.

Interestingly, he finds that most, regardless of category, maintain a vibrant and active faith.

But it is the first of the articles that I find truly fascinating. In that article he debunks ten common myths about why people leave church. I want to look at two here:

Myth Two

The people who leave are young adults, people on the fringe of our churches, and people who have not been in the church for very long.

Obviously some leavers are in these categories, but they are not the only ones to leave. In the research I did - based on 108 interviews with church leavers across New Zealand - I found the church leavers from Pentecostal and charismatic churches were predominantly middle aged (70% were aged between 35 and 45 years) and had been involved in their respective churches as adults (ie beyond their 18th birthday) for an average of 15.8 years. While there are other categories of leavers, here is one category of leavers that few seem to consider.
I have been a part of churches that have torn themselves apart chasing young people. They have done so by trying specifically to cater to them because they are the "crucial" demographic. But in so doing they have ignored other demographics, much to their chagrin.

Forgive me while I make just an awful, worldly point, but this can be disastrous. After all, young people are generally not the source of the church's major income. When you chase them at the cost of your middle aged and senior members, you put yourself on a very caprious financial footing. Is that good stewardship?
Myth One

It is only the traditional mainline churches that have large numbers of leavers. While it is true that people are leaving the traditional churches people are also leaving evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal churches. These are the churches which have been growing both in New Zealand and overseas. They are the churches which - with their focus on overt biblical teaching, vibrant worship and greater opportunities for participation - have attracted many young converts as well as those disillusioned with the traditional churches.

However, these growing churches also have a 'back door'. Estimates as to how large this back door is vary depending on who you're talking to. But studies like those done by Elaine Bolitho on the back door in the Baptist churches in New Zealand have shown something of the degree of loss in these so-called 'growing' churches.
Boy, have I ever watched this in action. I call it the 'revolving door syndrome.' Jamieson points to a study that shows that a church that appeared to be growing rapidly still lost slightly more than it gained. That doesn't sound so good to me.

There is an old maxim, "You get what you measure." It is quite possible to focus so much on who is coming in the front door that you never notice who is slipping out the back.

How do we measure 'church performance?' Should we even bother to measure 'church performance?' Is it even truly measurable?

Most of the recent movements we have seen in church have been achieved by applying business and political models to church. But is that really valid? To borrow more business lingo, churches operate on an entirely different paradigm than any other organization, or at least they should.

The next time your church is approached by a consultant that offers you the prospect of amazing church growth, why don't you tell him you already have the best consultant in the universe -- the Holy Spirit. That's a consultant that always produces consistent, lasting, and real results.


Things Are Happening For Terri

I have been worried for the last few days that things were slowing down on the Terri Schiavo front. Little did I know that I was just looking in the wrong places.

The first good news is that Michael Medved announced today that he is going to dedicate an hour of his radio show on Monday to Terri in discussion with Alan Keyes. Unknown to me until just today, Keyes has been all over this. Keyes is a sometimes very effective and sometimes "too far out there" leader. I think he is dead center in the mainstream on this issue, and I am hoping he is using the best of his skills to get the job done.

Last night I decided to explore the Catholic Blogroll some and found out where all the Terri activity really is. It made me happy to see all the posts and energy going into Terri, but it saddened me that Protestants are not equally active on the issue. I need to explore that issue, but for now, back to Terri.

The National Right To Life Committee has announced that the US Congress may act to save Terri. (HT: Blogicus) I have been wondering if there was room for federal action here, apparently there is. Let's hear for checks and balances. Write your federal representatives and Senators today!

Catholics in the Public Square as a great piece contending that Terri is a victim of prejudice. Sounds right to me.

There is some interesting court news as well. WriteWingBlog has a post on a possible appealable error by Judge Greer. Given the previous activities of the Florida Supreme Court in prior times, this does not sound like the best of all possible options, but we need to be taking a shotgun approach at this point. ProLife Blogs has a post on the specific allegations of abuse that Terri has suffered. It;s an ugly list. I doubt Greer is going to give credence to any of it because it would reflect badly on him, but we can hope, and PRAY. Finally, BlogsforTerri has a post announcing that 17 medical experts have filed briefs in court, and they expect more on Monday. Let's pile 'em on.

On the subject of prayer, Time Against Humanity calls for a 'simple fast' for Terri. They describe a simple fast:
A simple fast is when the main meal of our day is simple and the two smaller meals of our day—added together—are not as large as the main, simple meal.
They want to sustain the fast between now and March 18th, thus they propose the 'simple' formula. I've been dieting for the better part of a year and eating like that has become a common state of affairs for me. I may just pick some days and do a total fast.

One of the best things I found was that ProLife Blogs is operating an aggregator, and related blogroll (you'll see it on the left) devoted entirely to Terri. This is a great way to keep track of what is going on. You'll also note the graphic link to Terri's Fight on the left. Use it to donate!

All of this gives me new hope.

And now a challenge to my Protestant brethren. Let's get busy. Terri is not a Catholic issue. This is a straightforward matter of right and wrong. I am unaware of any school of theological thought that would allow this murder to occur. Stand up, be counted, get active. Pray, donate, pray, write, fast, blog, and pray.


Dang, People Are Really Smart!

The Great Separation points us to an article in Nature about a near invisibility clock.

The Nature piece even compares it to the Romulans cloak, proof that these guys are geeks. But nonetheless, this is way cool. Unlike other stealth technologies that rely on computers, this is a quantum mechanical thing. [It requires a neutron wrench to tune :-)] It's s slog to explain how this works, the nature article is not, in my opinion accessible to the layman. If you are interested, leave a comment and I'll take a shot. But even if you don't know how it works, it's cool.


More Friday Funnies

Gotta post him when they make me laugh this hard.

Best of The Web Today points to this article.
Woman Accused Of Naked Dog Wrestling
Friend Says Woman Has Been Acting Strangely Recently
That headline has to qualify as the understatement of the week!

From my wife comes this little bit of animation. I think I've met this guy somewhere.

Finally from the in-basket comes this tiny movie. For some reason this has a vaguely familiar feel to it. By the way, if you don't get it, I'll bet you're under the age of 30.


Ethics and Theology

Eternal Perspectives put up a brief post yesterday, a parable on righteousness. Here is how the parable ends:
The king at once ordered his warriors to seize the man and take him away. As the man was led off to be executed, the king declared, "You fool! Is the death of but one child any less heinous than the death of all? You diminish the value of the one by making her death less of a crime than the deaths of the many.
This parable makes a good theological point. Rom 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,In the eyes of God we are all equally depraved and most importantly equally in need of the salvation of the Cross.

But I think we do ourselves a disservice if we use that important theological idea as a basis for forming Christian ethics. Do we really want to be in a position of saying that a burglar's crime is just as heinous ethically as a murderer's? I don't. A distinction between offenses is necessary in operating a society. It's even necessary in operating a church. An elder that steals paperclips from the church office may be forgiven, but an elder that embezzles tens of thousands of dollars should not have the opportunity to serve as an elder again.

We run a grave risk when we equate all ethical transactions. I believe that one of the reasons we are so laid back about true evil in the world today is because this idea has crept so deeply into our collective consciousness. Most people don't get worked up about genocide because they don't distinguish it from the gang shooting that happens in town on a weekly basis.

I did a little more checking into the whole Terri Schiavo thing yesterday (that post is forthcoming) and I am amazed at how overwhelmingly the commenters on it are Catholic. Catholics, because of their teachings on ethics have a much deeper sense of how truly evil what is happening to that woman is. Protestants, as a group, though there are certainly exceptions, seem to just be lumping it in as "another sad consequence of sin."

Christians have to be about GOOD. It is after all one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.) And that means ethics.

If we are going to be about good in the world we have to have a deep understanding of ethics. There are a number of classic problems to illustrate the point. Is it ok to lie to a rapist about the location of an intended victim when he is pursuing her? Is war justified to prevent genocide? The list goes on ad infinitum.

We would do well to learn some ethics from our Catholic brethren, and even our Jewish cousins. Our preaching needs to emphasize the difference between our theological theories and our ethical behaviors.


The Power Of The Internet

Yesterday I linked to an article about China trying to get some control over the Interent and wonered if their efforts might not be to stem a growing tide towards democracy in that country. Today the NYTimes carries a piece about censorship of the Internet in China.

Wouldn't it be great if hundreds and thousands of little blogs like this one proved to be the catalyst to democracy in the largest dictatorial country left on the planet? Clearly the Chinese are worried about it.


Apparently, the Chinese are not the only ones worried about the power of the Internet to spread democracy. Check out this post from Powerline about efforts to regulate it in THIS country.

I agree with the deacon:
I should add my sense that, while the government may make life quite dificult for bloggers for a time, its attempts at regulation ultimately will prove futile.
However, it may get interesting for a while!


LA Times Outrage Continues

Yesterday, I pointed out that the LA Times had lost all sense of right and wrong in their North Korean propaganda piece. Hugh Hewitt, despite his calls to drop the paper, continues to point us to more outrageous pieces on the same topic. Today's miscarriage is this piece in which the LA Times essentially serves as the DPRK regime's mouthpiece for transmitting conditions under which it will return to the negotiating table.

Vodkapundit brings up the specter of Eason Jordan, pointing out that Jordan once lauded the DPRK.

I think the that specter may be a little more insidious than that. Remember the initial outrage that brought Eason Jordan to the world's attention? -- His revelation of cooperation with the Hussein regime in order to continue to have reporting access inside Iraq.

One is forced to wonder if there is not a similar Faustian deal between Ms. Demick and Kim Jong Il?

As a comment, it is incomprehensible to me that even a truly misguided left-winger would want to shore up such an evil and oppressive regime like this. Are there really sufficient numbers of people in this country so out of touch with any sense of good and evil that they think this will sell papers? Are they so simplistic that they think free speech includes the right to mass murder? I shudder if it is so.


Democracy Breaking Out All Over

The news about Lebanon continues to be, in my opinion good news. This Telegraph article shows how many countries are advising "Syria to get out of Dodge." This NYTimes peice examines primarily the Saudi Arabian call for Syrian withdrawal.

Yesterday on Hugh Hewitt, Claudia Rosett (link not "on topic, just her latest piece) pointed out that Syria may soon find itself "surrounded by democracy" -- Turkey, Isreal, Iraq, and Lebanon. What a great thought. This Christian Science Monitor op-ed discusses how rapidly the Middle East equation is changing, and the ramifications thereof.

I am truly hopeful for these poeple. Democracy can only improve peoples lives. We live in a time when that should be more obvious than any other time in history. The blog Better Living sounds cautionary note. (HT: Adrian Warnock) Mark reminds us that democracy is hard and messy work. It is only a panacea when the people in the country gaining democracy do that hard work. Let's pray for the people of the Middle East, and expecially Lebanon that they will do that hard work, and thatthey will enjoy it's rewards.


From the Edge of Taste

Today's Edge of Taste is dedicated to my wife because it comes from her home town. Once again courtesy of Ananova comes this story. It is nice to know that there is occassionally justice in the world.


Friday Humor

An elderly lady was well known for her faith and for her boldness in talking about it. She would stand on her front porch and shout "PRAISE THE LORD!"

Next door to her lived an atheist who would get so angry at her proclamations that he would shout, "There ain't no Lord!"

Hard times set in on the elderly lady and she prayed for God to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and shouted "PRAISE THE LORD! God I need food. I am having a hard time. Please, Lord, send me some groceries."

The next morning the lady went out on her porch and noted a large bag of groceries and shouted, "PRAISE THE LORD!" The neighbor jumped from behind a bush and said, "HA...HA. I told you there was no Lord. I bought those groceries. God didn't."

The lady started jumping up and down and clapping her hands and saying, "PRAISE THE LORD!, He not only sent me groceries but HE made the Devil pay for them."


Thursday, March 03, 2005


Sad, Really Sad

The comments war (HT: SmartChristian) going on at Evangelical Outpost over Joe's post on Jeff Jarvis' comments about GodBlogCon just makes me sad. Joe's original post says pretty much all that really needs to be said. But given the vitriol, I need to say something, so from Devotional Classics, this time, John Calvin:
Born at Noyon, France, and educated at the University of Paris, John Calvin grew up in an atmosphere of wealth and nobility. His father wanted him to study theology, but John felt a yearning to study law. However, he had keen insight as a theologian and the heart of a pastor. Although he was never ordained, he became the curate of St. Martin de Marteville in 1527. In 1534 he was converted to Protestantism, which resulted in two short imprisonments.

In 1536 he wrote his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion at the young age of twenty-six. By 1541 he had gone to Geneva, Switzerland, and had influenced that city to the point that he had gained a large following. Under Calvin’s leadership, and in spite of opposition to him, Geneva became famous for its high moral standards, economic prosperity, and educational system. Many consider him to have been the father and founder of both the Presbyterian and the Reformed Protestant churches.

He was deeply influenced by the writings of Martin Luther and St. Au¬gustine, especially Augustine’s strong predestinarian theology. It is safe to say that no theologian holds a higher or clearer understanding of the sovereignty of God than John Calvin. He was well known for his stern tempera¬ment and austere life-style. The following selection deals with self-denial, which Calvin believed to be essential in the life of every Christian. As with other devotional masters, the words of Calvin are sobering to the modern mind-set that sees restraint in wholly negative terms.

Our Only Legitimate Goal

If we are not our own, but the Lord’s, it is clear to what purpose all our deeds must be directed. We are not our own, therefore neither our reason nor our will should guide us in our thoughts and actions. We are not our own, therefore we should not seek what is only expedient to the flesh. We are not our own, therefore let us forget ourselves and our own interests as far as possible.

We are God’s own; to him, therefore, let us live and die. We are God’s own; therefore let his wisdom and will dominate all our actions. We are God’s own; therefore let every part of our existence be directed towards him as our only legitimate goal.

A Great Advantage

Let us therefore not seek our own, but that which pleases the Lord and is helpful to the promotion of his glory. There is a great advantage in almost forgetting ourselves and in surely neglecting all selfish aspects; for then only can we try faithfully to devote our attention to God and his commandments.

For when Scripture tells us to discard all personal and selfish considerations, it does not only exclude from our minds the desire for wealth, the lust of power, and the favor of others, but it also banishes false ambitions and the hunger for human glory with other more secret evils, Indeed, Christians ought to be disposed and prepared to keep in mind that they have to reckon with God every moment of their lives.


North Korea, A 'Balanced' Approach

Hugh Hewitt has up a full head of steam today over the Los Angeles Times publication of a piece that is pure unadulterated North Korean propaganda. Hugh's lengthy, and growing post on the story can be found here.

As an LA county resident, I'd cancel my Times subscription, but I already did during the Bush/Gore election cycle when they were so biased I could feel my blood pressure rise over breakfast. But by all means, if you subscribe -- STOP NOW.

There is little I can add to the great work Hugh is doing, but I can comment. Check out this quote from early in the piece:
This North Korean, an affable man in his late 50s who spent much of his career as a diplomat in Europe, has been assigned to help his communist country attract foreign investment. With the U.S. and other countries complaining about North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its human rights record, it's a difficult task, he admitted.

"There's never been a positive article about North Korea, not one," he said. "We're portrayed as monsters, inhuman, Dracula Â… with horns on our heads."

So, in an effort to clear up misunderstandings, he expounded on the North Korean view of the world in an informal conversation that began one night this week over beer as North Korean waitresses sang Celine Dion in the karaoke restaurant, and resumed the next day over coffee.
It is obvious that the LATimes feels that reporting has less to do with facts than it has to do with "presenting everyone's opinion." The Times no doubt feels they are being "fair and balanced."

This belies a deeply troubling idea that is floating around today, that truth is somehow relative. The very thought that North Korea's viewpoint on it's own atrocities is somehow balancing, or relevant, says that one's perception of facts, or truth, is more important than the facts themselves.

In the end, such ideas can have devastating effect. Let's look at this on a smaller scale. The local Florida judge in the Terri Schiavo case, has made his decisions based not on the facts of Terri's life, but on deciding who has the stronger claim to make decisions about her life. To him, it's not important whether Terri is killed or not, it is only important who gets to decide whether she is killed or not. And so, we end up with our very own atrocity right here at home.

Hugh is right -- this article is simply morally repugnant. I have been to grossly oppressive nations, China (PRC) in 1989, and the Soviet Union in 1991. You are initially struck by how "normal" life seems in a place like that. In both cases my visits were sanctioned, so I was greeted and escorted by people who worked very hard to emphasize to me how "normal" life was in those places. But, I did manage to slip their grip for a few hours here and there. It does not take long for an entirely different picture to emerge. And when the Soviet Union fell, and I heard from my friends, it was a floodgate of information about how very abnormal life really was. I still pray for my friends in China.

Alas, the LATimes is entitled to its editorial policies and decisions. Fortunately, we are also entitled not to read it. Please don't.



This article from Pravda is typical Pravda. No surprise, save for the fact that it's listed in the science section. I did not think even they would that confused about what is and is not science!



JOLLYBLOGGER has started a bit on a discussion on incarnation by first asking if the blogosphere can operate as a church, and then concluding that it cannot. JB compares those who think it can to Gnostics. Adrian Warnock agrees with JB's sentiment so thoroughly that his post on the topic is a striaghtforward unadorned quote.

There is little I can add to what David says, save "AMEN."

I did a Tecnorati search on the word "incarnational" -- boy is it used a lot. And misused. Check out this quote from a blog called "emergingBlurb":
While much of our EC mission will be intercalating in the lives and communities in which we live, there are other opportunities for fighting for justice, the environment and serving human need. It is this level of incarnation...
This implies that "incarnation" is about the latest "movement."

As I understand the term incarnation is about imitating Jesus. John 1:14 -- And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. God dwelling among us. Gal 2:20 -- I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. Christ dwelling in us. 2 Cor 5:20 -- Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. We dwelling in the world.

This is not a question of movements or trends, ideas or issues. Incarnation is about being in the very image of Christ.

God reveals Himself in Christ, in the Word, in manifestations of the Spirit, but mostly in US, not in what we do, not in what issues we stand for, but in who we are, in Christ.

Transforming Sermons provides a link to a post at a ticking time blog that argues that the commonly accepted concept of "self-image" is unbiblical. I understand and in some senses agree with this point, but I think it is disposing with a useful concept.

People should have a good image of themselves, but not because of who they are born to be, but because of who Christ makes them to be. Incarnation is about looking at ourselves, and having others look at us and seeing not us, but Christ. Do we evidence Christ in a movement? No, I think we evidence Christ in a relationship.

Which brings us back to where this bit of a rant started. You can't "do church" in cyber-space. You can't "do church" on TV. You can't even do church very well in an auditorium filled by thousands of people.

I have been to Corinth and stood in the ruins of the "church" where Paul preached there. It is tiny, I mean really tiny. The room could not have accommodated more than 10 people. Yet, that church of 10, and many other tiny little churches of 10 changed the world. Not because they built grand edifices, physical or cyber, not because they planned large political movements, but because they concentrated on evidencing Jesus.


Leading Churches

Transforming Sermons had an interesting post yesterday about pastor's not being in a "helping" profession. I agree with what Milt has to say up to a point:
...make a strong case for keeping worship, not psychological nurturing, at the heart of Christian ministry.
Psychological counseling and ministry IS NOT the primary ministry of the church. In fact, I believe movements in that direction have done imeasureable harm to the church. Mental well being and spiritual well being are separate and distinct things. The church is charged with spiritual well being.

But I think that charge the church does have extends beyond worship. I really like the imagery that Piper uses about pastors, and elders, being shepherds.
In one sense the elder-shepherds are just sheep like every other Christian, with Christ as the Chief Shepherd. But by virtue of their calling and their gifts and their affirmation by the church, they have a responsibility that is different than the rest of the sheep. Responsibility is the key word, or accountability.
Milt's post talks about "the foolishness that passes for Christian ministry." You want an explanation for that you need look no farther than one of the three ways Piper says elders are to shepherd:

Not For Sordid Gain, but with Eagerness

Verse 2 at the end: exercise your oversight "not for sordid gain, but with eagerness." "Sordid gain" means making the ministry a means to get rich. It means being motivated by money in the ministry. It means thinking constantly about vacations and days off and retirement benefits instead of thinking about the value of the human soul and the preciousness of truth and the power of the Holy Spirit and the coming glory of the Chief Shepherd. A man might even hang on for a while in the face of great difficulty if he could make godliness a means of gain, as Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:5.

In a world driven by mammon, worth is measured in results. How do we calibrate the results of spiritual well being? How do we measure it? We have developed measures for psychological well being, and success in those measures brings remuneration.

There are many good pastors in the world. I suspect Milt is one of them, though I have not met him to know for sure. But the temptation is grave when your livelihood depends your ministry. The first century church often remunerated its ministers, but it was absent the salary contracts and performance evaluations of today's world. It was also a church that sought to raise up leadership from within rather than hold the volunteers at bay so the pastor and staff had something to do.

You want to rethink church? This would be a good place to put your attention. How do we structure a church, or more rightly, how do we reinstitute the existing structures of the church, so that they adhere more closely to the first century model and less to the modern-business model?


Terri Fights On

The battle for Terri Schiavo's life continues. Please go to Terri's Fight and donate. Go to Blogs for Terri to stay up on the latest.

Bug the Florida Legislature to pass HB701 NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hamilton's Pamphlets reminded us on Tuesday of the Groeningen Protocol. This is "baby euthanasia" in the Netherlands. Terri is not a "symbol," she is a person, but what happens to her can have tremendous ramifications.

Do we really want to be in a position to where people are deciding that some lives are worth living and others are not? Do what you can today to stop this atrocity, and ones that could follow in its wake, from happening.


Science Is Cool

Now we are seeing things in space that are "invisible." You have to love that. This is a different application of the way the military sees in the dark, or bad weather.


Continue to Pray For the Middle East

As events unfold in Lebanon and surrounding, I have real hope. But as this BBC article points out, this is not a done deal. This can still go either "Berlin Wall" or "Tianemen Square." Ask God for the former.


Thoughts on Socialism

My wife and I have some very dear friends. They are great people. The wife of the couple is; however, an ardent socialist. This can make for some very interesting dinner conversation.

I understand how she can think that socialism is God's desire. You look at passages like the end of Acts 2 and conclude that socialism must be what God wants.

But then there are all those passages that run contrary, like all the laws in the Old Testament that affirm private property. Last night, once again teaching the high school Bible Study, I ran into the parable of the servants and the talents. One of the concluding lines of that parable is most decidely not socialistic:
Matt 25:29 - "For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
That sounds remarkably like a widening gap between rich and poor to me.

Which brings up one of the reasons I oppose "Evangelical Environmentalism." Part of it has to do with something I said in my continuing discussions on recent church trends.
Movements, by the very fact that they are labeled movements, scare me in this regard. People become involved in the movement, instead of in the reason the movement was founded. For example, as Blogs For Terri mentioned today, the Philadephia Inquirer did a piece over the weekend on the Terri Schiavo reaction. I was interviewed for the piece, but did not make the article. The reporter was looking for people that thought Terri a 'symbol.' I told her I did not think there was anything symbolic about it -- this was just a woman whose husband was attempting to starve her to death. The reporter was more interested in the 'movement' around Terri than in Terri. That's the kind of thing that scares me.
I am always worried that a movement in the church will become an idol.

But there is another salient point. Environmentalism usually expresses itself as socialism. It does not involve money directly, but consider for example that it takes from the "rich" in the form of land and gives to the "poor" threatened species. Radical environmentalism calls into question the very concept of land ownership, because "the earth belongs to all of us."

It is dangerous, dangerous ground for Christians to tread. But my spirits are bouyed when I see blogs like The Commons. This blog is devoted to environmental action through entirely private means and the marketplace. I do not agree with everything I have seen there, but I think it is a great step in the right direction. I am especially fond of this post.
Too often environmental policy discussions assume that the only way to advance environmental values is to create a government program or adopt new regulations. The potential for private initiative to conserve environmental treasures is overlooked. Yet where private action is viable, it is often superior to government efforts. Private preserves are generally better maintained than government parks and, where it's been tried, conservation through commerce has been more successful than the species protectionism embodied in the Endangered Species Act.

A new report, Conservation through Private Initiative: Harnessing American Ingenuity to Preserve Our Nation's Resources, by my good friend (and sometimes Commons Blog contributor) Michael DeAlessi illustrates the above point, and suggests that private efforts have the added advantage of diffusing conflict. Whereas politics often produces a zero-sum game, voluntary initiatives can produce true win-win scenarios.
I do not think the church can afford to go blindly charging into the environmental fray, without carefully thinking through all the ramifications involved. Blogs like The Commons are a good place to start.


Blogging Works

You have to love this story from the World Tribune.
China's ambassador to the United Nations last week called for international controls on the Internet.

Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang told a UN conference that controls should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.

"It should ensure an equitable distribution of resources, facilitate access for all and ensure a stable and secure functioning," he said at the conference on Internet governance.
Is it just possible they are worried that too many of their fine citizens will get a taste of democracy and want to overthrow that oppressive regime? -- Nah, couldn't be.


That's Wierd

This story from MSNBC tells about a woman who "tastes" music. Sounds like some sort of '60's drug trip gone bad to me.


Is It Worth Outrage?

On Tuesday Stones Cry Out asked "Where's the Outrage?" concerning Howard Dean's characterization of "right-wing pastors" as evil.

This is truly an outrageous statement, but is it worthy of outrage? Recall Jesus' simple response to the accusations thrown at Him by the Sanhedrin. What about Paul's admonishment to "Bless those that persecute you"

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, "Better to remain quiet and be thought a fool, than speak and remove all doubt." Howard Dean condemns himself with these staements far more than any of us ever could.


My, Aren't We the Sensitive One Today.

Ananova reports on a couple of old guys getting arrested for telling a lawyer joke in a court house. Every good lawyer joke I know was told to me by a lawyer! This guy needs a life.
Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?

A: One's a scum sucking bottom feeder and the other is a fish.


What? Me Worry About A Trend?

Jollyblogger had a good post yesterday quoting R.C. Sproul, Jr. on why he is not worried about the trends I have been posting on the last several days.Quoting Sproul via JB:
But please, can’t we be Reformed enough to know that this confluence didn’t happen by luck? Can’t we believe enough in the sovereignty of God to stop seeing face time on TV as the measure of how we are doing?
I agree to to point. The success of Osteen or the Emerging Church movement does not bother me, but ideas do.

Too many pastors in too many churches, particularly reformed ones, are looking at the successes these ministries are having and, while not desiring TV face time, are co-opting the ideas to try and bolster their congregations. They are not building disciples in the Reformed fashion, they are abandoning Reformed theology for the sake of "growth."

My goal is not to tear down Osteen, or anyone else, my goal is simply to point out the fallacy of the ideas associated with him, so that others will not take them up.

While we're on the subject, just to prove Sproul's point, check out this story about one of the people associated with Jim Jomes publicly apologizing. God does indeed work in any circumstance.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Keep The Wine Away From Granny

From China comes this story.
A 78-year-old Chinese grandmother scaled the outside of her apartment block after locking herself out of her fifth floor flat....

Afterwards, she admitted: "I must have been drunk. I hope others do not follow my example and risk their lives."
Is she referring to the climbing or the drinking?


Can You Say Complete Collapse?

The Bremerhaven Zoo has collapsed to pressure and will not be attempting to mate the "gay penguins. This is just sad all the way around.


Reuters Imitates Pravda

You know all those Pravda stories with misleading headlines I am found of pointing out? Stories with headlines like this:
Russian man becomes healer after his own death
Which, unsurprizingly at this point, ends up being a story about a 'spiritualist' that has had a couple of coma-like experiences.

Well, not be be outdone, this comes our way from Reuters today:
Topless Dancers Greet Prince Charles
Turns out Chuck was in Australia and greeted by some aborigines that never heard the word "blouse."

It's nice to know that Europe's leading news service holds to the same high standards as the former Soviet Union's primary propaganda rag.


We Have A Winner!

The response to yesterday's mini movie trivia contest was somewhat underwhelming, but we have a winner -- Catez @ Allthings2all. She correctly named the movie -- Meatballs, starring Bill Murray. This movie came out when Murray was still on SNL, long before he saw his great success in Ghostbusters.

Take my advice -- this is a very funny, very sweet movie. Just remember, you are "Wudy the Wabbit" and you will win!

Catez is hereby awarded much honor and glory.


A Life Continues -- Terri Schiavo Today

Blogs for Terri remains the place to go for all the latest. The judge will not hear anything but about her death. That's the bad news.

Digital Brown Pajams posts some stuff those following closely have seen before, but it always good to be reminded.

WorldNetDaily carries a piece examining how poorly Terri has been cared for at the hospice where she resides.

Wittenberg Gate carries the third Bloggers Best as well as a great post on what a new-age guru-following imbecile the "husband"'s attoney is.

Please forgive me for the rather insulting language I am using regarding this situation, but it just brings out the worst in me.

Finally, I want to quote a comment I got a couple of days ago:
I visit a woman at a nursing home in this condition (no one is trying to kill her, however). These noises heard in the 5 min. video sound exactly like what I hear. She is quiet with strangers and makes no effort. It is communication, not frustration. Regular volunteers know how to interpret happiness, excitement, anger, wet, hungry, etc. (She has had a tube for 30 years.) Sometimes crying means she just wants to listen to her favorite soap opera.

Obviously, Terri is seriously disabled, but she is loved and has people willing to take care of her. Thousands of people are not that fortunate. I'm not the least bit concerned that a court order was ignored.
Thanks Norma for sharing. How right you are.

A note on legalities. I have taken a limited look into the legal history of this situation, it is terribly convoluted. I understand how we arrived at this situation as a purely legal matter, and I do not entirely fault the actions that have been taken to date.

However, it is a matter of enormous shame for our legal system that it cannot look at where we are today, this minute, and execute JUSTICE rather than mere legalities.

It is my opinion that Judge Greer is simply a coward. Fearing condemnation for rendering actual judgement, he relies on the only legal, though tenuously supported, claim to authority (Michael's marriage to Terri) and simply grants that authority's wish. (Pardon me while I get crude again) Would that he would grow a pair. Just for a day.

Pray For Terri. That is an irresitable power.


Fun With Statistics

You know the old saying, "...lies, *&%# lies, and statistics." Think this falls into that category, or perhaps it reveals some truth?
(A) The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.
(B) Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000.
(C) Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171.
Statistics courtesy of U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services.

Now think about this:

(A) The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000
(B)The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is 1,500.
(C) The number of accidental deathsper gun owner is .000188.
Statistics courtesy of FBI

So, statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners. Remember, "Guns don't kill people, doctors do."


The Trend Carefully Analyzed

When I began my now 1 -- 2 -- 3 -- 4 -- 5 part series examining trends in the church and in particular the self-help and emerging movements, little did I know that the later of those movements had been very thoroughly and carefully analyzed by Catez at Allthings2all.

I did not, by the way, set out to do a series. I just noticed a topic eveyone was discussing one day and ran with it. Catez has been far more systematic and thorough in her approach and it is well worth your consideration.

Her first post The Post Modern Explained she attempts to define the term "postmodern."
Most people understand post-modernism to mean a type of relativism - truth is relative to each person or each different cultural group. In post-modernism my truth does not have to agree with your truth - but both are valid.
In her second post, Post-Modernism and the Jim Jones Potential, she examines the cultic possibilities of the post moderism movement.
The problem with creating our own tribe based on eclectic ideas which suit us is that we will naturally tend to dispense with norms we don't like. So Manson, Jones, Koresh, and others dispensed with honouring life. Post-modernism did not provide an answer to the selfish motivations of the human heart. Instead, it pandered to self-indulgence and selfish selectivity.
Though far more scholarly, I love how what she says here echoes something I said yesterday
Movements, by the very fact that they are labelled movements, scare me in this regard. People become involved in the movement, instead of in the reason the movement was founded. For example, as Blogs For Terri mentioned today, the Philadephia Inquirer did a piece over the weekend on the Terri Schiavo reaction. I was interviewed for the piece, but did not make the article. The reporter was looking for people that thought Terri a 'symbol.' I told her I did not think there was anything symbolic about it -- this was just a woman whose husband was attempting to starve her to death. The reporter was more interested in the 'movement' around Terri than in Terri. That's the kind of thing that scares me.

Thus, I have no problem when someone like the journey points out similarlites between the Emerging Church movement and the 'Jesus' people of the late 60's, stating that they think good things are happening in the EC movement -- no doubt. But when they lament the death of the Jesus poeple movement, and hope the EC movement does not do the same, I have a problem. Movements need to die. We need to harvest the best from them and let them die, before they become a thing unto themselves.
Finally, Catez' third post, Post Modernism and Christianity, gets down to the nut of it.
Post-modernism would have us all in our separate relative ghettoes thinking we are novel. Jesus Christ unites us in a new citizenship not of this world. He is the Spirit and Truth for every culture in every age, and his blueprint for the Christian church remains the same.
Well done Catez! I'll quit now -- you have done all the heavy lifting.


Soldier Tribute

Grab a box of tissues and then watch this moving tribute to the men and women defending our nation. After your sniffles, let your chest swell with pride. Then go to Any Soldier, find a soldier you like and send him/her what they are asking for. Give money to the USO. Do something to let them know you care about and support them.


Earthquake Weather?

I have a good friend who works for the USGS and operates the network of seismographs that they have scattered throughout southern California. He is happy to regale any interested party with stories and insights, debunking common myths and explaining why earthquakes are so hard to predict.

One of the most common myths in southern California is "earthquake weather." because recent major quakes have occurred around here during hot dry weather, people make a natural, but false correlation. After all, if quakes were weather related, they would obviously be largely limited to some climatalogical band and not scattered across the whole planet as they are.

That is, of course, unless you are a Russian scientist. Bad reporting and bad science, what a combination. I'll just cite on example. Headline:
US forces supposedly used a secret weapon in Iraq, which resulted in a powerful earthquake
From the end of the story:
Seismologists often deal with versions, which say that earthquakes may have an artificial origin sometimes as well. It is particularly said that they occur as a result of tectonic weapon tests, supposedly conducted by Russia and the USA. "Weapon tests can cause an earthquake indeed, but they take place on a very small territory. Such local earthquakes cannot shake the ground thousands of kilometers around," the scientist explained. "When a powerful earthquake rocked Georgia, they said that it occurred over the use of the tectonic weapon. I even had several consultations with Georgian specialists - they wanted to know if the earthquake had been predicted. A similar situation occurred in Iraq - it was said that the US forces used a secret weapon in the country. I carefully studied the results of the seismological analysis, and I can assure you that it was an absolutely natural earthquake," Viktor Bokov said.(emphasis mine)
Love that Pravda!


Marvel at the Universe

The complexity of our universe is amazing -- from the unimaginably enormous to the unimaginably small. This little animation makes that truly obvious.


Baptism Discussion Continues

Jollyblogger continues his multi-part discussion of infant baptism, answering the gauntlet thrown down by Adrian Warnock. It's good stuff, and I recommend it.

Based on the lack of traffic or links that my post on the subject produced, I must assume that when it comes to this topic I am considered naive. Megan who started this whole thing at Half Pint House has been kind enough to leave a thank you comment, and there is one other trackback, but that is about it.

So, I went researching a little. Recall my main point:
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...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.
Granted, not a theological treatise by any stretch, but I thought concise and to the point.

My heart was; however, gladdened when I ran into this piece from John Piper, someone I believe respected by all in the conversation.
What is Baptism?

Now this is fundamentally important in our understanding of what baptism is in the New Testament. James Dunn is right I think when he says that "1 Peter 3:21 is the nearest approach to a definition of baptism that the New Testament affords" (Baptism in the Holy Spirit, p. 219). What is baptism? Baptism is a symbolic expression of the heart's "appeal to God." Baptism is a calling on God. It is a way of saying to God with our whole body, "I trust you to take me into Christ like Noah was taken into the ark, and to make Jesus the substitute for my sins and to bring me through these waters of death and judgment into new and everlasting life through the resurrection of Jesus my Lord."

This is what God is calling you to do. You do not save yourself. God saves you through the work of Christ. But you receive that salvation through calling on the name of the Lord, by trusting him. And it is God's will all over the world and in every culture - no matter how simple or how sophisticated - that this appeal to God be expressed in baptism. "Lord, I am entering the ark of Christ! Save me as I pass through the waters of death!"
(emphasis mine)
Piper does not directly address the question of infant baptism, but he does sound a lot like me. Maybe I am not so naive after all.


From the Edge of Taste

Because of my less than tasteful sense of humor, this little animation made me laugh uproariously. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Is Everybody in Brazil Completely Broke?

That must be the case or you would think someone would have loaned this guy the money. I mean, it was a good Tom Hanks movie, but this is going a little far!


The Plank in Your Own Eye

Matt 7:3
"And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

Everybody is fascinated with the Kansas BTK serial killer now that he has been caught. CourtTV has the best telling of the entire story I have found. It's here.

What has people yapping so is that 'he seemed to be a normal guy, all church going and stuff.' I am not surprised. The church is full of all sorts of sin, most of it far less obvious, far more insidious, and in some cases far more damaging than this guy. It's easy to get on the church, so I won't. But I do think we need to work really, really hard to keep our house in order.

I'll just borrow from Devotional Classics again. This time, William Law.
William Law was a devout Anglican priest. His practical work was as a spir¬itual director, offering guidance to people who sought a closer, deeper relationship with God. The following excerpt is from his best-known work, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, a book that greatly influenced the English Evangelical Revival. The simplicity and directness of this book have made it a classic among Christian devotional literature.

This particular selection deals with the tendency we all have to separate our religious life from our practical, daily life. Law drives home the point that Christianity is concerned not only with our faith but with our conduct as well. In the spirit of the apostle James, William Law affirms that, like a bow and an arrow, our works and our faith function as one.

Rules for Daily Life

The simple point is this: either Christianity pre¬scribes rules to live by in our daily lives, or it does not. If it does, then we must govern all our actions by those rules if we are to worship God. For if Christianity teaches anything about eating and drinking, spending our time and money, how we are to live in the world, what attitudes we are to have in daily life, how we are to be disposed toward all people, how we are to behave toward the sick, the poor, the old, and destitute, whom we are to treat with particular love, whom we are to regard with a particular esteem, how we are to treat our enemies, and how we are to deny ourselves, we would be foolish to think that these teachings are not to be observed with the same strictness as those teachings that relate to prayer.

It is very observable that there is not one command in all the gospel for public worship. One could say that it is the duty that is least insisted upon in Scripture. Frequent church attendance is never so much as mentioned in all of the New Testament. But the command to have a faith which governs the ordinary ac¬tions of our lives is to he found in almost every verse of Scripture. Our blessed Savior and his Apostles were very intent on giving us teach¬ings that relate to daily life. They teach us: to renounce the world and he different in our atti¬tudes and ways of life; to renounce all its goods, to fear none of its evils, to reject its joys, and have no value for its happiness; to be as newborn babes who are born into a new state of things; to live as pilgrims in spiritual watching, in holy fear, and heavenly aspiring after another life; to take up our cross daily, to deny ourselves, to profess the blessedness of mourning, to seek the blessedness of poverty of spirit; to forsake the pride and vanity of riches, to take no thought for the morrow, to live in the profoundest state of humility, to rejoice in worldly sufferings; to reject the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; to bear injuries, to forgive and bless our ene¬mies, and to love all people as God loves them; to give up our whole hearts and affections to God, and to strive to enter through the straight gate into a life of eternal glory.

Isn’t it strange that people place so much emphasis upon going to church when there is not one command from Jesus to do so, and yet neglect the basic duties of our ordinary life which are commanded in every page of the Gospels?


What? Wait I thought...

...that the thinning of the ozone layer was because of my spray deodorant. But this article says it may have something to do with solar activity? But we passed all those laws, put all those people out of work, cost the average American a fortune in refitting their air conditioners. Was it all a mistake?

What is mind-boggling is that they make this pronouncement, but do not question the chlorofluorocarbon conclusion of a couple of decades ago. Hmmmm...agenda science? or perhaps they are just too proud to admit they might have acted prematurely. No wait, I know, there is a big fan that blows all the CFC's to the South Pole and all the solar radiation to the north. Yeah, that's it, that's the ticket.

Oh yeah -- Christians should get environmentally active right away.


I Should Leave This Alone...

...But I cannot. The specter of "Evangelical Environmentalism" has once again raised it's ugly head. This time, it's from SmartChristian and In The Agora.

I like that fact that Clayborn is trying to alter the vocabulary by calling it conservationism instead of environmentalism, but after that he gets a little too general for my taste.

I do not dispute our stewardship over the planet, but what exactly that is is a huge discussion. The issues are just too complex for the kind of flat statements that one can make based on a theology of planetary stewardship.

Consider one example -- DDT. Thousands die every year because DDT is not available in the Third World, either from malaria or other pest born illness, or from a lack of food because other pests have decimated crops. Yet we banned it, not because of imminent threat to human health, but because of a threat to avian eggs. Is it really within God's principles of stewardship for people to die for the sake of birds? I for one cannot endorse such a position.

And I still want to know what Christians are supposed to do with their environmental stewardship -- lobby? To date, that is all environmental activism has consisted of. The books are full of half baked, barely constitutional, overbearing, freedom robbing, near communistic laws.

You want to set up a recycling system in your church -- fine. You want to send out your youth group to collect litter -- fine. But you better think awfully hard before you wade any deeper. The water is cold, choppy, and their are lots and lots of sharks about with all sorts of misinformation and propaganda.


Criminally Stupid

It is a good thing I am not a Romanian doctor. I would probably let this guy suffer with his injury just because he is such a complete idiot. I realize that is not very compassionate, but sometimes you just have to let micro evolution work it's magic.


I Am Not A Lawyer...

But even I am smart enough to know that the Supremes overstepped today in their ruling that the death penalty cannot be applied to anyone under the age of 18. I will leave the big discussion to the experts. All I want to say is that I think there had to be some ruling they could have made that would not have been quite this imperial.


It Just Doesn't Matter....

That headline is a movie reference, for those of you trivially inclined. Just for fun, send an email and name the movie. (Don't use comments, then everyone will see the your guess!) I will provide the first correct answer I get with much honor and glory by publishing their name in this space.

That was entirely an aside...on to business.

My entry in this week's Vox Apologia has bought quite a bit on comment, not to mention the other entries that disagree with me. The topic is Creation v Evolution, does it matter. I argued in the negative.

I want to go a little farther with this. I do not think God wants us to have some sort of scientific support for anything that has to do with our faith in Him. Have you ever noticed that anytime a reliquary is undergoes actual scientific scrutiny it is proven to be a fake? For example, consider the Shroud of Turin. Why is that?

I think it is because God does not want us to have our faith dependent on some physical object. There is a serious risk of such an object becoming an idol. I think that is why the Ark has been lost to the mists of time, God wants the Jews, and us, worshipping Him not some writing of the law.

Any evolutionary contrarian theory runs the same risk. Objective scientific evidence of God could too easily be confused with God Himself. Not only does evolution v creationism not matter, pushing creationism too hard runs contrary to God's desire for our hearts and focus.

There, I've said it, have at me....


What Do People Without a Blog and a Lot of Time Do?

They get Photoshop and do stuff like this. Cool, Huh?


Quagmire, What Quagmire?

As I said yesterday, George Bush had no idea that when he went to threw out Saddam Hussien so his buds at Haliburton would have something to do, that democracy would break out all over. Amazing that it has, huh?

People in Iraq are protesting terrorist bombings and the government has resigned en masse in Lebanon.

I have traveled too much in this world to too many places that do not have the advantages of democracy, not to understand that people just flat out want what we have. Sure, just like us there are a lot of people that want a nanny state, but most countries have a group of good people that just need an opportunity to make their country a great country. Once those people are given just a slight opening, they will rush through it to make it work.

As Poland, and the failed coup against Gorbachov, was that slight opening for eastern Europe, so our ousting of Saddam Hussien and the subsequent elections are a slight opening for the Middle East. Look out, they are going to rush through faster than we can keep up.


Today's Terri Post

BlogsforTerri remains the best place to go for the latest news. Needless to say, the legal manuevering is fast and furious. I espeically like today's news where they are calling into question whether Terri's civil rights have been violated.

Go to Terri's Fight today and donate. Then do it again tomorrow.

Now, I just cannot let this post go by. (HT: Daou Report) Here is the money quote:
The operative question in this case: should Michael Schiavo's rights as a husband be reduced or eliminated because his wife's parents do not agree with his legal right to make medical decisions on her behalf? The point of view of some conservatives on this issue is, I believe, incorrectly predicated. While we may argue Terri Schiavo's right to live or die ad infinitum, the broader issue is being ignored; it is not our choice. While we do seemingly pay lip service to the vows of marriage as being sacred, when confronted with an issue of this nature, some of us are all too willing to cast the rights of the husband aside. Additionally, it is indeed an odd juxtaposition that in this case, we have conservatives who normally seek to limit the interference of government in the affairs of individuals, seeking in this case to have government intrude in an exceedingly egregious manner.
I am almost trembling with anger when I read that. The rights of a spouse carry with them an enormous responsibility as well. Among those are things like fidelity and and loyalty. The fact of the matter is, if Michael Schiavo acted at all like a husband, then this would not be much of an issue, now would it. I thought we had long ago left behind the era of wives as property -- but apparently not in the mind of "Pardon My English."
Eph 5:25-29 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church...
No one, not even a spouse has the right to end another human being's life, and particularly not by starvation. Remember the story of Solomon and the two women that claimed motherhood over the baby? Solomon flushed out the real mother by threatening to cut the baby in half. The real mother would, of course, sacrifice the baby to the other woman rather than have it die. Would not a real husband sacrifice his wife to her parents in an instance like this rather that fight for her painful, agonizing death?

Of all the arguments I have heard for allowing this to happen, this is parhaps the most egregious. It unequivocally reduces Terri to property. That is just flat out ugly -- no check that, SINFUL. Speaking of the "husband," I like this post. This is a guy that understands what a husband is.

I am nowhere near as eloquent on this topic as I would like to be, my emotions are overwhelming me. God forbid I am ever in a situation like this, but if I am and I behave like Schiavo, you have my permission to find me, club me on the head, and hide me in a cave somewhere until a judge declares me dead or divorced. Please do not do that to Michael Schiavo -- I do not condone it, I am just making a point.

Pray for Terri -- please!


More On Church Trends

As I have been looking into the trends in churches, both self-help, and Emerging, there are voices on the opposite side of where I have been looking, or at least people that see good things in the changes. This, this, this and this are my previous posts on the subject, in chronological order.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost admitted yesterday that he just does not like church, but then quotes Eugene Peterson as to why it is necessary. I tend to agree with Joe on this one, with the possible exception that I actually am smarter than...oh never mind, it was a vain attempt at humor. (HT: Allthings2all) I have been known to call Christian institutions "a necessary evil." Church always has been and always will be a mixed blessing. Martin Luther once said, "The church is a whore, but she is my mother."

Where I have difficulty is when the church becomes an idol. This is such an easy line to cross. We concentrate on building the church, so we pay more attention to it than to God. For immature Christians in particular, it is so easy to confuse the institution with God. Back in my Young Life days some of us had a joke 'testimony' -- "I was a sex-addicted, drug addled wastrel until I accepted YOUNG LIFE into my heart...." As I have matured, that is not much of a joke anymore.

Movements, by the very fact that they are labelled movements, scare me in this regard. People become involved in the movement, instead of in the reason the movement was founded. For example, as Blogs For Terri mentioned today, the Philadephia Inquirer did a piece over the weekend on the Terri Schiavo reaction. I was interviewed for the piece, but did not make the article. The reporter was looking for people that thought Terri a 'symbol.' I told her I did not think there was anything symbolic about it -- this was just a woman whose husband was attempting to starve her to death. The reporter was more interested in the 'movement' around Terri than in Terri. That's the kind of thing that scares me.

Thus, I have no problem when someone like the journey points out similarlites between the Emerging Church movement and the 'Jesus' people of the late 60's, stating that they think good things are happening in the EC movement -- no doubt. But when they lament the death of the Jesus poeple movement, and hope the EC movement does not do the same, I have a problem. Movements need to die. We need to harvest the best from them and let them die, before they become a thing unto themselves.

Old friend Transforming Sermons points to a post from Dignan's 75 Year plan on the EC movement and concludes that maybe on some level politics is a matter for the pulpit. This is all part of the 'relevancy' that the EC group seeks so carefully. Of course, Chirst is relevant -- He has to be. There is nothing wrong with preaching to your audience -- it's what you preach about that can be the problem. How we present the message can and should change, but the message itself can never.

I love this post from Rebecca Writes. She admonsihes us to "Know Our Dead Guys"

There are a couple of things that are vitally important in all of this. Firstly, we can not and should not ever discard the old simply because it is old. And be very, very careful when you rephrase it in modern language that you do not destroy its meaning. Secondly, we cannot let our desire for success, or our passion for a movement, override our desire and passion for the Source, the Creator, the Alpha and Omega.

A 'dead guy' had some good thoughts -- Again from "Devotional Classics".
C.S. Lewis will be remembered as one of the most important Christian thinkers of the twentieth century. He was born in Ireland in 1900, and the major part of his adult years was spent as a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he taught medieval literature. It was in 1931 that he was “surprised by joy,� Lewis’s own description of his conversion to Christianity. A brilliant scholar and writer, Lewis used his talents to reach thousands through the printed and spoken word.

He and a group of friends (including J. R. R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings) gathered once a week to share their writings. During those years Lewis produced his famous work The Screwtape Letters. In the early 1940s he delivered talks on various Christian topics over British radio. His fame grew throughout Great Britain and spread to the United States. Out of those talks came the book Mere Christianity, a penetrating work on Christian apologetics. Countless Christians point to this book as an essential part of their faith journey. If sales are an indication of popularity, then C. S. Lewis—even thirty years after his death—is one of the most popular Christian thinkers of the twentieth century. In the following passage Lewis discusses the question, Is Christianity hard or easy?

The Reason the Church Exists

May I come back to what I said before? This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of dif¬ferent objects—education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic, and what not.

But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human be¬ings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden—that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.

In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other pur¬pose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.

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