Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Taking a break

I will be taking a brief break from blogging. My wife's Dad is in the end stage of cancer and hospice said that this is the time for family to gather. A servant of Christ is going home.

Update: We hadn't even gotten packed before we got another call. Bill is now with the Lord. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers.

A politically incorrect rant

Catez at Allthings2all has some thoughts on evangelical Christianity's own version of political correctness:

I have been thinking about the cognitive dissonance that occurs when matters of faith are manipulated to suit political ideology. It's a type of Christian political correctness that compromises faith because we do not want to critique the political ideology we subscribe to... I'm looking to hold my conscience right with the Image Maker. That's what matters most to me.

This is a valid point, and one that needs to be made a lot because we don't all understand it. But what struck me more about Catez's post was what led up to it: a months-long struggle with pressure to not say certain things so as not to be on the "wrong" side of a political issue.

I understand what she is saying because I see it too. Western, evangelical Christianity has become too closely connected to specific policies, positions and political parties. This is not to say that Christians shouldn't use their moral voice in the voting booth, but to an extent we've allowed the life-changing good news of Jesus to be traded for a mess of voter guides, sound bites and political positions. I also think that particular issues are placed on the front burner for us by political operatives who would be just as happy to use anti-Christian groups if it suited their purpose. Here in America, evangelicals have for the most part placed their hopes in the Republican Party. Well, now the Republicans hold the White House and Congress, and aside from a more aggressive foreign policy it's status quo all the way. Yet they still have the evangelical church chasing its tail over same-sex marriage or judicial appointments (even while announcing they will not investigate law-flouting activist judges). I don't know what is the worse insult to our collective intelligence: that they blame the Democrats for all of this or that we might actually buy it. Or perhaps we don't buy it but don't really care either, since the only option (since only two parties are allowed to be heard on the airwaves) is for the Democrats to win, which would mean a rapid spiral into full-blown socialism and summary scrapping of the Constitution, or what's left of it. We keep supporting the Republicans and fighting for what we're told are the imprtant issues of the day, somehow hoping that things will turn out differently this time. Didn't someone define insanity that way?

It's not just Karl Rove pulling the strings. Evangelicals have, to an extent, disregarded the biblical model of church leadership. The folks in the pews --and not a few pastors-- are marching to the drum beat of parachurch ministries and talking heads on Christian radio and TV. Where do these people get such authority? Who are they accountable to? Yet they carry a lot of weight and set the agenda. We oppose gay marriage because we hear about it every day and hear how the sky will fall if it happens. We don't give much thought to opposing divorce because the talking heads don't talk about it. Or maybe it's because the people who do that are within our ranks.

It's been said that rat poison is 95% good grain; it's the other 5% that is deadly. I don't want to call Christian radio rat poison; I don't regard it as a deliberate attempt to mislead us. I was a DJ on Christian radio for a few years, so I know that's not the case. But I do believe that along with the good music and beneficial teaching that there is some poison that accompanies it. A lot of that poison is demagoguery and invitations to put our trust in political leaders, in mortal men who cannot save (cf. Psalm 146:3). We hear unbiblical, demagogic teaching whenever we are told that a particular group of people are a dangerous enemy that we need to defeat (see Ephesians 6:12), whether they are the ACLU, gay activists, activist judges or anyone else. Sure, these folks are wrong. That's why they need God. But how will they come to know Him if His people are too busy arguing politics to talk about anything else? How are we going to show God's love to those whom we are told are the new barbarians kicking down the gates of Western Civilization?

I don't hardly listen to Christian radio these days, in part because I don't want to hear about homosexuality half a dozen times every day. (If this statement doesn't strike you as incredibly ironic, think about it for a minute.) I know what it's like to be the target of both subtle and outlandish attacks from ignorant Christians whose zeal for their pet cause far exceeds their biblical literacy, because I had the temerity to express disagreement with that cause. But it's a fair price to pay for keeping my eye on the prize rather than being led into the ditch by myopic, tunnel-visioned people who think that certitude is next to godliness. This life is too short to waste by letting ourselves be led around by those who have stopped thinking a long time ago, or who have become --to borrow Steve Taylor's phrase-- deaf from the din of their self-righteous battle.

Lay Christians and pastors, let's turn off the demagogues and return to the old paths of self-denial and humility. And let's not fear to speak the truth in love: all of it.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Apologetics that need an apology

Christianity Today:

[Christian Research Institute] said Alnor's repeated attacks have harmed the ministry and must be challenged. In a prepared statement, CRI told CT, "CRI is not opposed to fair and truthful comments or opinions with respect to matters of public debate and certainly honor[s] the constitutional right to express them. However, fabricating malicious falsehoods and then actively circulating them not only belies any profession of Christianity but is defamatory and libelous. Unchallenged, such unjustified accusations ruin reputations, damage ministries, and cast aspersions on the cause of Christ."

On why CRI is taking a fellow believer to court, Hanegraaff told CT that Christians should never do so in an arbitrary fashion, but, "At some point, you have to say, 'Enough is enough.' Truth and justice do matter."

Hanegraaff added, "If you don't respond, people think there may be something to it."

One guy's opinion: It does greater discredit to CRI that they would disregard what the Bible says when they think they have a good reason to do so than the false accusation of a blogger.

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

The latter part of the passage is a well-known one on behaviors that are inconsistent with being a new creation in Christ. It is preceded by --and seemingly prompted by-- the practice of Christians suing other Christians.

One would be forgiven for wondering: If CRI isn't above explaining away a clear passage when they are affected financially, what is to keep them from doing so in their apologetic work? Alnor's accusation was bait, and CRI bit hard.

For the record, I gave up getting CRI's newsletter around a decade ago, as I thought that their monthly pleas for funds were over the top then. I'm surprised they don't seem to realize that our actions are an apologetic also.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Popular not just with the faithful


Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the Pope's image as a German "panzerkardinal" was unfair. "He is human and he will convince you," he said. "He is both a man of science and of faith. He possesses a great sense of humanity, he loves nature and music."

The same churchman said that Cardinal Ratzinger was a cat lover. "Every time he met a cat, he would talk to it, sometimes for a long time," said Cardinal Bertone. "The cat would follow him. Once about 10 cats followed him into the Vatican and one of the Swiss Guards intervened, saying 'Look, your eminence, the cats are invading the Holy See'."

Having cats around the Vatican would be cool, but I can see where one hopping up on the altar of St. Peter's during a televised Mass would be ...er... a little disconcerting. Even so, I'm sure Jesus is a cat lover too.

More censorship & disinformation on origins


[Eugenie] Scott – executive director of the Oakland, Calif.-based National Center for Science Education – wrote that Caldwell attempted to get the district to adopt materials advocating Biblical creationism, including a young-earth creationist book, "Refuting Evolution," by Jonathan Safarti; and the Jehovah's Witness book "Life: How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or Creation?"'

But Caldwell told WorldNetDaily he has never even heard of the books she cites.

He sent a letter to Scott and to the California Academy of Sciences, outlining the alleged errors and demanding a retraction and equal space in the magazine to present his side.

Caldwell asked for a response by 5 p.m. yesterday but has heard nothing from Scott or the academy.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with this.
Caldwell says matters are made worse when the mainstream media routinely publishes "what Scott and the NCSE tell them to print about the evolution debates around the country. She is the source of much of the misinformation about the evolution debate in American media. The misstements in this article prove that legacy media's primary source of 'facts' is a liar."

Double ouch. I don't know which will hurt worse: the "liar" bit or the "legacy media" bit.



ADF points out that in 2003, shortly after Prince v. Jacoby was decided, the ACLU sent an information letter to school officials in Washington state explaining the case "makes it clear that student clubs promoting tolerance for gay students are entitled to the same resources as other clubs."

But now, the ACLU has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Truth case that takes the opposite position.

The ACLU now wants to strike down the Prince case if it will be used to allow a Bible club on campus, the ADF's Tim Chandler told WorldNetDaily.

The Anti-Christian Litigation Union's commitment to the law is conditional? I'm shocked. Shocked. But the question is, will they still claim legal precedent for the gay groups?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More mileage from jokes

It turns out that Joe Carter of the Evangelical Outpost has real talent as a humorist: sort of a cross between Dave Barry and Red Green.

Being too lazy to blog about anything new (or possibly busy reading his symposium entries), Joe has recycled some tidbits from a humor column that he used to write, and it's great stuff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Meeting the President

Corrie at A Simple Desultory Dangling Conversation relates his meeting with President Bush. It ran on a wing and a prayer. And a couple of Sharpies.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Back to the future in the East and West

Wretchard at the Belmont Club thinks that China's development of a blue-water navy suggests similar machinations to that ot Imperial Japan 60 years ago: protect the sea lanes used to import its oil while extending regional hegemony. Meanwhile, PubliusPundit (hat tip: InstaPundit) thinks that the Chinese Communist regime's consideration of foreign adventures is a desperate measure from a dying regime.

Speaking of regimes past their prime, Wretchard also suggests that the European Union was, from a French perspective, an attempt at Gerrymandering: losing their majority status in France to North African immigrants, ethnic French see a united Europe as a way to remain in the majority. Yet the penchant in some parts of the EU for free markets clashes with France's socialist ways, tilting France toward saying non to the EU constitution, dealing a grave blow to European integration. The Danes are rethinking some things too (another H/T to InstaPundit).

About six weeks ago I suggested that Europe would likely turn back from its march toward a bland, secular superstate cowering in fear of militant Islam.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Really reaching

New York Times:

Democrats, for their part, are already stepping up their efforts to link Dr. Frist and the [nuclear option] with conservatives [sic] statements about unaccountable judges hostile to faith.

Hey, if the shoe fits. The question is whether the Republicans will chicken out again and let the Democrats continue to stack the judicial deck with activists and secularists. Chuckie Shumer weighs in:

"The last thing we need is inflammatory rhetoric which on its face encourages violence against judges," he wrote.

Very lame, Chuckie. Opposition to judicial activism constitutes incitement to violence? Have you been reading the NY Times Op-Ed section?

Is this a new meme now: "If you disagree with us you're violent and must be stopped"?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

School choice

In San Bernardino, a high school student was suspended for wearing makeup to express his Wiccan beliefs. In justifying the suspension, a school official provided an insight into what some people mean by "choice":

"We bend over backwards to provide our students better educational choices. I think this student needed to make a better choice."

Got that? You have choice. It's just that if you make a choice we disapprove of, we will punish you until you make a different choice.

The end of skepticism: the AAAS

It has been my belief that certain, specific scientific journals and organizations have been flying under false colors. Scientific American, the Smithsonian, the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (not to mention popular science magazines and TV shows) have been using science as a stalking horse for philosophical materialism. Now, the AAAS has published an editorial that appears to let the cat out of the bag as to how they perceive their role.

The Blinne Blog links to an article in the AAAS's journal, Science, complaining of a religious assault on the Enlightenment value of reason. Since membership is required, I will quote from the Blinne Blog:

For much of their existence over the past two centuries, Europe and the United States have been societies of questioners: nations in which skepticism has been accepted and even welcomed, and where the culture has been characterized by confidence in science and in rational methods of thought. We owe this tradition in part to the birth of the Scottish Enlightenment of the early 18th century, when the practice of executing religious heretics ended, to be gradually replaced by a developing conviction that substituted faith in experiment for reliance on inherited dogma.

That new tradition, prominently represented by the Scottish philosopher David Hume, supplied important roots for the growth of modernity, and it has served U.S. society well, as it has Europe's. The results of serious, careful experimentation and analysis became a standard for the entry of a discovery or theory into the common culture of citizens and the policies of their governments. Thus, scientific determinations of the age of Earth and the theories of gravity, biological evolution, and the conservation of matter and energy became meaningful scientific anchors of our common understanding.

There is a problem with this account. The scientific approach did not in fact come from Hume; otherwise how do we explain a Galileo or a Newton who lived 100-200 years earlier? Indeed, as Pearcey and Thaxton demonstrate in The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, the philosophical underpinnings of science were developed in the Middle Ages by Christians. Skeptical? Get the book!

Where does Hume come in then? Hume's contribution to Western thought is logical positivism, the idea that nothing should be believed until it can be proven. Positivism is a philosophical basis for atheistic materialism: the spirit world isn't seen so we shouldn't believe in it. In connecting science with Hume, the Science article suggests that the AAAS sees science as an essentially atheistic enterprise.

Of course, not all scientists are atheists; not by a long shot. But there is a vast difference between science and Scientific Truth for the Masses. Science is about a search for knowledge, not indignant certitude. Its approach to claims is one of skepticism, true; but the article seems to suggest that skepticism ought to be reserved for religion, the ostensible enemy and opposite of science, but not exercised toward the minority philosophical position of atheistic materialism (aka "science"). Science is descriptive, telling us provisionally how things are; not prescriptive, telling us what we ought to believe. Science is the opposite of dogma, because dogma is a definitive answer that may not be questioned, but when questions end so does learning. Yet, in Orwellian fashion, the Science article tells us that evangelical Christianity is a threat to skeptical science because it is skeptical of that which ought not be questioned.

Science operates on the principle of methodological materialism, which means that science can only study the physical universe. Popularly though, science is often misappropriated and misrepresented to promote philosophical materialism, the unverified belief that the physical world is all that exists. Skeptic, heal thyself!

Comfy religion


If Jesus were here, I think He would take a whip to the multimillion-dollar Christian publishing & entertainment industry (subsidiaries of Sony, NewsCorp, etc.) and proceed from there to a lot of our churches.

Joe at the Evangelical Outpost says Jesus Ain't My Homeboy:

"As a religious movement we [evangelicals] have almost completely abandoned the concept of a transcendent creator in favor of a God who is our “best friend.” ...The idea of Jesus is mainly our “friend” is deeply rooted in our particular religious culture. Our lack of reverence expresses itself in everything from our worship to our evangelism."

Spot-on. When a Catholic friend of mine said that evangelicals are relativistic, I thought she was way off; it's not like we don't believe in objective, propositional truth. Now, I think she was right to an extent. There are exceptions, but too much of evangelicalism is personal, subjective, experiential, and light on propositional truth. Commonly-held evangelical theology amounts to a handful of "essentials" that would fit easily on a 5x7" page of a church bulletin. Even then, it's probably fair to say that the average evangelical is much more knowledgeable about the latest Hollywood fare than about the biblical basis for what we could put on that 5x7" piece of paper.

It's been said that heresy arises in the church when one truth is emphasized to such an extent that other truths are denied. We've done a great job of emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus but we've forgotten that "the fear of the Lord" is a New Testament concept also; we've at least assumed to some extent that it's a legalistic heresy. Where does the idea of God as a possession or plaything arise among a people whose only ostensible authority is the Bible?

Monday, April 11, 2005

And now for something... completely different


The deals haven't been finalized yet, but it's looking as if Iran will begin promoting its tourism sites to Americans and Britons on cable networks in each country.

...Iran would provide the footage for the spots, which will feature "Iranian tourist sites," but "not. . . Friday prayers."

Can't imagine why. I'm sure there are many Americans whose idea of a fun vacation includes being surrounded by a mob chanting, "Death to the Great Satan! Allah Akhbar!"

Really, it would be a vacation experience like no other. Where else would you find jolly tour guides who are ayatollahs? Or get a fatwa with your driving directions? There won't be any loud drunks at the next table while you're trying to have a nice dinner. And if your wife spends too much at the casbah, bring her to the town square for a public flogging!

So it seems that the mullahs hate Americans... unless they come with tourist dollars. Maybe we can do a deal. Americans will visit Iran if the mullahs all pack up and move to Saudi Arabia.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Judeo-Christian morality in an ethically pluralistic society

The Evangelical Outpost is hosting a symposium on Judeo-Christian Morality in an Ethically Pluralistic Society.

At the outset, a couple of observations need to be made.

The first is that ethical pluralism is not the same as moral relativism. Pluralism is a pragmatic decision made by a society that its internal differences do not warrant political disunity or civil war. Pluralism means that more than one position will be tolerated despite disagreement on which if any position is right. In contrast, moral relativism asserts that on questions of morality there are no positions that are objectively and absolutely true; we each have our own code of morality shaped by our unique personal experience, and nobody’s is better than anyone else’s. This is an application of postmodern philosophy, which doubts that objective, absolute truth really exists. So while our society has made the pragmatic decision to tolerate differences of opinion on morality and ethics, it does not follow that none of the competing positions on a given issue are objectively and absolutely right. Historic, orthodox Christianity makes truth claims –including statements on morality-- which Christians hold to be objectively and propositionally true regardless of who believes or disbelieves them. (For more on this, see Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There.) Thus, Christians legitimately believe in certain moral absolutes while recognizing that the society we live in might not hold them as the consensus view.

The second observation is that, while an ethically pluralistic society does attempt to respect differing moral viewpoints that are held by individuals, the formation of laws and public policies shows that this pluralism is limited in scope. Laws and policies define what is and is not acceptable behavior and thus cannot possibly be separated from any and all moral viewpoints. Someone’s ethical viewpoint will become imposed on everyone and actions based on opposing viewpoints will not be tolerated. For example, we might ask whether it is right to take money from one person and give it to another (i.e. using tax revenues for welfare programs). People disagree on whether such a thing is right or wrong under a given set of circumstances, but the law makes one of the competing viewpoints operative. People on the other side of the issue will be (to use a current buzzword) disenfranchised.

So how does a believer in historic, orthodox Christianity with its moral absolutes live in a society of limited ethical pluralism? Here are a few suggestions.

First, Christians should unequivocally and unconditionally support individual freedom of conscience and expression. The implementation of one view as public policy must not prevent individuals from personally holding and freely expressing other views. There is a pragmatic reason for this, because if laws may impose specific viewpoints or suppress specific ideas, then there is no objective limit; there is only the shifting sand of consensus as to what may be permitted. If we try to silence those we disagree with, then we may justly be silenced ourselves. Noam Chomsky said, “If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all”, a message that all too many on today’s left are ignoring. Respect for individual freedom of conscience and expression also follows from the historic Christian view of human beings as uniquely created in the image of God and therefore possessed of inherent dignity (see James 3:8-10).

If freedom of conscience and expression applies to everyone, then it applies to Christians also. This seemingly obvious point takes on increasing relevance as the political left is more and more seeking to suppress dissent, using a range of “hard” and “soft” methods. Soft methods include use of name-calling and shame. For example, if you’re against affirmative action, it couldn’t possibly be because you hold certain moral or economic viewpoints that are at odds with such a policy; you must be a racist, even if you don’t know it. Now, many people don’t want to be thought of as racist, so it’s easier to just remain silent on the question than to voice opposition. People on the left also object to opposing moral views being given the weight of law as the imposition of some people’s morality upon all, but this is a false framing of the issue as discussed above. “Hard” methods of suppressing dissent are imposed most often upon the next generation, in college campuses. These include things like campus speech codes, skewed choice of speaker invitations,intimidation or vandalism of college newspapers, intimidation or assault on members of politically incorrect groups and banning of such groups, as well as orthodoxy within the various disciplines. We have already seen the beginning of generalized “hard” suppression of dissent with the implementation of hate crime laws, in which additional penalties attach to a crime if it is believed to be motivated by a certain viewpoint. And as Christians have already found out in places like Sweden and Canada, expression of verboten ideas is itself a punishable offence regardless of whether any other crime was involved. Christians need to be fearless in speaking up, both voicing our perspectives and defending the right of ourselves and others to do so. Ask not for whom the FCC bell should toll; it tolls for thee!

Another thing that Christians need to be doing is what Francis Schaeffer called pre-evangelism. It is no use to make a rational defense of Christian truth claims to someone who rejects reason and doesn’t believe that any claims can be objectively, absolutely true. We need to promote and demonstrate the concept that objective, propositional truth exists and is knowable. Here are some specific ways that we can do this:

· Become acquainted with some of the basics of logic, and use them in communications. If Christians were in the general habit of doing this, so that people who rubbed elbows with us couldn’t help but be exposed to careful, logical thinking, it should rub off to an extent and so have an impact on public discourse and private thought. Jesus’ statement “I am the Truth” is better understood by people who have at least an intuitive grasp of what “truth” is, as opposed to falsehood or mere subjective opinion. Also, not everyone has embraced the intellectual suicide of postmodernism, and we owe it to such people to demonstrate that historic Christianity is consistent with evidence and reason. I recommend Geisler and Brooks’ Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking as an easy-to-follow introduction for lay people.

· Rather than countering other ethical conclusions with our own ethical conclusions, we should be in the habit of asking what the premises are that have led to each conclusion. Too many non-Christian moral conclusions are getting a free pass because their advocates depict as a troglodyte anyone who questions them. Since people who do this generally seem to have high opinions of their own intellects, we should be able to ask them to explain it slowly and carefully for us, from premises to conclusion, why the rectitude of their position is so painfully obvious. Let the premises be fully disclosed, and this in itself should win half the battles. If someone wants to be adamant about a position despite having only feelings that it is correct or preferable, this should at least be made evident to those trying to make their minds up, such as swing voters.

· Point out that postmodernism is not viable; it is inconsistent and contrary to human nature. In truth, postmodernism is a parlor game that people only play when the stakes are thought to be low. For example, someone who rejects belief in the historic Judeo-Christian God will find it much easier to advocate and practice moral relativism than someone who believes in a future Judgment Day. On the other hand, most people avoid the application of postmodern denial of objective truth in areas where their own well-being is more evidently at stake: for example, medicine, engineering, economics and civil rights protections. Few people are prepared to take a “your truth is true for you, my truth is true for me” line when they can see it affects them personally. After all, what if my morality says it’s OK for me to slash your tires… or your throat? You say that’s going too far because now I’m forcing my morality on you? What if my morality says it’s OK to do that? But seriously, it is my view that moral relativism must be preceded by a rational, objective disbelief in the Judeo-Christian God as Lawgiver and Judge, even if such a decision is made unconsciously. Nobody can be a consistent postmodernist and survive long.

· We must live out the truth we say we believe in. To use a word that has fallen out of fashion, we must not be hypocrites. Otherwise, if there is a disconnect between how we act and what we say we believe in, we are actually denying absolutes while ostensibly advocating them. Rationalization is no substitute either; it is arrogant and arbitrary to explain away our failures to live up to the moral standards that we say God expects from us all.

· We need to consider and embrace the necessary conclusions of the truths we say we believe in. For example, if we say that every human being is created in the image of God and is therefore possessed of inherent dignity and worth, then we ought to act like it in how we treat each one (1 Peter 3:15). Far too often, we don’t. Leftists sometimes love people collectively and hate them individually. Christians have a better way, but it must be demonstrated and not just talked about. It would be better, in the cause of truth, to admit our failures and ask forgiveness than pretend we have done nothing wrong.

· We should stop supporting all churches, ministries and parachurch organizations that don’t embrace the last two points. There are prominent ones that treat those with opposing viewpoints with disrespect or as enemies to be defeated; or which defame the truth and insult the intelligence of their hearers with silly, illogical arguments; or who are shady in their financial dealings, among other things. Now, some ostensibly Christian entities are adept at painting the situation as so dire and the enemies so dangerous, that (implicitly anyway) their “fighting the good fight” in an unchristlike manner is somehow justified or excusable. It never is, although it is consistent with postmodernism to think it might be.

· To the extent that we seek to have our moral positions implemented as public policy, the greatest care should be taken to examine the effects of such policy and whether such effects uphold the value and dignity of every individual, even those who disagree. A truly Christian society cannot be implemented by the coercive power of the state, for at least a couple of reasons. As Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson point out in Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America? politics operates on the basis of compromise but Christian truth cannot be compromised; as a logical necessity Christian witness must always be at least partly separate from government. And as Roger Williams pointed out, “the sword may make a nation of hypocrites” but true, biblical regeneration is beyond the power of the state to effect, and moralism without that results only in false appearances. It is heresy to confuse adherence to a moral code with the Gospel of Christ.

There will always be ethical pluralism to a degree, but biblical morality will be embraced by the larger society only to the extent that the Gospel is communicated with clarity, we demonstrate in our day-to-day lives that the historic Judeo-Christian tradition offers real, relevant, viable solutions to the problems that confront us individually and collectively, and people embrace it. Truth must be lived as well as spoken. And if we maintain our hope while confessing our faults, it might just suggest to people the biblical truth that we are ultimately saved by God’s grace and not by our adherence to a moral code.

Update: 4/13 While I advocate that we not be hypocrites, Ron Sider says that in fact we are:

"The heart of the matter is the scandalous failure to live what we preach. The tragedy is that poll after poll by Gallup and Barna show that evangelicals live just like the world. Contrast that with what the New Testament says about what happens when people come to living faith in Christ. There's supposed to be radical transformation in the power of the Holy Spirit. The disconnect between our biblical beliefs and our practice is just, I think, heart-rending. ...we have to face the fact that we're not any different from the world. And that's just incredible hypocrisy and it undercuts our message to the larger society in a terrible way."

More involuntary euthanasia


But while the doctors ponder her condition, it is not certain if Magouirk has had a nasal feeding tube inserted for nourishment or an IV for hydration. According to Magouirk’s nephew, Ken Mullinax, 45, his aunt has been without substantial food or hydration for 10 days.

As WND reported, Magouirk was neither terminally ill, comatose, nor in a persistent vegetative state, when Hospice-LaGrange, in LaGrange, Ga., accepted her as a patient upon the request of her granddaughter, Elizabeth ("Beth") Gaddy, 36, of Hoganville, Ga. Also upon Gaddy's request, the Hospice began withholding food and water from the patient.

Nope. No slippery slope here.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Navel-gazing or metablogging?

Joe Carter and Josh Claybourn agree that blogging about blogging is "incestuous and self-serving". Well, it could be depending on one's motivation, but I don't think it is necessarily.

For one thing, the blogosphere is about bloggers being connected to other bloggers rather than millions of bloggers doing their own thing in isolation. Even the "long tail" is connected to the main body rather than being an amputated appendage. Who links to whom is a deliberate choice, presumably with some thought going into that choice. So bloggers thinking about what other bloggers are doing and saying is unavoidable. This can either take a reactionary form or an analytical form. There's certainly no harm in giving thought to what we're doing individually and collectively.

Also, I think there is biblical precedent for giving thought to communication within the church and with the rest of the world. When we consider examples like Paul's address to pagan Greeks on Mars Hill, his defense before the Sanhedrin, or Peter's letters to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad", it is evident that these apostles were not just saying clever or profound things but were giving thought to how their message is received by a particular audience: they considered how they were coming across. More than that, they received and responded to feedback from their audiences. No, they didn't lose sleep over how many people did or didn't accept their messages because that decision is made by each individual. But they did place a premium on seeing that Christians lived and communicated the Gospel where non-Christians could see and hear it. There is no New Testament precedent for a separatist, isolationist church, invisible to the world. Not that Joe or Josh are saying we should be. But whether we blog or do other things, we should do it mindfully, even when we're just playing.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Two more popes?

OK, this is weird. According to NewsMax, a 10th Century Irish bishop made predictions on all future popes, and two remain.

Historians say Malachy's prediction – wherein he listed just 112 popes – has been amazingly accurate.

According to his list, there are just two more popes after the late John Paul II.

...The 111th prophecy is "Gloria Olivae" (The Glory of the Olive). The meaning of the olive is unclear. The Order of Saint Benedict – not St. Malachy – has claimed that this pope will come from its ranks and Saint Benedict himself prophesied that before the end of the world his Order, known also as the Olivetans, will triumphantly lead the Catholic Church in its final fight against evil.

Now the prophecies don't seem to be so uncanny as to be inexplicable; they appear to have a sort of Nostradamus-like ability to find fulfillment in a number of ordinary ways, but it does beat the odds that JP2 was both born and buried during lunar eclipses.

The next pope, so the prediction goes, will be "the glory of the olive". NewsMax speculates about a Dominican, aka Olivetan. Is it coincidence that the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25 has to do with end-time propecies?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Secular fundamentalists show their class

Wisconsin State Journal:

A Madison secular organization is protesting Gov. Jim Doyle's order to fly flags at half-staff at public buildings all week to remember Pope John Paul II.

The gesture "appears like an endorsement of Roman Catholicism over other religious viewpoints," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

It doesn't matter that the pope was the leader of 1/6 of the world's population, and of a good number of the citizens of his state, I guess. Typical of fundamentalists to be so provincial in outlook.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I want a new drug

JibJab links to this great video that makes fun of the mass-marketing of drugs by pharmaceutical companies. What's the chances we'll see this on Fox News during prime time?

The next pope

Irish Bookmakers Take Bets on Next Pope. Leave it to the Irish. (Fair disclosure: I am half Irish and descended from Brian Boru.)

OK, I'll take a stab at this, and will be sure to end up with egg on my face. My bet is the Nigerian, Francis Arinze. The money quote from AP:

"Arinze, 72, converted to Roman Catholicism as a child and shares some of John Paul's conservative views on contraception and family issues. But he brings a unique element: representing a nation shared between Muslims and Christians at the time when interfaith relations assumes growing urgency."

First, he's a convert. I think this will play well as the Catholic Church is renewing attention on winning converts and reuniting Christians. The conservative aspect should be a plus also. Sure, the talking heads on TV keep saying the cardinals like to alternate things, so they will likely choose a moderate successor. But these cardinals were appointed by JP2, and I don't think he would have chosen the theologically wishy-washy for such promotions. Also, not just interfaith relations is taking on a growing urgency, but an in-depth understanding of Islam is also. After a five-century haitus from conquest since being halted at southeastern Europe, some in the world of Islam think the time has come to resume advancing their faith at the point of a sword. 9-11 showed us that an ancient threat to Western civilization is reappearing, and it must be understood to be dealt with. In fact, as Wretchard points out, the appointment of a black pope would harken back to the days when North Africa was Christian, again emphasizing the universal nature of the Catholic Church and expressing a desire to win back that which was lost. Finally, at 72 the Nigerian should fill the need some see for a "caretaker" pope, i.e. someone who will not occupy the Chair of Peter for another quarter century, but serve for a briefer period.

John Paul II took Catholicism out of the Vatican and brought it to the world. I don't expect that the cardinals will elect someone who will let that effort go to waste. Catholicism in Western Europe and North America is threatened by apathy and theological revisionism. The Third World is the future. My money is on Arinze.

Update: Tom Oden has similar thoughts on the issues confronting the next pope, and thoughts on Catholic-evangelical relations.

Update 2: 4/6 NewsMax is also thinking along similar lines:

"Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria has been based at the Vatican for decades, but spent his youth amid the country's mix of Christian and Muslims. The Vatican is also alarmed about inter-religious clashes in Nigeria that have claimed thousands of lives since the late 1990s. But Arinze would require a history-shaping act by the generally conservative College of Cardinals: naming the first African pope in modern times."

I don't think race is as big a deal to most as it is to Americans though.

Update 2: 4/6 Part Deux: Jeff the Baptist has his own trenchant take: "Hopefully he won't be followed up by some stupid Italian."

Saturday, April 02, 2005

John Paul II

Athlete, playwright, poet, author, philosopher, theologian. The head of the Catholic Church was a true Renaissance man, even if he had no use for secularism. He was a study in contrasts: at once cosmopolitan and conservative, approachable yet uncompromising, unhesitating to wield power yet concerned for the powerless, a true intellectual who encouraged faith in God.

I am an evangelical, but I feel a sense of loss as Karol Wojtyla passes into eternity. This man was a vocal Christian on the world stage for a quarter century. No Delphic oracle cloistered within the Vatican, he sought out the people of the world and seemed to genuinely enjoy their company. He sought rapprochement with Protestants, and showed respect to followers of non-Christian religions, even though he sometimes did so in ways that left me scratching my head. At a time when forces within his church --as within other churches-- sought to move its doctrines away from historic orthodoxy and more into line with conventional wisdom, this pope kept the forces of apostasy at bay. At a time when the Catholic Church's credibility might otherwise have tanked in some countries over the priest abuse scandals, people knew that the Roman bishop was a man of integrity and virtue. Several years ago he introduced the paradigm just now catching on in the rest of the Christian world: the culture of life versus the culture of death. As the secular media repeatedly points out, John Paul II was part of a handful of leaders whose courage, conviction and clarity brought down Communism, ending the Cold War without a shot. Perhaps most importantly, John Paul II consistently confronted people with the idea that truth exists outside of themselves and that they ought to conform their lives to it, and so resisted the intellectual and spiritual suicide known as postmodernism and moral relativism.

There are already those who are beginning to call him John Paul the Great, placing him in a league occupied by only two other popes. In Christian history and world history, his greatness will still be remembered long after his critics are forgotten. In an age of cynicism, he was real. While others sought cover in plausible deniability, he stood tall. Here was a hero.

Still active on his deathbed, he wrote a note to his aides:

"I am happy, and you should be as well. Let us pray together with joy."

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Clever new leftist debate strategy


Commentator and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan cut short an appearance after an opponent of his conservative views doused him with salad dressing.

"Stop the bigotry!" the demonstrator shouted as he hurled the liquid Thursday night during the program at Western Michigan University. The incident came just two days after another noted conservative, William Kristol, was struck by a pie during an appearance at a college in Indiana.

I swear, this stuff writes itself. About the only thing they haven't tried yet is to stick their fingers in their ears and yell, "Nyah nyah, I can't hear you!" But remember: leftists are our intellectual betters. Remember it even if you're hit in the kisser with coconut creme.