Wednesday, May 31, 2006
"Undermining Tolerance of Egalitarianism"
Over on the Together for the Gospel blog, Mark Dever has just posted "Undermining Tolerance of Egalitarianism." In this entry, he writes about the importance of the complementarian/egalitarian debate. Here is his conclusion:

Dear reader, you may not agree with me on this. And I don't desire to be right in my fears. But it seems to me and others (many who are younger than myself) that this issue of egalitarianism and complementarianism is increasingly acting as the watershed distinguishing those who will accommodate Scripture to culture, and those who will attempt to shape culture by Scripture. You may disagree, but this is our honest concern before God. It is no lack of charity, nor honesty. It is no desire for power or tradition for tradition's sake. It is our sober conclusion from observing the last 50 years.

Paedobaptism is not novel (sadly). But, on the good side, evangelicals who have taught such a doctrine have continued to be otherwise faithful to Scripture for 5 centuries now. And many times their faithfulnesses have put those of us who may have a better doctrine of baptism to shame! Egalitarianism is novel. It's theological tendencies have not had such a long track record. And the track record they have had so far, is not encouraging.

Of course there are issues more central to the gospel than gender issues. However, there may be no way the authority of Scripture is being undermined more quickly or more thoroughly in our day than through the hermeneutics of egalitarian readings of the Bible. And when the authority of Scripture is undermined, the gospel will not long be acknowledged. Therefore, love for God, the gospel, and future generations, demands the careful presentation and pressing of the complementarian position.
 
posted at 12:45 PM  
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Conversations with the Emergent Church
I know that in internet time, this piece is ancient, but I just ran across an interesting discussion between Sean McDowell and Tony Jones: "Conversations with the Emergent Church" (warning: the web site has a horrible layout and you have to scroll through a lot of stuff to actually read the article). Anyway, Jones and McDowell have an interesting dialogue on the Great Commission. I suggest checking it out.
 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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"Literal Belief in Bible Down 10 Points in 30 Years"
Today, the Religion News Service released a new report: "Literal Belief in Bible Down 10 Points in 30 Years." Here is how this article begins:

A little more [than] one quarter of Americans believe the Bible is the literal word of God, down 10 percentage points since 1976.

According to a recent survey by the Gallup Poll, 28 percent of Americans believe the Bible is literally true, compared to 38 percent 30 years ago.

The survey was conducted among 1,002 adults, aged 18 or older.

Nearly half, 49 percent, said the Bible was the "inspired word of God," while 19 percent called it an "ancient book of fables." Only 3 percent had no opinion.

Eddie Gibbs, professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., said the "responses are cultural rather than reflecting of a deeper personal belief; the Bible has lost its position of cultural prominence."
 
posted at 10:15 AM  
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"Weird Al" Fans and Free Time
What do "Weird Al" fans do with their free time? Waste it on their favorite obsession, of course!

Here are two examples. They are both homemade flash videos of "Weird Al" originals (and before you ask, no, I did not make them!):

 
posted at 8:30 AM  
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Tuesday, May 30, 2006
"A Key Error in the New Perspective on Paul"
Today, From the Front Lines blog (the blog of the Apologetics Resource Center) posted a helpful and brief critique on the New Perspective on Paul as well as those who follow the "Federal Vision." It is by Brandon Robbins: "A Key Error in the New Perspective on Paul." Here is his conclusion:

At the end of the day we have an error in interpreting the concept of covenant. What NPP, Federal Vision, Theonomist and others of the same ilk fail to appreciate and consider is the other kind of covenantal structure we find in scripture. And they attempt to force a conditional structure upon the whole biblical narrative. Paul tells us of the limited nature of the law of Moses: “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Gal. 3:23-25). The law as a guardian was to lead us to knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20) and also guide us back to the earlier promise given to Abraham (Gal. 3; Rom. 4). It can be said that by their obedience Israel could have remained in the land and received blessing, but not eternal salvation. Our security in our own personal salvation rests not in our continuing obedience (salvation has never been obtain in that way), but the obedience of our Savior. Christ walked in the midst of the pieces on behalf of those who put their faith and trust in Him. Christ fulfilled the eternal promises given to Abraham and put no condition on them! “It is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God” (Eph. 2:8).

The author of Hebrews sums it up well: “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (Heb. 8:6).
 
posted at 1:30 PM  
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Is Church Discipline Legal?
In his ministry, Jesus laid out how we should hold fellow believers accountable. Matthew 18:15-20 provides us with the process of church discipline. But is it legal in our country?

The Dallas Morning News reported on one case that is now before the courts: "Pair fighting to keep sins private." Here is how the article begins:

Does a church have the right to publicly reveal a person's private sins? A Dallas court is being asked to decide whether Watermark Community Church can do exactly that to a man and a woman identified in court records as "John Doe" and "Jane Roe."

Their attorney says that the pair thought they had revealed their sins to Watermark's pastor confidentially and that their behavior should not be made public.

Church officials say they are only following a process of church discipline outlined in the Gospel of Matthew and written into the church's bylaws.

"Basically, we're being sued because we're seeking to love 'John Doe' in accordance with the principles outlined by God's word," said the pastor, the Rev. Todd Wagner.

ABC News also briefly reported on this case: "Is Public Shaming by the Church Legal?"

With the growing media interest, the church has now released its comments on the case.
 
posted at 8:00 AM  
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Saturday, May 27, 2006
Weekender -- C.H. Spurgeon, "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle" (Part 3)

I have found the blogosphere to be somewhat slow around the weekend, so I have decided to post some kind of edifying work from the past on Saturdays.

This post continues a series from C.H. Spurgeon (1834-92, Baptist Preacher): "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle." In this message, Spurgeon gives a wonderfully insightful overview of his ministry. In what follows, Spurgeon gives us much to think about in our own day as well. Here is the series so far: Part One, Part Two.

Our ministry will scarcely be complete unless we preach Christ as the only lawgiver and Rabbi of the Church. When you put it down as a canon of your faith that the church has right and power to decree rites and ceremonies, you have robbed Christ at once of his proper position as the only teacher of the church. Or when you claim the office of controlling other men's consciences by the decree of the church, or the vote of a synod, apart from the authority of Christ, you have taken away from Christ that chair which he occupies in the Christian church, as the teacher in the great Christian school, as the Rabbi, and the only Rabbi, of our faith. God forbid that we should hold a single truth except on his authority. Let not our faith stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. You refer me to the writings of Doctor this and Doctor the other: what are these? The words of Christ, these are truth, and these are wisdom. You bring me authority from the practice of a church three or four centuries removed from the crucifixion as the proof of the existence of a certain ceremony and the righteousness of certain ecclesiastical offices. What is your proof worth? If Christ hath not specially ordained it, and if he hath not commanded his people to obey it, of what value is any rite whatever? We acknowledge Christ as ordaining all things for his church, and presenting that church with a finished code of laws, from which any deviation is a sin, and to which any addition is a high crime. Any church officer who is not ordained of Christ occupies an office which he ought to resign. Any person who practices a ceremony for which he has not scriptural authority should renounce it; and any man who preaches a doctrine for which he has not Christ as his certifier, should not demand for it the faith of men.

But I fear there are times coming when the minister will not be true to his duty unless he goes further, and preaches Christ as the sole King of the Church. There has been a disposition on the part of the state, especially with regard to the Free Church of Scotland, to exercise power and judgement over church decrees. No king, no queen that ever lived, or can live, has any authority whatever over the church of Christ. The church has none to govern and rule over her but her Lord and her King. The church can suffer, but she cannot yield; you may break her confessors alive upon the wheel, but she, in her uprightness, will neither bend nor bow. From the sentence of our church there is no appeal whatever on earth. To the court of heaven a man may appeal if the sentence of the church be wrong, but to Caesar never. Neither the best nor the worst of kings or queens may ever dare to put their finger upon the prerogative of Christ as the head of the church. Up, church of God! If once there be any laws of man passed to govern thee, up, dash them in pieces! Let us each catch up the war cry, and uplift the lion standard of the tribe of Judah; let us challenge the kings of the earth and say, "Who shall rouse him up?" The church is queen above all queens, and Christ her only King. None have jurisdiction or power in the church of Christ save Jesus Christ himself. If any of our acts violate the civil laws, we are men and citizens, and we acknowledge the right of a state to govern us as individuals. None of us wish to be less subjects of the realm because we are kings and priests unto God. But as members of Christian churches we maintain that the excommunication of a Christian church can never be reversed by the civil power, or by any state act, nor are its censures to be examined, much less to be removed, mitigated, or even judged. We must have, as Christ's church, a full recognition of his imperial rights, and the day will come when the state will not only tolerate us as a mere society, but admit that as we profess to be the church of Christ, we have a right by that very fact to be self-governing, and never to be interfered with in any sense whatever, so far as our ecclesiastical affairs are concerned.

Christ must be preached, then, and exalted in all these respects, or else we have not preached a full Christ; but I go one step further. We have not yet mounted to the full height of our ministry unless we learn to preach Christ as the King of kings. He has an absolute right to the entire dominion of this world. The Christian minister, as ordained of God to preach, has a perfect right in God's name to preach upon any subject touching the Lord's kingdom, and to rebuke and exhort even the greatest of men. Sometimes I have heard it said, when we have canvassed the acts of an emperor or senator, "These are politics;" but Christ is King of politics as well as theology. "Oh! but"—say they—"what have you to do with what the state does?" Why, just this: that Christ is the head of all states, and while the state has no authority over the church, yet Christ himself is King of kings, and Lord of lords. Oh, that the church would put her diadem upon her head, and take her right position! We are not slaves. The church of God is not a grovelling corporation bound for ever to sit upon a dunghill; never queen was so fair as she, and never robe so rich as the purple which she wears. Arise, O Church! arise, the earth is thine; claim it. Send out thy missionary, not as a petitioner to creep at the feet of princes, but as an ambassador for God to make peace between God and man. Send him out to claim the possession which belongs to thee, and which God has given to thee to be thine for ever and ever, by a right which kings may dispute, but which one day every one of them shall acknowledge.

The fact is, we must bring Christ himself back into camp once more. It is of little use having our true Jerusalem swords, and the shields, and the banners, and the trumpets, and the drums; we want the King himself in the midst of us. More and more of a personal Christ is the great lack of the time. I would not wish for less doctrine, less experience, or less practice, but more of all this put into Christ, and Christ preached as the sum and substance of it all.
 
posted at 9:00 AM  



Friday, May 26, 2006
Yes, We were Hit
Last night, a major storm ripped through our area and caused major damage. USA Today reported on it this morning: "Hail, strong winds slash across Indiana." While our county did not bear the brunt of the storm, we were not spared. A huge branch from one of our trees has fallen onto the roof of our house. We have begun working with our insurance agent and a contractor to get things restored.

In light of everything that has happened, I want to begin by thanking God for keeping my family safe. I was away at work, but my amazing wife kept our children calm and free from harm. I also want to thank Him for how well everything has gone since last night. Our insurance agent has gotten us in touch with the right people and our contractor is one of the nicest people I have met. Our house appears to remain structurally sound and I have been able to move most of the fallen limbs and branches out of our yard. To sum up, I see God working through our difficulties for His glory.

At the same time, we have a long way to go. Please pray for God to continue to be with us. We'd also appreciate prayer so that our expenses will not get out of hand. Finally, please join us in prayer for our area as well as Indiana as a whole as we recover from this storm.

Praise God for His grace and protection!
 
posted at 12:07 PM  
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Thursday, May 25, 2006
Are Short-Term Mission Trips Good or Bad?
Today's Christian Science Monitor includes an interesting article: "Rise of sunshine Samaritans: on a mission or holiday?" Here is how this report begins:

By the millions, Americans are jumping at the chance to become missionaries - with one key stipulation of the 21st century: They expect to get their comfortable lives back a few days later.

Evangelicals often build homes or visit orphanages, then explain the roots of their faith to new friends. Mainline Christians tend to focus on providing relief from poverty. This year, tens of thousands of short-term missionaries plan to storm the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast in visible witness to their savior's love for humankind.

They'll do so with the help of dozens of trip coordinators, promising such perks as adventure, fun, and vacations infused with meaning. High season for short-term missions begins this weekend.

As these missions flourish, however, the faithful are debating the wisdom of tailoring outreach programs to suit the needs and wants of missionaries in search of a peak, transformational experience.
 
posted at 10:00 AM  
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How Should We Do Scholarship?
Michael A.G. Haykin has an important new post on his blog: "Lord Acton's Principle for Historical Scholarship" (OK, so the title is not inspiring). I think it is good enough to quote in its entirety:

Lord Acton (1834-1902)—Sir John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton—was one of the great historians of the nineteenth century. He was the holder of the Regius Chair of Modern History at the University of Oxford. Amazingly, he was appointed to the Chair in 1895 without a single book to his name, but he had written some of the most remarkable scholarly articles of the day.

Among his principles was an insistence on the primacy of primary sources, which usually means archival sources, for sound historical scholarship. As he said:

“To renounce the pains and penalties of exhaustive research is to remain a victim to ill informed and designing writers, and to authorities that have worked for ages to build up the vast tradition of conventional mendacity. …By going from book to manuscript and from library to archive, we exchange doubt for certainty…”

Would that many wannabe historians and other historical pontificators would learn this vital principle! Even theologians would do well to heed this advice. All of those vacuous generalizations about church history and our culture with nary a shred of evidence! The ultimate result is vapidity. How easy it is to pontificate—but we want proof of assertions.

Amen!
 
posted at 9:45 AM  
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006
"Gladys Knight Meets Joseph Smith"
Russell Moore posted a brief commentary today on Mormonism: "Gladys Knight Meets Joseph Smith." Here is how he begins:

The Washington Post reports on what seemed to be a rocking revival meeting in the nation's capital, featuring music and testimony from R&B singer Gladys Knight. The gathering was unique in that it was sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints as part of a Mormon initiative to reach African-Americans.

At the event, Knight testified of her own conversion from Baptist to Latter Day Saint, a church that banned blacks from the priesthood until the 1970s.

To see the original Washington Post article, check out: "A Star Act Helps Unite The Faithful With Song."
 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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The Increasing "Social Cost" of Parenting?
The Opinion Journal (from the Wall Street Journal) has an interesting editorial today: "The Parent Trap." Here is how Glenn Harlan Reynolds begins:

Not long ago we worried about baby booms and overpopulation. Now some people are worrying about a "Global Baby Bust." Writing in Foreign Affairs, Phillip Longman says it's mostly because of economics:

. . . . [Removed extended quote]

He's clearly right about the economics. Children used to provide cheap labor and retirement security, all in one. Now they're pretty much all cost and no return, from a financial perspective. That suggests that subsidies might solve the problem. Vladimir Putin thinks so, as he plans to offer generous parental benefits to encourage citizens to have more children, something that's necessary as Russia's population is in absolute decline. Italy, which is also in demographic free-fall, is doing something similar.

Meanwhile, in the United States, commentator John Gibson is calling for "procreation, not recreation." But I think that attitude is part of the problem. As an old-timer once reportedly said in response to the "Make love, not war" slogan: "Hell, in my time we did both."

But Mr. Gibson's slogan unwittingly captures an important aspect of the problem, in the U.S. and other industrial societies, at least: We've taken a lot of the fun out of parenting. Or to echo Mr. Longman, the "social costs" of parenting continue to rise, and, more significantly, perhaps, the "social returns" continue to decline.

I recommend reading the rest of Reynold's piece to read some interesting examples and analysis of these "social costs."
 
posted at 8:00 AM  
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Mormonism in Mexico
Today's Deseret Morning News (a Mormon-owned newspaper) includes the brief article: "A visit with LDS leaders." It reminds me of the impact Mormonism has made in Latin and Central America (as well as the rest of the world!). Here is their report:

Mexican President Vicente Fox is to meet privately with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today in what a church spokesman said would be a courtesy visit.

The church's first missionaries arrived in Mexico in 1875. Ten years later a group of 400 Mormon colonists fleeing persecution for practicing plural marriage settled in the state of Chihuahua and were followed by others from Utah and Arizona who established other small colonies in the country.

Today, the LDS Church has more than 980,000 members and 12 temples in Mexico.
 
posted at 7:00 AM  
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Transcendental Meditation in the Bible Belt

Today's USA Today features a story about Transcendental Meditation coming to the Bible belt in Kansas: "Maharishi meets the Bible Belt." Here is how the article begins:

The land is flat, roads are straight and churches are plentiful in this town of 1,800 near the geographic center of the USA's lower 48 states.

So here in traditional Kansas, the recent purchase of land by representatives of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to build what they're calling a World Capital of Peace — just outside town — where meditators will send "waves of coherence" across the country — has many residents riled.

The group plans to spend at least $15 million to erect 12-15 buildings for a retreat, training center and residences.

"Some people call them a cult, and some little old ladies are locking their doors," says farmer Bryce Wiehl, 50. "You're in the Bible Belt, and this is a Hindu-based religion. People don't like that idea."

The maharishi's followers practice transcendental meditation, silently focusing on a mantra to achieve what they call a state of pure consciousness. They believe TM has the power to reduce stress and crime, help end poverty and create peace.

While I do not endorse what the local residents are trying to do to keep this "World Capital of Peace" out, I do believe it is helpful to become informed about this popular worldview. Here are a couple of goresourcesces to get you started:

 
posted at 2:30 PM  
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"Why Read the Puritans Today?"
Regardless of what you think about Mark Driscoll's use of language, his Resurgence site is quickly becoming a rich resource of free materials. Today, I see that several more articles were posted, including Donald Kistler's "Why Read the Puritans Today?" Since I have come to greatly appreciate the Puritans, I recommend checking out this article. Here is how it begins:

There are a couple of reasons, I believe, for the resurgence of interest in the Puritans and their writings. One is that people are getting tired of religion offering things it can’t deliver. All kinds of promises are being made, but people investigate religion out of self interest, and when these things don’t come true, they are disappointed. I think they are also tired of shallow, superficial religion. Most people don’t worship God, because the God most people hear about really isn’t worth worshipping. He is not the "High and Lofty One," He is not the "Lord God omnipotent who reigneth forever and ever." He is just "my friend," and familiarity surely breeds contempt!

The Puritans were men who were passionately obsessed with the knowledge of God. I have listed ten reasons why we should read the Puritans today, and every one is directly derived from the Puritan view of God and Scripture.
 
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Monday, May 22, 2006
I'm on LifeWay!
Last December, I wrote "What is 'Official' Mormon Doctrine?" for the A-Team blog (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). When I began this blog, I also posted it here (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Now, LifeWay has picked it up and posted it on their site as one article.

I am honored to have something considered by LifeWay, and thank them for including something I have written on their site.
 
posted at 3:00 PM  
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Landmarkism and the Southern Baptist Convention
Gene M. Bridges has begun a new blog to post his recently printed booklet: "A Southern Baptist History Primer." As he reported on the Triablogue blog:

Recently, I have published a booklet on the history of Landmarkism in the SBC in the lead-up to the Convention in June. There are only 1000 copies in print due to the printing being donated by an individual in a local church, and they are being distributed by other individuals throughout the SBC. Therefore, in order to make the full text available to as many as wish to read it, not just "the chosen few," whoever they may be (I honestly know of only a handful of those who have received it), I am posting the content on a separate URL.

For those interested, you can read it here:

http://historyoflandmarkismandthesbc.blogspot.com/

I am posting it a bit at the time and will endeavor to have it completed by sometime next week.
 
posted at 9:00 AM  
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Saturday, May 20, 2006
Weekender -- C.H. Spurgeon, "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle" (Part 2)

I have found the blogosphere to be somewhat slow around the weekend, so I have decided to post some kind of edifying work from the past on Saturdays.

This post continues a series from C.H. Spurgeon (1834-92, Baptist Preacher): "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle." In this message, Spurgeon gives a wonderfully insightful overview of his ministry. In what follows, Spurgeon gives us much to think about in our own day as well. Here is the series so far: Part One.


I. First, then, the SUBJECT.

They continued both to teach and preach Jesus Christ. To preach Jesus Christ aright we must preach him in his infinite and indisputable Godhead. We may be attacked by philosophers, who will either make him no God at all, or one constituted temporarily and, I must add, absurdly a God for a season. We shall have at once upon us those who view Christ as a prophet, as a great man, as an admirable exemplar; we shall be assailed on all sides by those who choose rather to draw their divinity from their own addled brains than from the simplicity of Holy Writ; but what mattereth this? We must reiterate again and again the absolute and proper deity of Christ; for without this we are in the position of those described by the prophet:—"Their tacklings are loosed, they could not well strengthen their mast" and soon will our enemies prevail against us, and the prey of a great spoil shall be taken. Take away the divinity of Christ from the gospel, and you have nothing whatever left upon which the anxious soul can rest. Remove the Word who was in the beginning with God, and who was God, and the Jachin and Boaz of the temple are overturned. Without a divine Saviour, your gospel is a rope of sand; a bubble; a something less substantial than a dream. If Christ were not God, he was the basest of impostors. He was either one of two things, very God of very God, or else an arch-deceiver of the souls of men, for he made many of them believe he was God, and brought upon himself the consequences of what they called blasphemy; so that if he were not God, he was the greatest deceiver that ever lived. But God he is; and here, in this house, we must and will adore him. With the multitude of his redeemed we will sing:

"Jesus is worthy to receive,
Honour and power divine,
And blessings more, than we can give
Be Lord for ever thine."

To preach Christ, however, we must also preach his true humanity. We must never make him to be less manlike because he was perfectly divine. I love that hymn of Hart which begins—

"A man there was—a real man,
Who once on Calvary died."

"Real man!" I think we do not often realize that manhood of Christ; we do not see that he was bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; feeling, thinking, acting, suffering, doing, just like ourselves—one of our fellows, and only above us because he is "exalted with the oil of gladness above his fellows." We must have a human Christ, and we must have one of real flesh and blood too; not of shadows or filmy fancies. We must have one to whom we can talk, one with whom we can walk, one

"Who in his measure feels afresh
What every member bears;"

who is so intimately connected with us in ties of blood, that he is as with us one, the head of the family, first-born among many brethren. I am never more glad than when I am preaching a personal Christ. A doctrinal Christ, a practical Christ, or an experimental Christ, as some good men make him to be according to the temper of their minds, I do not feel to be sufficient for the people of God. We want a personal Christ. This has been a power to the Romish church—a power which they have used for ill, but always a power; they have had a personal Christ, but then it has either been a baby Christ in his mother's arms, or else a dead Christ upon the cross. They never reached the force of a real full-grown Christ, one who not only lived and suffered, but who died and rose again, and sits at the right hand of God, the Head of the Church, the one ruler of men. Oh! we must bring out more and more clearly each day the real personality of the Redeemer in his complex person. Whatever we fail to preach, we must preach him. If we are wrong in many points, if we be but right here, this will save our ministry from the flames; but if we be wrong here, however orthodox we may pretend to be, we cannot be right in the rest unless we think rightly of him.

But, further, to preach Christ Jesus, it is absolutely necessary we should preach him as the only mediator between God and man. Admitting the efficacy of the intercession of living saints for sinners, never for a moment denying that every man is bound to make supplication for all ranks and conditions of men, yet must we have it that the only mediator in the heavens, and the only direct intercessor with God, is the man Christ Jesus. Nay, we must not be content with making him the only mediator; we must set aside all approach to God in any way whatever, except by him. We must not only have him for the priest, but we must have him for the altar, the victim, and the offerer too. We must learn in full the meaning of that precious text—"Christ is all." We must not see a part of the types here and a part there, but all gathered up in him, the one door of heaven, the one crimson way by which our souls approach to God. We must not allow that approaches can be made in human strength, by human learning, or by human effort; but in him and through him, and by him, and in dependence upon him, must all be done between God and man. We have no wings, my brethren, with which to fly to heaven; our journey thither must be on the rounds [rungs] of Jacob's ladder. We cannot approach God by anything we have, or know, or do. Christ crucified, and he alone, must lift us up to God.

And more, we must preach Christ in the solitariness of his redemption work. We must not permit for a moment the fair white linen of his righteousness to be stained by the patch-work of our filthy rags. We must not submit that the precious blood of his veins should be diluted by any offering of ours co-acting therewith, for our salvation. He hath, by one sacrifice, for ever put away sin. We shall never preach Christ unless we have a real atonement. There be certain people nowadays who are making the atonement, first a sort of compromise, and the next step is to make the atonement a display of what ought to have been, instead of the thing which should have been. Then, next, there are some who make it to be a mere picture, an exhibition, a shadow—a shadow, the substance of which they have not seen. And the day will come, and there are sundry traces of it here and there, in which in some churches the atonement shall be utterly denied, and yet men shall call themselves Christians, while they have broken themselves against the corner-stone of the entire system. I have no kith nor kin, nor friendship, nor Christian amity, with any man whatever who claims to be a Christian and yet denies the atonement. There is a limit to the charity of Christians, and there can be none whatever entertained to the man who is dishonest enough to occupy a Christian pulpit and to deny Christ. It is only in the Christian church that such a thing can be tolerated. I appeal to you. Was there ever known a Buddhist acknowledged in the temple of Buddha who denied the basis doctrine of the sect? Was there ever known a Mahomadan Imaum who was sanctioned in the mosque while he cried down the Prophet? It remains for Christian churches only to have in their midst men who can bear the name of Christian, who can even venture to be Christian teachers, while they slander the Deity of him who is the Christian's God, and speak lightly of the efficacy of his blood who is the Christian's atonement. May this deadly cancer be cut out root and branch; and whatever tearing of the flesh there may be, better cut it out with a jagged knife than suffer to exist because no lancet is to be found to do it daintily. We must have, then, Christ in the efficacy of his precious blood as the only Redeemer of the souls of men, and as the only mediator, who, without assistance of ours, has brought us to God and made reconciliation through his blood.
 
posted at 9:00 AM  



Friday, May 19, 2006
Why is Gene Edward Veith Leaving WORLD Magazine?!?
Yesterday, I blogged on Gene Edward Veith on Patrick Henry College Controversy. Today, Veith has posted a follow up post: "Why? Are You Out of Your Mind?" Here is how he begins:

Some of you are wondering why I am leaving working for WORLD full-time to go to Patrick Henry College. As evidenced in yesterday's post on the troubled situation there, it would seem that I am leaving an easy job for one that is very difficult, a pleasant situation for one that will be very challenging. After all, what do I do as WORLD's culture editor? I keep up with what is happening and write my opinions about it. I also get paid to go to the movies and watch TV. What a soft gig.

And now you are walking into what looks like a minefield, put into a situation where you have to right all kinds of wrongs, build up an academic program, disrupt your home and family, and doubtless get all kinds of grief. Are you out of your mind?
 
posted at 11:00 AM  
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Church Discipline and Congregationalism
I have appreciated many of Baptist Press' first person editorials lately. They have been willing to tackle controversial and difficult issues, and to do it well. Another example was posted yesterday: "Warnings on the road to discipline" by Douglas Baker. He shows the need for both church discipline and congregationalism. Here is how it begins:

As a growing topic of discussion among all evangelicals, church discipline has found renewed purpose in significant congregations across the nation. The advocates of church discipline are finding their voices heard in new ways by new publics. There is, of course, strong support for strengthening the moral fiber of the local church, and many believe church discipline is the biblical answer to what has become the sagging and insipid American church experience.

Congregations serious about church discipline maintain that membership matters so much that simply asking for it does not necessarily require that the church grant it. Gone are the days when simply joining a church meant walking the aisle during the invitation hymn, showing up at Christmas and/or Easter and contributing a bit of money during the year.

Hearty agreement across the spectrum of evangelicalism can be seen from divergent points of view. It matters not if the person holds to traditional Reformed theology or to flaming Pentecostalism -- all agree that the way people are received into a local congregation is but the start of a journey toward heightened personal transparency, total involvement in the life and ministry of the congregation, and an expectation that no area of life remains totally private any longer once a person joins a church. The very idea of personal anonymity is dissolved as individuals and families covenant together to live their lives together “congregationalized.”

This fast-growing practice has but one hitch, which is also attracting attention by advocates and opponents alike. In some congregations what is touted as church discipline actually is spiritual tyranny. The result is that membership accompanies a tacit agreement that honest dissent is frowned upon. With congregational autonomy as the baseline of the discussion, the requirement of total agreement with church leadership often results in fear by the members to raise questions out of intimidation.
 
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Thursday, May 18, 2006
Godcasting Sermons?
Today's Christian Science Monitor included an interesting article on a contemporary trend in church: "'Godcasting:' Love that new-time religion." Here is an excerpt:

Welcome to "godcasting," in which churches use video and iPod technology to create virtual sermons that range from amateur to Emmy-award quality. Then, the "godcasts" are delivered to adherents gathered anywhere - from a grocery store converted to an auditorium to a local movie theater.

"This is part of the new ecclesiastical world order where niche marketing ... is the name of the game, and the standard model where everybody gets dressed up and goes down to the ... church for 11 o'clock service is not the model anymore," says Mark Silk, director of the Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life in Hartford, Conn.

For some churches in the US, godcasting is a powerful, fairly inexpensive tool to draw in the under-30 crowd, who are comfortable with technology. But showing an image instead of presenting a real person can alienate some older churchgoers, experts say. The trend also raises questions about pastoral accountability, and whether this new model fits the biblical concept of a local church.

No kidding. This trend also misunderstands preaching as well. Preaching is more than just imparting information (or inspiration). A preacher is communicating God's Word to the congregation. This requires live contact; "there is a two-sidedness" to it. I pray that God will give us pastors that will not forsake their main responsibility--proclaiming the Word to the people of God.
 
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Gene Edward Veith on Patrick Henry College Controversy
I first discovered the Patrick Henry College (PHC) controversy from Denny Burk: "Faculty Shake-up at Patrick Henry College," and "Calvinism a Problem at Patrick Henry College." Needless to say, I was disturbed by what I read.

Well, there's good news! Gene Edward Veith, newly appointed Academic Dean at PHC, has given us an update on his Cranach blog: "Patrick Henry College Makes the News." Here is an excerpt:

Besides not getting the theological issues and their gleeful attempts to tear down the college, the stories in the media are missing the way the story ends: Both sides in the dispute are now gone. The faculty members voluntarily resigned before the issues could even be fully discussed or reconciliation attempted. (Though I am aware that issues remain for some of the other faculty.) But also—and this never happens—the Administration side of the dispute has stepped down!

The founder of the school, Michael Farris, whose Homeschool Legal Defense Association has done more than anyone to make homeschooling a legal option, is a lawyer. Attorneys practice the “adversarial” method of working through issues, which is not always appropriate in handling us thin-skinned academics. He has handed over complete executive authority to an experienced, accomplished, personable, and Godly administrator named Graham Walker. (To those who think Dr. Farris will still be pulling the strings, that is just not true. Dr. Walker will report directly to the Board, and Dr. Farris will take the office of Chancellor, raising money and representing the school, but having no administrative role in the running of the college.)
 
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Plagiarism
Last week, in New York Magazine, David Edelstein wrote "Where Have I Read That Before?" It begins with "Is everything we read now swiped from somewhere else?" and ends with "In this world of Google and Nexis, in which you can pick and choose among so many words written on a given subject, you can’t be sure that anything you read is original. Even this."

True enough. In a matter of fact, these sentences are about the only ones which Edelstein did not plagiarize himself. He has now explained himself in a follow-up: "A Stunt Explained." Here is his opening paragraph:

The response to my essay on plagiarism last week ("Where Have I Read That Before?") was swift, so here goes: Yes, it is plagiarized. Ninety- nine percent of it. The only original lines, in fact, are the first and the last two. After reading the endless stories about the Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarism case, I thought, Wow, at this rate, someone’s going to write a piece about plagiarism that’s going to turn out to be plagiarized. Then I thought, Why don’t I write that? The idea was just to put it out there to see how long it took for people to notice—and whether anyone thought it was a genuine piece of plagiarism. Michael David Smith wrote to Jim Romenesko 25 minutes after the media blogger linked to the article.

I love stunts like this! Nevertheless, may I never give in to the temptation of plagiarism.
 
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
"The Evolution of Dance"
Just in case you were wondering--no, this dancer is not me (just ask my wife!). But you should still check out this video on Google Video: "The Evolution of Dance."
 
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Polygamy Decision
The Salt Lake Tribune has reported on a case before the Utah Supreme Court seeking to decriminalize polygamy: "Court rejects polygamy defense." Here is how the article begins:

The Utah Supreme Court rejected a former Hildale police officer's bid to decriminalize polygamy Tuesday, in a historic split decision that wrestles with same-sex unions and the meaning of marriage.

Four of the court's five justices said Rodney Holm's relationship with a 16-year-old ''spiritual wife'' fell ''squarely within the realm of behavior criminalized by our state's bigamy statute.'' The majority added that constitutional protections for religion don't shield polygamists from prosecution.

But in a 37-page dissent, Chief Justice Christine M. Durham said she would have overturned Holm's bigamy conviction, finding the law doesn't apply to relationships that lack a marriage license.

Durham pointed to the increasing number of couples who live together outside the bonds of a traditional marriage, and noted they are not prosecuted.
 
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Down Side of Technology in Ministry
The Los Angeles Times has published an important report: "God's Call Comes by Cellphone" (free subscription required). If technology has a place in ministry (and I believe it does--if used critically), then this story definitely focuses on the down side. The following is an excerpt, but the whole article is worth reading:

Bored with your pastor's ramblings? Select a peppier sermon from among hundreds of "godcasts" online. Just pick a topic: Christian dating? Old Testament prophets? Then download it to your MP3 player.

Finding the old leather-bound Bible a bit cumbersome? A quick download from Olive Tree Bible Software and you'll be able to search Scripture on your BlackBerry."

At first blush, it may seem a little peculiar to connect with God on your cellphone," said Christopher Chisholm, a TV-executive-turned-digital-evangelist. He recently helped launch FaithMobile, a service that will send a daily Bible verse to your cellphone for $5.99 a month.

In this harried age, he asks, how else are you going to "get in touch with the Word?"

The explosion in digitized spirituality might seem likely to make the traditional sanctuary obsolete. But pastors are not giving in. They're fighting back with some high-tech tricks of their own, turning to the Internet to save souls, renew faith, inspire hope — and, not incidentally, to fill their pews.
 
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Monday, May 15, 2006
Christianity and Pop Culture
The latest edition of the Southern Seminary Magazine is available, and it is on a personal area of interest: "Christianity and Pop Culture" (in PDF format). Here are the main articles:

 
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"Is stopping persecution always the right answer?"
Over the weekend, Baptist Press posted a provocative article by Erich Bridges, "Is stopping persecution always the right answer?" This article is both helpful and challenging. Here is an excerpt:

As citizens of a nation founded on religious and political liberty, Americans often feel righteous anger when we hear about persecution. We want to ride to the rescue and disarm the persecutors -- or whisk the suffering believers away to a place where they can worship in freedom.

In some cases, that’s the right response. In others, it might short-circuit God’s divine purposes.

These questions came to mind after the storm of outrage surrounding the recent case of a Muslim convert to Christ in Central Asia who was arrested and charged with apostasy -- an offense punishable by death under traditional Islamic law.

“I am not an apostate,” the convert boldly stated while in custody. “I am not an infidel or a fugitive. I am a Christian. If they want to sentence me to death, I accept that.”

Under intense pressure from international governments, judicial authorities released the man in late March. Facing near-certain death if he appeared in public, however, he quickly sought asylum in Italy.

The case beamed a bright light on the harsh realities confronting Muslims in many places who choose to follow Christ. That’s a good thing. The convert is alive. That’s also a good thing. But will the media frenzy that swirled around his case improve the situation of Christian converts in his country –- or elsewhere in the Muslim world? We’ll see.
 
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Saturday, May 13, 2006
Weekender -- C.H. Spurgeon, "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle" (Part 1)

I have found the blogosphere to be somewhat slow around the weekend, so I have decided to post some kind of edifying work from the past on Saturdays.

This post begins a series from C.H. Spurgeon (1834-92, Baptist Preacher): "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle." In this message, Spurgeon gives a wonderfully insightful overview of his ministry. In what follows, Spurgeon gives us much to think about in our own day as well.


The First Sermon in the Tabernacle

A Sermon
(No. 369)
Delivered on Monday Afternoon, March 25th, 1861 by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON

"And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."—Acts 5:42.

I do not know whether there are any persons here present who can contrive to put themselves into my present position, and to feel my present feelings. If they can effect that, they will give me credit for meaning what I say, when I declare that I feel totally unable to preach. And, indeed, I think I shall scarcely attempt a sermon, but rather give a sort of declaration of the truths from which future sermons shall be made. I will give you bullion rather than coin; the block from the quarry, and not the statue from the chisel. It appears that the one subject upon which men preached in the apostolic age was Jesus Christ. The tendency of man, if left alone, is continually to go further and further from God, and the Church of God itself is no exception to the general rule. For the first few years, during and after the apostolic era, Christ Jesus was preached, but gradually the Church departed from the central point, and began rather to preach ceremonials and church offices than the person of their Lord. So has it been in these modern times: we also have fallen into the same error, at least to a degree, and have gone from preaching Christ to preaching doctrines about Christ, inferences which may be drawn from his life, or definitions which may be gathered from his discourses. We are not content to stand like angels in the sun; our fancies disturb our rest and must needs fly on the sunbeams, further and further from the glorious source of light. In the days of Paul it was not difficult at once, in one word, to give the sum and substance of the current theology. It was Christ Jesus. Had you asked anyone of those disciples what he believed, he would have replied, "I believe Christ." If you had requested him to show you his Body of Divinity, he would have pointed upward, reminding you that divinity never had but one body, the suffering and crucified human frame of Jesus Christ, who ascended up on high. To them, Christ was not a notion refined, but unsubstantial; not an historical personage who had left only the savour of his character behind, but whose person was dead; to them he was not a set of ideas, not a creed, nor an incarnation of an abstract theory; but he was a person, one whom some of them had seen, whose hands they had handled, nay, one of whose flesh they had all been made to eat, and of whose blood they had spiritually been made to drink. Christ was substance to them, I fear he is too often but shadow to us. He was a reality to their minds; to us—though, perhaps, we would scarcely allow it in so many words—rather a myth than a man; rather a person who was, than he who was, and is, and is to come—the Almighty.

I would propose (and O may the Lord grant us grace to carry out that proposition, from which no Christian can dissent), I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist, although I claim to be rather a Calvinist according to Calvin, than after the modern debased fashion. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. You have there (pointing to the baptistery) substantial evidence that I am not ashamed of that ordinance of our Lord Jesus Christ; but if I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply: "It is Jesus Christ." My venerable predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity admirable and excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself for ever, God helping me, is not his system of divinity or any other human treatise, but Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel; who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.

This afternoon I will try to describe the subject, Christ Jesus; then, secondly, to speak for a little while upon its comprehensiveness; then to enlarge upon sundry of its excellencies; and conclude by testing its power.
 
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Friday, May 12, 2006
Review of Richard Dawkins and the Root of All Evil (Part 3)

The final assignment for my "Critical Thinking and the Art of Argumentation" class with Dr. Dembski was to write a critical review of Richard Dawkins' documentary miniseries Root of All Evil? Having turned it in, I thought it would be beneficial to post my review online as a series. I have posted part one and part two. The following is my last part.

Another area in which Dawkins failed to establish his case was in the refutation portion of his series. At the end, he specifically addresses two common objections to his case for atheism. The first objection he answers is the moral argument. In essence, the moral argument maintains that the only way we can explain having an absolute and universal moral law is if we have a lawgiver, which is God. His rebuttal is to claim that morality stems from altruistic genes that have been naturally selected in our evolutionary past. “Our true sense of right and wrong has nothing to do with religion. I believe there is kindness, charity, and generosity in nature. I think there is a Darwinian explanation for this. Through much of our prehistory, humans lived under conditions that favored altruistic genes. Gene survival depended on nurturing our family and on doing deals with our peers. The ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ principle.” Interesting. Is this the result of “a discipline of investigation and constructive doubt, questioning with logic, evidence, and reason to draw conclusions”? No, this is an unsubstantiated claim. Regardless, how can we describe this kind of gene as morally good? At best, it is a description of reality. There lies no internal mechanism by which we can assess virtue or goodness. Even worse, Dawkins admits that these genetically-driven “values” can change: “We have a moral conscious, and a mutual empathy, and it is constantly evolving. Religious or not, we have changed in unison and continue to change in our attitude to what is right and what is wrong.” As a result, Dawkins never satisfactorily answers the moral argument.

The second objection Dawkins tackles is a kind of teleological argument. This line of reasoning asserts that the only way humanity can have purpose and meaning in the world is if we have a Creator who gives us purpose and meaning. Similar to the moral argument, it is focused more on purpose. Does Dawkins fare any better in his atheistic rebuttal? “ . . . [A]theism is not a recipe for despair; I think the opposite. By disclaiming the idea of a next life we can take more excitement in this one. The here and now is not something to be endured before eternal bliss or damnation. The here and now is all we have, an inspiration to make the most of it. So atheism is life affirming in a way religion can never be.” Regrettably, I see no answer here. How does disclaiming the idea of a next life provide us with more excitement in this one beyond merely asserting it? I could conceive of him responding with an evolutionary desire to progress, but how does the evolutionary movement from simple to complex justify a moral judgment of progress? We are back to the problem of deriving “ought” from “is.” How does identification and description result in morality and purpose? Dawkins fails to overcome the teleological objection.

Richard Dawkins believes that the root of all evil is religion, but his miniseries Root of All Evil? is ultimately unpersuasive. After understanding Dawkins’ argument and appreciating some of his points, we are left with a flawed presentation springing from a false dichotomy. Religion is not the root of all evil. In point of fact, apart from religion there is no source from which to comprehend evil at all. Instead of being the root of all evil, Christianity is our only hope.

 
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Thursday, May 11, 2006
"I Could Not Believe It Myself" -- Mormonism is True?
Today Meridian Magazine posted it's "Myth of the Month." This month is H. Wallace Goddard's "I Could Not Believe it Myself." His article is an excellent example of how many Mormons understand Joseph Smith and their own faith, contrasting it with traditional Christianity. Here is how it begins:

Nancy and I recently saw the movie Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration at the visitors’ center in Nauvoo. It was a wonderfully appropriate setting for experiencing Joseph’s life, service, troubles, and martyrdom! Mercifully the lights did not come up quickly at the end of the production. Those of us who know and love Joseph Smith were working to staunch the flow of tears and to regain our composure.

I loved the movie.

Yet I wondered how those who do not already know and love Joseph might react. What claim does the movie make on a stranger’s interest or faith? Would a non-believer wonder if Joseph’s only claim was his amazing capacity to tolerate persecution with apparent good cheer? Certainly many or most of God’s prophets have suffered persecutions. But so have quacks and fakers.

I suggest we test Joseph’s claims by his fruits. One important fruit is the character of the people who follow him. Any demographer can tell you that the Latter-day Saints are a peculiar people — high in education, morality, charitable giving, and longevity. And the Church continues to grow at a rate that is either disturbing or satisfying — depending on your orientation.

In my view there is an even better fruit to test: Doctrine. Did Joseph Smith give us nonsense doctrine as many suggest? Are his teachings a mass of confusion, a hodgepodge of speculations and inventions? Do his teachings make a mockery of God in heaven?

Or did Joseph Smith deliver the most coherent, sensible, defensible, and breath-takingly gracious doctrine taught on this earth in almost two millennia? Let’s test him. If he is truly a prophet, he can stand the test. If he is not, the evidence will be clear.
 
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"The divine Miss Winfrey?"
USA Today has released a news story about one of the most influential people in the world today, Oprah Winfrey: "The divine Miss Winfrey?" Given her standing in our culture, this article is must reading for all followers of Christ today. Here is an excerpt:

Marcia Nelson says that it's not going too far to call her a spiritual leader. “I've said to a number of people — she's today's Billy Graham.”

Nelson said that concept was most apparent when Winfrey co-hosted the 2001 memorial service held 12 days after the terrorist attacks in New York. She urged the people who filled Shea Stadium that day, and all Americans, to stand strong, rousing the audience by repeating the refrain, “We shall not be moved.”

One of Winfrey's most appealing subtexts is that she's anti-institutional, says Chris Altrock, minister of Highland Street Church of Christ in Memphis. He says Winfrey believes there are many paths to God, not just one. After doing his doctoral research three years ago on postmodernism religion, a religious era that began in the 1970s as Christians became deeply interested in spirituality and less interested in any established church, he came up with what he calls “The Church of Oprah,” referring to the culture that has created her.

“Our culture is changing,” he says, “as churches are in decline and the bulk of a new generation is growing up outside of religion.” Instead, they're turning to the Church of Oprah.

“People who have no religion relate to her,” Nelson says.
 
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Review of Richard Dawkins and the Root of All Evil (Part 2)

The final assignment for my "Critical Thinking and the Art of Argumentation" class with Dr. Dembski was to write a critical review of Richard Dawkins' documentary miniseries Root of All Evil? Having turned it in, I thought it would be beneficial to post my review online as a series. Yesterday, I posted the first part. The following is part two.

When examined as a whole, Root of All Evil? was made as a deliberative type of persuasive discourse. But Dawkins is doing more than simply trying to convince those watching to accept his point of view. Actually, I do not believe his target audience is religious people at all. His method and tone are far too negative and strident. No, this miniseries is a call to action: agnostics and atheists can no longer afford to tolerate people of faith. As he says in the first part, “The time has come for people of reason to say enough is enough. Religious faith discourages independent thought, its divisive, and its dangerous.” Science and reason must overcome religion and faith. Our only hope for the future lies in the complete annihilation of religion.

What should we think of Dawkins argument? We ought to begin by recognizing the validity of some of his points. If evangelicals are going to be honest, we must admit that our subculture produces a lot of trite kitsch. After all, Dawkins did not have to pay someone to create a Jesus bobble-head doll for this series. Without a doubt, the type of outlandish contemporary Christian music chosen is available in most Christian bookstores. Some of our church practices also deserve to be scrutinized. When talking about New Life Church, Dawkins points out that the church offers “thirteen hundred organized programs where they can meet to exchange Christian tips on everything from marriage to dog walking.” While I assume this is an exaggeration, churches often lose their focus on gospel proclamation, concentrating on practical programs. All is not well in evangelicalism today. Dawkins also properly identifies the inherent problem of moderate and liberal Christianity. “It seems to me an odd proposition that we should adhere to some parts of the Bible story but not to others. After all, when it comes to important moral questions, by what standards do we cherry pick the Bible? Why bother with the Bible at all if we have the ability to pick and choose from it what is right and what is wrong for today’s society?” Exactly. Being a Christian means adhering to and trusting in all God has revealed in the Bible.

Unfortunately, in Dawkins’ production the good pales in comparison with the bad. Much of the difficulty arises from the antithesis he establishes between reason and faith or between science and religion. He says,

People like to say that faith and science can live together side by side, but I don’t think they can. They’re deeply opposed. Science is a discipline of investigation and constructive doubt, questioning with logic, evidence, and reason to draw conclusions. Faith, by stark contrast, demands a positive suspension of critical faculties. Science proceeds by setting up hypotheses, ideas, or models, and then attempts to disprove them. So a scientist is constantly asking questions, being skeptical. Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakeable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.

Simply stated, the opposition Dawkins sets up between science and religion is false. Faith is not necessarily opposed to reason and evidence. This truth is seen supremely in Christianity through the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is supported or denied on the strength of evidence, and the Christian faith establishes itself upon the physical resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact. After all, as the Apostle Paul said, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Christianity is a faith that can be tested and proven. It invites people to examine the evidence and use reason to establish its truthfulness. It is a far cry from Dawkins’ definition of religion.

Moreover, science cannot function without certain faith commitments. Scientists not only gather evidence as data, they must interpret this information. How do they do so? Answering this question requires one to deal with the philosophy of science, which is not simply based on evidence. Unless Dawkins is willing to go down the same radical empiricist route as David Hume (which logically undermines science itself), then he cannot avoid recognizing the interrelatedness of faith and reason. The naturalism and materialism he advocates are not the result of scientific investigation but are assumptions of faith.

 
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Blogging on Mitt Romney's Potential Presidential Run
A couple days ago, I pointed to an article on Mitt Romney's potential run for President. In that post, I confessed, "In general, I have stopped providing links to articles and blogs regarding Mitt Romney and his potential candidacy to become the next President of the United States. The articles are too frequent and they generally rehash the same arguments." This remains true.

However, today a friend pointed out a new blog exclusively devoted to tracking all of the news and editorials on Romney's candidacy: Article6blog. For those interested in keeping up with this topic, I suggest subscribing. Here is their blog's statement of purpose:

This blog is dedicated to the issue of religious "qualification" for elected office in this country - something pretty well prohibited in Article 6 of the constitution. We should note that this blog is not an endorsement of Mitt Romney presidential aspirations, nor is it an effort to aid his "campaign." This blog is devoted solely to the issues that arise from that campaign and Romney;s religious convictions.
 
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Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, Warren Jeffs, and the "Ten Most Wanted" List
Yesterday, the Christian Science Monitor included the article "Crackdown on polygamy group." This news story begins:

Small polygamous groups have existed in the southwestern US under the watchful yet fairly benign eye of authorities ever since a sect known as the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) separated itself from mainstream Mormonism in 1890.

That year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints banned "plural marriages," a move declared to be based on a "revelation" from God. The decision was also required for Utah to become a state.

Now, FLDS leader Warren Jeffs has been added to the FBI's list of "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives," a move that caps law enforcement's dramatic change of approach toward the polygamous group in recent years. The group's belief that men need more than one wife to reach heaven, which FLDS defenders argue is a matter of religious freedom and pluralism in the United States, is not the main catalyst for the tougher stance. Rather, it's the impact that the group's practices, law enforcement officials say, are having on the most vulnerable within the sect, particularly children and women.
 
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Review of Richard Dawkins and the Root of All Evil (Part 1)

The final assignment for my "Critical Thinking and the Art of Argumentation" class with Dr. Dembski was to write a critical review of Richard Dawkins' documentary miniseries Root of All Evil? Having turned it in, I thought it would be beneficial to post my review online as a series. Today, I have posted the first part.


“For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10a).

The Bible says that the root of all evil is the love of money, but Richard Dawkins disagrees. Dawkins, Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, believes that the root of all evil is religion and attempts to prove it in his miniseries Root of All Evil? Is he persuasive? First, we will seek to understand Dawkins’ argument and use of rhetoric. Then, we will assess its validity and determine whether or not religion really is the root of all evil.

Dawkins sees absolutely no value in religious faith. He sees religion as the enemy of rational thinking and science because faith teaches us not to think, doubt, or probe. It is virtuous to have faith against reason in the religious realm. Regardless, a religion is not just a group of people holding to a benign set of beliefs. Faith inherently leads to far more dangerous ideas and actions. Destruction, terrorism, and murder are all the necessary result of faith. Whereas science moves us forward in finding solutions and answers, religion slides us back into fear and prejudice. Consequently, Dawkins strives to demonstrate his assertion in two parts. The first part of the series looks at the growing force of faith in the world today. From American evangelicalism to Jewish and Muslim hostility in the Middle East, he alleges that our world is becoming unstable as fundamentalist devotion is increasing. Dawkins continues in the second part to expose further problems. The religious indoctrination of children perpetuates and worsens our global difficulties. Additionally, religious beliefs lead to a warped and inflexible morality. Religion is indeed the root of all evil.

Throughout this miniseries, Dawkins’ style is somewhat bombastic. He refers to religious faith as being a “delusion,” “superstition,” “backward belief system,” “shallow pretense,” “parasite,” and “supporting Bronze Age myths.” He refers to evangelicalism as “an American Taliban.” He also employs strong and provocative language to emphasize his points. For example, he contends “The abundance and variety of life on earth may seem improbable, but it’s self-evidently futile to invent an improbable god to explain that very improbability.” Later, when contrasting evolution with creationism, he boldly proclaims “Evolution by natural selection is supported by mountains of evidence, while creation contradicts the evidence and is only backed by some ancient scribblings.”

Furthermore, in several interviews Dawkins conducts, his statements and questions are repeatedly confrontational. When interviewing evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, he compares the church’s worship service to a Nuremberg rally and suggesting Dr. Goebbels (Hitler’s Propaganda Minister) would be proud. When taking a tour of a church in the Middle East, he asks, “You don’t really believe that, do you?” He also asks Rabbi Hershel Gluck, a Hasidic Jew, “Why should children be victims of their particular tradition in which they happen to have been born rather than choosing for themselves by being shown all the evidence that’s available?” Dawkins’ style makes his position clear and unmistakable.

Since Dawkins’ presentation was a television miniseries, non-rational elements of persuasion are included as well. His selection of audio is suggestive. When speaking of faith and religion, haunting music often plays in the background. Viewers also hear an irreverent hip-hop rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, Elvis singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and a poor, drunken karaoke performance of “Onward Christian Soldiers.” In all of these cases, the music is used to undermine the integrity of Christianity in particular and religion generally. He also utilizes visual factors. In Colorado Springs, the New Life Church is contrasted with a local freethinkers group. Whereas the New Life Church consists of twelve thousand members and an eighteen million dollar worship facility, the freethinkers group has about a dozen people and meets secretly in a log cabin in the woods. The former is seen as well supported and influential while the latter is marginalized and oppressed. Other visual elements include a Jesus bobble-head doll floating around the screen and a brief look at a street evangelist yelling the cliché “What do you want to be: sinners or winners?” through a bullhorn to uninterested passersby. These visual cues again seek to undermine the credibility of Christianity.
 
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Letter from the Megachurch Association of America
The Chalcedon Foundation has posted a letter from the Megachurch Association of America. It makes for fascinating reading. Here is the beginning:

Dear Saints,

We, the leaders of the modern phenomenon known as the church growth movement, or megachurch movement, wish to correspond with the leaders of the past, namely the Old Testament prophets, Jesus Christ, the apostles, the reformers, and the revivalists, about some differences between your methods and ours that are becoming increasingly apparent. We cannot help but acknowledge that you did a commendable job in advancing our heavenly Father’s Kingdom. We are especially inclined to admire your accomplishments given that you labored under such difficult circumstances and without the knowledge of our modern methods. How you built such great and enduring walls for the King without the contemporary straw and mortar that we find so helpful is a puzzling mystery to us.

Our motivation in writing to you is twofold. First, we would like to obtain your official blessing on our new methods. We are sure that you already approve of them and perhaps are envious of our great success as you sit in glory watching us reap a tremendous harvest for the Kingdom of God. However, we feel that an official sanction from the leaders of the past is warranted. Second, we have spent many months examining your methods, and we feel that in light of our modern advances a few of the numerous mistakes and errors that you unfortunately fell into must be pointed out.

We do not consider ourselves superior to you. It is only by our methodology that we have surpassed you older saints. By the providence of God, we were born on the cusp of this progressive and superior methodology. While we greatly respect the methods employed 2000 years ago by our Savior, Jesus Christ, we flatly reject the use of His methods in today’s culture. We desire our ministries to glorify Jesus, not necessarily by following His example or by using His methods, but, instead, by reaping a large harvest for Him using our contemporary methods. Our hearts overflow with thanks to God who has graciously shown us a better way to live and minister in these turbulent times.
 
posted at 1:00 PM  
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