Monday, December 23, 2002


My wife and I are off to see The Two Towers today. Yesterday was our anniversary but was also a Sunday and some of us had to work, so today is our belated celebration. I'll post some comments after I've seen it. In the meantime go read what fellow Kirkian Kevin Holtsberry had to say.

The latest in the prestigious Barbie line is the new Lingerie Barbie complete with garters and stiletto heels. Or as the promotional material has it:

Barbie exudes a flirtatious attitude in her heavenly merry widow bustier ensemble accented with intricate lace and matching peekaboo peignoir.

Ah, what every young girl needs.

The problem with this isn't hard to see as Deborah Roffman notes:

One 10-year-old in my class wasn't buying any of it. He told me last week he'd actually been given one of the dolls by a 5-year-old cousin who had tired of it. "She gives me lots of toys she doesn't want," he said. "Most of them I give to charity. But not this one, no way. I threw it in the river. No child should play with something like that. They'll get all the wrong ideas."

Wrong ideas, indeed!

We need to get back to letting children act like children, not like miniature adults. They need more teddy bears and fewer lace teddies.

Sunday, December 22, 2002


She's put up with me for eight years now. I pray she can stand a lifetime more.

Friday, December 20, 2002


Sakamuyo linked this quiz, which determines based on one's answers what denomination you ought to be in. Here are my results:

#1: International Church of Christ
#2: Church of Christ
#3: Free Will Baptist
#4: Mennonite Brethren
#5: United Pentecostal Church
#6: Assemblies of God
#7: Orthodox Quakerism
#8: Southern Baptist
#9: Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
#10: Reformed Baptist
#11: Episcopal/Anglican Church
#12: Evangelical Lutheran Church
#13: Methodist/Weslyian Church
#14: Presbyterian Church in America/Orthodox Presbyterian Church
#15: Reformed Churches
#16: Jehovah's Witness
#17: Mormonism
#18: Presbyterian Church USA
#19: Roman Catholic Churc
#20: Seventh-Day Adventist
#21: Eastern Orthodox Church
#22: Liberal Quakerism
#23: Unitarian Universalism
#24: Unity Church

Well, number 2 ain't bad. (Just a note, I have great problems with the practices of the International Churches of Christ. Also, I do not wish to be part of any 'denomination', but simply a Christian as those in the New Testament were.)

Irene linked the Belief-O-Matic quiz, which includes a variety of non-Christ based religions in the mix. Here's what I got there:

1. Eastern Orthodox (99%)
2. Roman Catholic (99%)
3. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (98%)
4. Seventh Day Adventist (87%)
5. Orthodox Quaker (81%)
6. Orthodox Judaism (77%)
7. Islam (69%)
8. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (63%)
9. Hinduism (62%)
10. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (60%)
11. Jehovah's Witness (55%)
12. Sikhism (50%)
13. Bahá'í Faith (45%)
14. Liberal Quakers (41%)
15. Reform Judaism (36%)
16. Jainism (33%)
17. Unitarian Universalism (32%)
18. Mahayana Buddhism (27%)
19. Theravada Buddhism (25%)
20. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (25%)
21. New Thought (20%)
22. Scientology (19%)
23. Neo-Pagan (18%)
24. Nontheist (16%)
25. New Age (12%)
26. Secular Humanism (7%)
27. Taoism (4%)

Hmmm, Eastern Orthodox. Well, they do have cool robes.

We've all been to church services or Bible class and been absolutely bored to tears. Those of us who grew up attending church and Bible class can certainly remember it as children. There were times that you dreaded going. Now that being said, I needed to go and am glad I did. But I would have learned more had the classes I attended been better taught. That's one extreme.

TIME tells us about the other in an article titled The New Funday School. The techniques are 'successful' (depending on how one defines success), but is this the way to approach Bible study:

So nowadays lesson plans are based on The Gospel According to the Simpsons, in which Homer stands in as Job, and The Gospel According to Harry Potter, in which the boy wizard's decision to walk through what appears to be a solid wall to get to the train that will take him to his magical school becomes a meditation on faith.

Things a little dull at your building? How about this:

First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., paid $279,000 to Bruce Barry's Wacky World Studios, a set-design company in Tampa, Fla., that specializes in Sunday-school makeovers, to turn a room that had sometimes been used for funerals into a zany Toon Town where buzzers go off and confetti rains down during celebrations like baptisms.

I agree you have to start where people are, but equating Homer Simpson with Job takes things a bit far for me. Adding confetti and buzzers to a baptism turns a profound moment into something trite. What this boils down to is an appeal to carnality--you throw on some window-dressing on secular/worldly activities and call it a 'ministry' or 'Christian'.

Bible classes need to be exciting, interesting places for children (and adults). But we need to nourish people spiritually. They can get carnality anywhere.

[See an earlier post about useful, Bible-based material for teenagers. And thanks to my brother-in-law Mitch for the TIME link.]

Thursday, December 19, 2002


What Jesus looked like is not question of great import. If it mattered, the Bible would have described Him. But the popular image of a wimpy Jesus with long hair and light skin is certainly as far from the truth as can be. Much of that imagery is based on perhaps the wishful thinking of its portrayers and also the (ahem) questionable Shroud of Turin. A reasonable scientific reconstruction of a typical Galilean Semitic male of the first century has been prepared, with attention paid to known Biblical facts about Jesus. It helps clear up a lot of misconceptions certainly.

The important thing, though, is what Jesus said and what He did. His earthly image was simply that of a common man, but also 'the image of the invisible God' (Col. 1:15), an image I believe seen at the Transfiguration. But as the Word became incarnate He also reminded us that man was created in the image of God. In becoming a 'common' man He reflected that Godly image. His life, death and resurrection made it possible for us to again show that in our relationship with Him.

I also like Barry Moser's representation of Jesus in his Pennyroyal Caxton Bible (also available in a trade edition), although he falls into the annoying 'long-hair' trap that the scientific reconstruction specifically avoided.

[Link via The Sakamuyo Log]

Many of you have probably already seen the second installment in the cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's magnificent Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. The first movie--I threw in my extended DVD last night and caught a few minutes--was almost as good as it could have been. Of course, the story is not only a good tale, but is illustrating great spiritual truths. Christianity Today has a nice discussion with two authors, Brad Birzer and Mark Eddy Smith, on the spiritual--and cultural--implications of the trilogy. From Mark Eddy Smith's book, Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues:

"When God does call us, it may be to a journey of danger and terror, with the possibility of no return, or it may be to the simpler danger and terror of confronting a boss whose practices seem a little shaky" (p. 21).

They even bring in towering thinkers, Christopher Dawson, G.K. Chesterton and Josef Pieper. I was introduced to Dawson, et al when I first read The Lord of the Rings while working for Russell Kirk in the wilds of Michigan. I can't imagine a better place or time to read it. Dr. Kirk teaches us that myth and imagination are powerful tools for conveying what he called the Permanent Things.

Jeffrey Overstreet also has a review of the movie with a look at its spiritual side. I'll report back after I've seen the movie Monday (the logistics of seeing a movie when you have a 2 year-old and a 4 month-old is comparable to the D-Day Invasion!).
Take a look at this interesting article I've been mulling on 'rebuking'.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002


Scientists have revived centuries old frozen microbes discovered in the icepack of Antarctica leading them to speculate on whether life exists within the polar ice on Mars. Years of watching sci-fi movies piques one's interest in this sort of thing (will it be like Mars Attacks ?) and quite frankly I hope they do find something there simply because it would be pretty cool. However, evolutionist types will fall all over themselves pointing to it as proof of their conjectures. It will be no such thing, of course. It's hard for me to imagine God creating this big ol' universe and not playing around with it some (that may be an indication of why I'm not God and not the Creator of the universe), but I feel as sure as anything I'm sure of that there will never be intelligent life found elsewhere. Man is the creature made in God's image, and man is the creature Jesus died for.

Let the microbe search begin!

Monday, December 16, 2002


In an article on the fall of Catholic Cardinal Law, I ran across this quote about those who helped bring him down:

...parishioners with doctorates won’t be treated, as Muller puts it, “like sheep.” Post, the VOTF president, is a professor of management at Boston University and not one to be intimidated by authority any more than Muller is.

Now it was high time the 'laity' demanded a house cleaning in Boston, but this attitude is disturbing, particularly the way it's worded. I'm not a Catholic and have profound and fundamental problems with their doctrines and practices, but if you are a Catholic recognizing the authority of its hierarchy and institutions is what you signed up for. Either you believe the Pope is a modern day apostle or you don't. If you don't (I don't) it seems you have little business actually being a Catholic.

Now that aside, this attitude that those 'with doctorates won't be treated "like sheep"' is troublesome. Jesus very explicitly uses Shepherd and sheep imagery to describe Himself and His followers. 'I am the Good Shepherd,' He said. (John 10:11) He is the Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. But that entails that I be His sheep--I'm to put total trust in Him and His direction based on what He has done for me. A doctorate--or any other human accomplishment--doesn't obviate my dependence on Him. 'If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of the world is foolishness before God.' (1 Cor. 18-19)

If I am worthy to be called a sheep of Christ, then that's all I can ask.

AME churches in South Carolina have received part of a $12.6 million CDC grant from the Medical Center and University of South Carolina to promote fitness:

The program includes "praise aerobics" to the accompaniment of gospel music tapes, walking clubs, an eight-week course on fitness and seated exercises for older churchgoers. One person from each participating church will be trained to run local programs and pastors are asked to bring health into weekly sermons.

So not only are the churches becoming gyms, they are also having their sermon agendas influenced by the offer of outside money. This is one of the big problems when churches start losing their spiritual focus. When the whiff of money wafts in, it doesn't matter what they're asked to do to get it, just call it 'praise aerobics' and cash the check. (A similar problem presents itself with the new 'faith-based initiatives' money from Washington.) But isn't promoting health a 'good work'? It might be, but is it a church's job to promote it? 'For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promises for the present life and also for the life to come.' (1 Timothy 4:8)

Churches need to focus on what their job is--promoting godlines--and leave everything else to the world.

Saturday, December 14, 2002


There's really no one in our current society who has not been touched by divorce. Perhaps someone in your family is divorced, or a close friend--perhaps you yourself. Marriage just isn't taken very seriously by far too many people. But as Scripture records very directly: God hates divorce. (Mal. 2:16)

Jesus faced a divorce epidemic in His own day. He was asked about marriage law in Matt. 19. There He reaffirmed God's intention for man and woman 'from the beginning': 'What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.' (vs. 6) There is an exception for the cause of adultery (vs. 9), but in God's law there isn't a 'no fault' divorce. We have become all too tolerant of something God hates.

Recent studies have shown that there is no real difference in the divorce rate among those attending church and the society at large:

Church leaders attribute the discrepancy between belief and behavior in Christian marriages to the pervasive influence of the culture of individualism, narcissism and consumerism.

That sounds about right. George Barna, who conducted one of the studies had this to say:

"We haven't done a good job of helping people to know how to integrate their faith into every dimension of their life," said pollster George Barna.

"What we wind up with are people who know some of the principles and stories and platitudes, but when push comes to shove, it's survival of the fittest."

We've got to do a better job of teaching about marriage. Are God's laws on marriage 'hard'? Well, the disciples thought so. 'If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry,' they said. (Matt. 19:10) Jesus essentially answered, if that's the way you feel about it, then don't get married. No one's forcing you to--the kingdom is more important than any personal relationship.

It's time we all started taking marriage as seriously as God does.

Thursday, December 12, 2002


This time of year we are surrounded by nativity scenes and Christmas plays. Every good creche or play has the obligatory three wise men. Of course, the Bible doesn't say anything about three wise men. And it's highly unlikely the wise men were there at the manger in the first place. (My favorite is the kneeling Santa in front of the manger.) A church in Wales has chosen to base its play on the actual text of the Bible:

[M]embers of the Porth Christian Centre at Elim Pentecostal Church, in the Rhondda, south Wales, dispute several points in the traditional interpretation of the birth of Christ.

They range from the visit by the three wise men to the belief that Mary rode into Bethlehem on a donkey.

Three cheers for a Biblical representation. Now if we can only find a Biblical mention of the church celebrating the birth of Christ in the first place we'll be set.

[Link via Christianity Today]

A far cry from Harry Potter or Sabrina (or my sister's favorite, 'Bewitched'), is the current movement toward the Wiccan 'religion'. Lehigh University allows students to miss class on Wiccan holidays. Wiccans are using the Syracuse University chapel. The real draw is explained by one of its practicioners:

Anthony Paige, a recent SUNY Purchase College graduate who started a pagan student group there, said Wicca appeals to some college students because "there is no sense of sin."

"There is a karmic law, but there's no scorn or condemnation," said Paige, who was raised a Roman Catholic and whose book Rocking the Goddess, Campus Wicca for the Student Practioner profiles college-age pagans.

Ah, no sense of sin. Of course that's the problem with our society at large. 'I'm okay, you're okay, and could you pass the eye of newt?' I really have strong doubts that these kids believe in a lot of this nonsense. But they can cast cool spells, call themselves witches and engage in whatever hedonistic activity they want all in the name of their 'religion'.

Thomas Wolfe, dean of Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse, well states,"There is a cultural shift with college students identifying themselves less as religious and more as spiritual." The same can be said of the current rise in popularity of Eastern religions. It all gets back to what Paul explained of the pagan world in Romans 1. This vague 'spirituality' helps fulfill the innate longing that man has for the eternal. But it substitutes a lie for the truth of God. Such a substitution might make us feel better, but as Paul explains, the end result won't be very pretty.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

A great post on a first trip to the gym over at The Sakamuyo Log. Now that's how it's done!

The inside buzz in the Vatican, according to TIME, is that the current scandals involving the American Catholic Church--and particularly the Boston archdiocese--are to blame on media manipulation:

German Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, perhaps the most powerful policymaker in Rome besides the Pope, told a Catholic news wire that the U.S. sex-abuse scandal was an "intentional, manipulated ... desire to discredit the church" by the media. The conservative Ratzinger offered a virtual Vatican seal of approval for recent comments by two Latin American Cardinals — each considered possible papal successors — who also blamed the pedophilia crisis on the American press.

Now that the media has sensationalized the situation goes without saying. The American media generally targets the religious in an effort to denigrate them. But the recently released documents in Boston show the truth behind the scandal; the press didn't make it all up.

Another (and more realistic viewpoint) in Rome is that the problem can be blamed on the high percentage of homosexuals in the American Catholic priesthood:

A growing number of officials in Rome have become convinced that the cause of the U.S. crisis is the prevalence of gay priests in American parishes. In his letter, Medina Estevez called the ordination of homosexual men "inadvisable and imprudent and, from the pastoral point of view, very risky." A Vatican official told TIME the letter "represents the mind of the church" and hints that a watershed document on rules for seminary admission, expected next year, will bar gays from entering the priesthood.

I have it on good authority from a former Catholic who studied for the priesthood that a common (but hushed) practice over the years has been for Catholic men seeking religious counseling to deal with homosexual feelings to be encouraged to seek a celibate life in the priesthood. Certainly such a policy on its face seems doomed to disaster.

Swinging the pendulum from encouraging a homosexual priesthood (I realize all priests are not homosexuals) to actually banning homosexuals is problematic, it seems to me. Someone who may have homosexual desires or tendencies is not a sinner. One who acts on the desires, i.e., engages in homosexual conduct, is.

In the end, a separate 'priesthood' is a practice unsupported by Scripture and thus illegitimate. No amount of tweaking the rules will fix that.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002


George Barna has released a survey of the opinions of adults who do not consider themselves 'Christian'. Evangelicals rank ahead of prostitutes, but just behind Republicans.

Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes--citing Isaiah--for 'teaching as doctrines the precepts of men' (Matt. 15:8-9). They had obscured God's revealed word with their own traditions, opinions and preferences. Man has a way of doing that. God's word is our anchor; the further we move from it the quicker we're going to get into trouble. A trend in sermons is to do just that: discuss pop psychology or engage in sensitivity training instead of featuring God's word. It sounds nice, but it doesn't do anybody any good in their relationship with God.

The returning Jewish exiles discovered that in the day of Ezra when he read the Law of God. They wept as they realized they hadn't been doing what God expected. They were told, don't mourn but be joyful! Now is the time to return to godly practices. The result was the Festival of Booths was observed for the first time since Joshua's day. Some today dismiss the usefulness of restoring New Testament practices in the modern organization and work of the church. But Nehemiah's record shows us how important it is to base what we do on God's word. Each generation has the responsibility to investigate its own practices in light of Scripture and make changes accordingly. Do we really know what we're saying when we dismiss the Word of the eternal God as irrelevant for today?

Ben Patterson's article 'The Word Unplugged' has a nice discussion of letting God's word speak for itself. Patterson and two other men memorized Revelation and recited it before the church they attend. Amazingly, people sat there and listened. Often we don't give people enough credit; and often we don't have the faith in God's word we ought to have.

Memorization of Scripture is something I've focused on lately. I have primarily worked on passages teaching foundational doctrines, but I intend eventually to work toward lengthier passages. When we read the teachings of Jesus we see the amazing command of Scripture He demonstrated. If we want to be pleasing to God, it all starts with what He has revealed.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Some speculation on the burning question of What Would Jesus Drive? My favorite:

Some scholars insist that Jesus drove a Honda but preferred not to discuss it. As proof, they cite a verse in St. John's gospel in which Christ tells a crowd, "For I did not speak of my own Accord."

Based on a similar exegetical approach, we also know what cigarettes were smoked in the Bible: 'And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the Camel.' (Genesis 24:64, AV)


From the 'Your Lottery Dollars at Work' file, Michael Woods Nash--a junior at Baptist affiliated Cumberland College in Kentucky--has been receiving a state lottery funded Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship. Nash is a 4.0 student and has qualified for the state money each semester he's been in college...until now.

Now Nash is suing the state because they have denied him a scholarship he qualifies for, except for his choice of a new major--religion. It seems that if one pursues a religion degree at a religiously affiliated college--but not a state one--the law prevents the monies from being issued. Perhaps the state recognizes the irony of funding religious education with lottery money, but I doubt it. It's a blatant exercise in religious discrimination.

May the whole house of (lottery) cards come falling down around them on this.

Filipino police will soon be carrying pocket-size Bibles (well, Korans, too, but nobody's perfect) as standard equipment, issued by the Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina. Why?

Lina cited the need for the "spiritual cleansing" of policemen to rid the service of scalawags and misfits. This he added would be part of efforts to review the recruitment of new law enforcers to weed out undesirables.

Policemen will also go through 'spiritual renewal seminars'. (Beats sending them through sensitivity training one would think.) Of his new spiritually aware constabulary Lina said, 'Soon, the Philippine National Police would become Pulis ng Panginoon (Police of God).'

I take it there is no ACLU in the Philippines.

[Link via Drudge]

Friday, December 06, 2002


Regional school superintendent Bruce Dennison, tired of not collecting the student attendance bounty, has begun sending out squad cars to check on homeschoolers in Illinois. He says, "My responsibility is to enforce the compulsory attendance law." Illinois homeschooler Carol Severson answers, "He says that he is worried they are not getting a quality education. I would tell him to look in his own backyard."

Government school administrators are attempting to up the ante on homeschooling. They're losing money and credibility as the movement spreads. California has made noises that homeschooling is essentially illegal there.

The Fox article notes,

Ironically, one of the earliest reasons for the public school system was to spread a Christianity-based morality. These days, many homeschool parents decide to keep their children at home to infuse their education with religious ideals.

Homeschoolers are opting out of a government run system that increasingly seeks to inculcate kids with a secular, anti-religious worldview. The government schools rightly see this as a threat. Parents are asserting their rights as the primary source of learning in contradistinction to a government set agenda. Homeschoolers also are well-organized and highly active in protecting their rights as the primary educators of their children, which means they are also stand as a growing political force.

Are all those involved in government schools militant atheists? That would certainly come as a surprise to my father, a retired elementary school principal and recently elected school board member. I come from a family of teachers and received all my education from 'public' schools. And I've seen kids who were being homeschooled who didn't need to be. Homeschooling isn't for every child nor every parent.

But my wife and I have made a decision to homeschool our children. Like many (most?) homeschoolers, religious belief has played a role in that decision. The societal zeitgeist is hostile to that. But everytime hostility against homeschooling increases, it only confirms my decision that it's the right thing for us to do.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002


We've all heard the lecherous stereotypes over the years: priests and nuns engaged in all sorts of sexual devilry. A powerful organization maintaining outward respectibility while behind the scenes systematically thwarting the law. As more and more records come to light we find the stereotypes--in Boston anyway--are largely true.

Over the past decades the Catholic Church hierarchy in Boston has been involved in just about everything imaginable. Their impending bankruptcy is already complete on the moral ledger.

From affairs with women seeking marital counseling, to using cocaine to lure young boys for sex, to recruiting nuns in order to sexually exploit them, the list goes on and on. I understand there are runaway priests. But the diocese itself knowingly and systematically played musical chairs with the offending priests in an effort to cover up their misdeeds rather than face up to them and clean out the bad leaven:

Plaintiffs' attorneys and victims advocates say the documents show that Law continued to transfer problem priests until recently.

"It's not ancient history, it's very, very recent," [David] Clohessy said, [national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP].

And some of the offenders remain unrepentent to say the least.

In the late 1960s, the Rev. Robert V. Meffan allegedly recruited girls to become nuns and then sexually abused them, according to 1993 letters from Sister Catherine E. Mulkerrin to her boss, the Rev. John B. McCormack, who was a top aide to Law. Meffan allegedly would counsel the girls to perform sexual acts as a way of progressing with their religious studies.

Meffan allegedly engaged in sexual acts with four girls in a Cape Cod rental, one of the girls told Mulkerrin, according to the 1993 memo.

"They were all young girls planning to be nuns," said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents 247 plaintiffs suing the archdiocese.

Meffan told The Boston Globe the allegations in the documents were true, and that he still believed his sexual relationships with the teenage girls were "beautiful" and "spiritual," and were intended to bring them closer to God.

"What I was trying to show them is that Christ is human, and you should love him as a human being," said Meffan. "I felt that by having this little bit of intimacy with them that this is what it would be like with Christ."

Sin is not limited to Catholic leaders; I certainly understand that. I know preachers personally who have been engaged in sexual misconduct. But when that comes to light there ought to be a loss of responsibilities, at least for a time. And usually there is. The type of thing the Boston diocese has been involved in--and who thinks they wouldn't still be doing it had they not been caught?--is inexcusable. Did the Borgias immigrate to Boston?

The current scandals aside, I have profound Scriptural problems with the Catholic church--its structure and beliefs. In fact, I think that its organization principles are the very thing that's allowed this to go on. It is, as they say, an institutional problem. But I also have dear friends whom I respect and love who are devout, sincere Catholics. I know they can't approve of this. How long will the laity tolerate it?

Tuesday, December 03, 2002


The good folks over at the Supreme Court (who was it that commented the book of Judges is followed by the books of the kings?) are set to decide whether or not each and every one of us has a Constitutional right to engage in sodomy with same sex partners. They have accepted a Texas case for review, which could also affect sodomy laws in 13 other states. The FoxNews article states, 'States argue that the laws, some dating back more than 100 years, are intended to preserve public morals. The laws are rarely enforced.'

Now I've read the Constitution before, and I've missed each and every reference to sodomy as a protected right (I think it's in the same amendment with abortion). This is a state matter and the court needs to uphold the law (quite frankly, I don't really think the Court has the right to strike it down, but I'm radical that way). If you don't like the law, here's the answer for you: 'William Delmore III, an assistant district attorney in Texas, said people who don't like the law should take it up with the Texas Legislature, not courts.'

But should there be such laws in the first place? I think it gets back to the issue of normalizing an aberrant behavior and protecting a societal standard of decency. Although the laws are seldom enforced (which the article admits), it makes a statement that society does not view that behavior as acceptable.

Aha! (you say) There you go--trying to 'legislate morality'!

Yes, I admit it. But what, pray-tell, else does one legislate? We legislate against murder, rape and robbery. Those are immoral acts. The fact is our civilization is held together by a foundation of Christian morality. Decadence occurs in direct proportion to our abandonment of those. Ask the avowedly atheist communist states. Those who argue for individual liberties in the face of clear moral precepts attempt to undermine the very foundation on which legitimate rights and liberties are based. We have been living off the moral capital of our ancestors for at least three generations now (probably more). It's time we started building up some of our own.

Monday, December 02, 2002


Sexual activity among teens has reached a point of widespread societal acceptance. Schools are busy having younger and younger kids practice with condoms on bananas for the inevitable 'coming of age'--you can't stop it, you know. Kids are gonna do it and only religious extremists with their heads in the sand could possibly argue otherwise. Hand in glove with this attitude is opposition not only to parental permission, but also even parental notification for an underage girl's abortion.

Against this state and societal sponsored promiscuity is some encouraging news reported by Newsweek. The Center For Disease Control finds that there has been a 10% rise in the number of teens stating they have not had sexual intercourse over the past decade. Newsweek takes a look at several teens who have decided not to have sex until marriage including some 'renewed virgins', those who have had sex but vowed not to again until after marriage.

Some seem to tempt fate, such as Daniela, the Miss Hawaiian Tropic El Paso who also cheerleads professionally and models at Harley-Davidson 'fashion' shows:

Daniela knows about temptation: every time she walks out onstage in a bathing suit, men take notice. But she doesn’t see a contradiction in her double life as virgin and beauty queen; rather, it’s a personal challenge. “I did Hawaiian Tropic because I wanted to see if I could get into a bikini in front of all these people,” she says. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to win.’ But I did, and I got a free trip to Houston’s state finals. I met the owner of Hawaiian Tropic. It’s like, wow, this is as good as it gets.”

Do they make burkas for 2-year olds?

But many couch their reasons for remaining chaste in utilitarian terms rather than religious ones. Alice Kunce, self-avowed feminist and Christian, still speaks out strongly against religious opposition to sexually active teens. Kunce feels empowered by the feminist movement to resist sex, and 'If anything, she feels a need to speak up for those being coerced by aggressive abstinence groups.'

Certainly, many teens are motivated by religious reasons, and that really steams folks who are opposed to anything like 'values' in education. (Well, unless it's values like tolerance, 'choice' or free sex for people who can't drive.) The only acceptable way to teach abstinence is to do so on solely utilitarian grounds. Now that teens need to know the real-life consequences of teen sex--STD risk, pregnancy, emotional consequences--goes without saying. But utimately unless their actions are based on a firm moral choice, their 'purity rings' won't matter a whit.

Saturday, November 30, 2002


Paul tells us that the fundamental flaw of the pagan world was that it took God's great act of general revelation--Creation--and turned it on its head. He wrote

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20)

But man turned from that. 'They became futile in their speculations,' Paul wrote. 'Professing to be wise they became fools.'

Ah, but they really like to profess to be wise. Jim Bowen over at No Watermelons Allowed has a couple of great posts (one and two) on Creation and the Big Bang. He writes,

In conclusion, science in general and the big bang theory in particular rely on all manner of unprovable assumptions. That is, upon faith. Just like the creationists' beliefs do. The major difference is that the creationists acknowledge their faith.

Big bang/evolutionist reasoning runs like this:
1) There is no God.
2) We got here somehow.
3) The Big Bang/Evolution theories explains it. Despite the fact that the known laws of science show the vast improbabilities of such a thing occurring, our very existence proves that's the way it happened--we got here somehow, didn't we?
4) Those who believe in Creation by a Divine Being are simply unaware that science has solved the riddle of our existence and are ignorant, Bible-thumpers. They should be ridiculed and then ignored. Science has shown there's no God.
Corollary: We as scientists are also experts on Constitutional law, and any attempt to mention a Deity in schools is an attempt to abrogate the great 'wall of separation between church and state' that Thomas Jefferson wrote with his own hand into the Bill of Rights.

I do disagree with Jim on a couple of points. I have no problem with the Big Bang theory being presented in science classes. In fact I think it ought to be. Students should be aware of major (predominant) scientific theories, although I have no problem with it being limited to, say, high school age. At the same time the very reasonable theory of Intelligent Design ought also to be presented alongside it. As Phillip Johnson says, teach the controversy. Truth never hides from open debate.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

The Jessamine Journal has run my column 'Seeing Too Much'. You may recognize much of it as it began as a post here at theosebes.

I will praise the name of God with song
And magnify Him with thanksgiving. --Psalm 69:30

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I've posted my Sunday sermon on 'Thanksgiving to God' at the Lake Street church site in RealAudio. Enjoy your holiday!

It seems that Yves Saint Laurent (how do you pronounce 'Yves' anyway? GAP is a lot easier to say!) is 'pushing the envelope' (don't they love doing that?) with a new ad campaign for their fragrance M7, 'which features a man wearing nothing but the hair on his skin -- and reclining with his legs spread,' FOX reports. It's okay, though:

'The nudity is meant to show an unconventional attitude that communicates style and confidence,' said Brad Horowitz, VP of marketing at Clarins Fragrance Groups, which distributes the fragrance. 'This man is a little daring but he's not taking himself that seriously. It's an amusing nakedness.'

Well, that's a relief. It would be a different story if his nakedness wasn't 'amusing'. But even Alice Cunejo, San Francisco bureau chief for Advertising Age sees it for what it is, 'You wouldn't have seen this 10 or 20 years ago,' she said. 'It's borderline soft-core porn.'

Last night my brother-in-law Mitch was telling me about an article in the University of Memphis' student paper about a group of female converts to Islam at the school. The women all wear the traditional clothing of a hijab. One of the women commented,

“We do not feel oppressed,” said Eboni Leake, a former U of M student who converted to Islam during her junior year. “We wear the hijab for modesty, and to be respected for who we are. The guys don’t talk in a way that would demean women when I’m around anymore, and if they do, they apologize.”

Now we're looking at two extremes, but which extreme finds women (well, men for that matter) treated with respect? The extremities of Islam are seen by these people as a refuge for those who are rightfully disgusted with our oversexed culture. There's an opportunity here for Christians. More people are open than we think. The fields are white unto harvest--let's see them led to Christ, not Mohammed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002


I once taught a class on Proverbs and as we were discussing 'Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he shall not depart from it,' a older brother interjected 'I don't think that's valid anymore.' Quite frankly, I was at a loss as to what to say. The world's just too bad, he continued--it's impossible to keep them faithful. It always seems that it's that way, but the Preacher wrote, 'Do not say, "Why is it that the former days were better than these?" (Eccl. 7:10) This man had lost his child to the world; his story is not unique. But we can't invalidate the Bible because things didn't work out for us. The Proverbs are general principles, not iron-clad rules. Sometimes children will be unfaithful despite what we do.

Something I don't think this brother wanted to consider, however, was that maybe he really didn't do what he could have for his child. I wasn't there, so I can't say. But I preached at a congregation where almost every single (adult) child of the elderly members there were unfaithful to the Lord. Something had gone wrong somewhere. It doesn't do any good to berate these Christians about it. There's nothing they can do now.

But as a parent of a 2 year old and a 3 month old I want to learn from their mistakes. My wife and I see our primary goal as parents as raising godly children. Yesterday my daughter brought me Just In Case You Ever Wonder, by Max Lucado (yes, Lucado gets on my nerves, too, but this is a very good children's book) and said, 'Will you read to me about going to heaven?' Now that will just make your heart melt. We talked about being in heaven together with Jesus. At two year's old she very much wants to be there. At 22 and 82 I still want her to have that same desire. But how do I do that?

Kevin Young has some good insights on about raising faith-filled kids. He puts his finger on the common mistake, the mistake that is causing us to lose our children rather than win them for the Lord:

I used to think that if my kids attended Sunday school, memorized enough verses, and sat up straight and tall during family devotions, we would produce in them extraordinary faith.

For many it's worse than that. Far too many are convinced if their children show up to Bible class a couple of times a week (or month) that exposure to Biblical teaching will somehow inoculate them against the world and its powerful forces. It won't. Churches can--must--assist in training children, but parents, not churches, are the ones who are going to do the important training. They're going to set the tone and the priorities. Our 2 year old who wanted to go to heaven yesterday also said Sunday morning, 'I don't want to go to Bible class.' We talked to her about it some, trying to convince her that she did. She still didn't. She went anyway. Parents who would never think of letting children miss arithmetic class will all too readily heed their child's reluctance to go to Bible class. Which is more important to them? I can tell you this, God's not going to make them pass a math test before they can get into heaven.

Monday, November 25, 2002


The What Would Jesus Drive silliness has reopened debate about the entire WWJD idea; the original WWJD--What Would Jesus Do? Is the latter a valid question?

I think that reaction against the faddishness of it all is quite healthy. Any time religion becomes a fashion statement we're missing the point, whether it's a WWJD bracelet, a crucifix dangling furtively above decolletage or the latest religious logo-spoof t-shirt. WWJD was hip, but these days it's lost some of its hep factor. The kids have moved on.

A friend of mine told me once 'What Would Jesus Do?' isn't the the right question, but rather 'What Jesus Did', i.e., what He accomplished on the cross. I certainly agree that everything rests on what was accomplished on the cross. If Jesus hadn't died for my sins and raised again on the third day what He taught and did would be of no concern to me.

In regard to the WWJD question, Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping (link above) writes:

It is impossible for me to live's Christ's life, nor can I meaningfully imagine Jesus leading my life . At best, I can hope to live a Christly life. But that makes the question not, WWJD, but "WWJHMD" - what would Jesus have me do?

There's quite a bit of truth there, I think. But just as Thomas a Kempis titled his book The Imitation of Christ, I do think that imitation of Christ--what would He do?--is relevant. Jesus said, 'If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.' (John 14:15) But the very life Jesus led was an example of perfect living. It is to be emulated.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.' Matthew 16:24

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. --1 Cor. 11:1

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.... --1 Peter 2:21

I think 'what would Jesus do?' is a legitimate question in our lives. But I certainly understand the problems with What Would Jesus Do?

We'll all sleep a little safer tonight after a successful Rally For a Hate-Free Lexington protected us from the kooky forces of Kansas preacher/protester Fred Phelps. Phelps showed up with his minions of ten people to protest the recent christening by a Catholic priest of quadruplets being raised by a Lexington homosexual couple. The Hate-Free crowd responded by killing a flea with a hammer. The local tv news led with the story and ran with it for seven minutes, an eternity in a 30 minute news program. I'm glad there's no agenda there.

Is Phelps nutty? Without a doubt.

Is a homosexual couple raising children a good idea? No it's not.

Should the Catholic church baptize the homosexual couple's children? The children aren't sinners (well, I don't think they are, the Catholic church does or they wouldn't 'baptize' them), so if the Catholics are going to baptize infants I don't know why these should be excluded. My problem is with the practice of infant baptism. Of course, the priest went beyond the baptism and 'blessed' the couple. If I was a Catholic I would have a problem with that.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Okay, I couldn't resist...

"Sin is incurable by the strength of man, nor does free will have any validity here,
so that even the saints say: 'The evil which I do not wish, this I do.' 'You are not doing the
things which you wish.' 'Since my loins are filled with illusions,' etc."

You are Martin Luther!

Yeah, you have a way of letting everyone know how you
feel, usually with Bible quotes attached, and will think your way through the issues, although
sometimes you make no sense! You aren't always sure of yourself, and you can change your mind about
things, something you actually consider a strength. You can take solitude, especially with some music.

What theologian are you?

A creation of Henderson


The James Ossuary is undergoing intense scrutiny at a Biblical scholars conference in Toronto where the bone box is on display. That's a good thing. I hope the box is genuine, but if it's not I don't want to be misled. The very fact that the box is there shows the confidence those associated with it have. This is the sort of thing that needs to be debated by supporters and skeptics alike. Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaelogy Review, sums up much of the oppostition: “There’s a kind of resistance. We don’t want to believe it.”

Being cheap I don't actually buy a Sunday paper; I just read it online. But my friend Sean Busick (Ph.D., South Carolina) sent me an email about Marilyn vos Savant's column in Parade Magazine. Sean writes,

Someone asks: how would you teach morality to someone who doesn't believe in God or the hereafter? She replies that religion is not necessary to teaching morality. "The way children are taught to love, honor, respect--and sometimes fear--God, they also can be taught to love, honor, respect and fear mankind itself. Such teachings would guide human behavior: Any reasonable adult who desired the approval of his fellow man and woman would be motivated to do the right thing."

[Edmund] Burke would have recognized such nonsense as the revolutionary foundation of tyranny. Followers of such a moral code as she describes all too frequently trample individual men and women while acting out of love for mankind as a whole.

Just so, as Russell Kirk would have said. Sean has hit the nail on the head. All the great materialistic ideologies of 20th Century claimed to be for the good of 'mankind', yet were responsible for the slaughter of millions. All were also Godless ideologies. Again as Russell Kirk--Burke's greatest disciple and expositor--wrote, ideologies are inverted religions.

Professing to be wise, they became fools.

Saturday, November 23, 2002


Some interesting thoughts on the Transfiguration over at JoyfulChristian, particularly on the role of John as 'Elijah', and why there was to be an Elijah figure to precede the Messiah.

Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount and spoke with Jesus. What were they talking about? Luke records, they 'were speaking of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.' (10:32) Jesus stood transfigured before the selected apostles--they viewed Him as He truly was. And Peter--not realizing what he was saying (how typical of Peter--and us!)--offered to build tents (or tabernacles) for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. God was not satisfied with Peter's solution: 'This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!' (vs. 35) It was now time for authority to reside in the Person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2), not the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). The old wineskins would no longer suffice.

The Evangelical Theological Society--a group of academics--is attempting to expel members for adherence to a theological position known as 'Open Theism'. I admit I was not previously aware of that term or exactly what the tenets of it are. The ETS seems to think that it's an issue of 'innerancy' and limitation of God's omniscience. The Christianity Today article states,

Open theists emphasize God's self-limitation in dealing with humans. Because God desires people's free response, openness theologians say, he neither predetermines nor foreknows their moral choices. In the Bible, they say, God changes his mind, or "repents," in response to human actions.

That this is true seems pretty obvious Scripturally. What came immediately to my mind was the descent of Moses from Sinai only to discover Israel worshipping the golden calf. God says,

The LORD said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you (i.e., Moses) a great nation.' --Exodus 32:9-10, NASB-u

In response to that decision, Moses 'entreated' the LORD that He would spare them. Verse 14 records, 'So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.' Now you want to talk about 'innerancy', either what the text says happened happened, or God lied to Moses or the account itself is fictitious. Only the first of those options is consistent with an innerant view. And that position flies in the face of the ETS's deterministic Calvinism.

It seems Open Theism is simply a restating of the Biblical notion of free-will.

A question that is raised is how comfortable those ETS members associated with the Stone-Campbell Restorationist churches will be with this. A recently published book by IntervarsityPress, Evangelicalism & the Stone Campbell Movement, has its editor and several of the essayists falling over themselves to rush under the 'evangelical' label. I'd say to a man they also believe in a free will generally consistent with the Open Theism position.

As we always see, any attempt to leave the simply Bible name of Christian will only lead to trouble.

The Lexington homosexual couple who have made national headlines by having quadruplets using the services of a surrogate mother have have earned the ire of traveling homosexual protester Fred Phelps of Kansas. Apparently the last straw was the recent christening of the children by a Catholic priest who also blessed the two men as parents. Phelps has a protest planned for tomorrow. From what I've seen of Phelps and his congregation their tactics aren't very Christlike, holding signs like 'God Hates Fags'. But the homosexual couple have been playing the local and national media on this for months now. They seem shocked (shocked!) by the negative reaction after rubbing everyone's face in their sinful behavior.

I've written about this previously and expressed my feelings about the media fawning. But as I said in my sermon on the issue, homosexuality is wrong but showing personal hostility toward these men is not the proper route. There were those in the Corinthian church who had been involved in homosexual behavior, but Paul told them 'you were washed, were sanctified, were justified.' (1 Cor. 6:9-11) The best course of action is to refuse to normalize their behavior, but pray that they would turn away from it.

Ben Witherington, a professor at nearby Asbury Seminary, is involved in writing a book on the James Ossuary with Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks. The Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader talks to him today about the bone box, the upcoming book and the media attention he is receiving on it. I loved this quote:

As an expert on the New Testament, Witherington is used to being quoted in Christianity Today and other national publications.

But he's never experienced anything like the media buzz surrounding this story.

"They're calling from anywhere," Witherington said recently. "You've got a media out there that is basically biblically illiterate, so they're desperate to get some handholds on what the significance of this is."

Heh heh heh.

Look for the book around Easter.

Friday, November 22, 2002


That's right, What Would Mohammed Like? Well apparently not the Miss World pageant according to the actions of rioters in Kaduna, Nigeria where more than 100 people were killed and 500 injured after a newspaper suggested Mohammed would have liked the pageant. CNN reports:

Angry mobs in the mainly-Muslim city 600 kilometres (375 miles) northwest of Lagos burnt Christian churches and rampaged through the streets stabbing, bludgeoning and burning bystanders to death....

Schools and shops hurriedly closed as hordes of young men, shouting "Allahu Akhbar," or "God is great," ignited makeshift street barricades made of tires and garbage, sending plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Others were heard chanting, "Down with beauty" and "Miss World is sin."

Well, now it may be. But so is dragging people from cars, stabbing them and then igniting a tire around their necks. As is looting and pillaging. Not to mention outright murder. One has a hard time taking seriously the religious sensitivities of people who resort to mass rioting over a newspaper article.

'Christian youths' are also now reported to have retaliated. You like to see their dedication to Jesus's injunction to 'turn the other cheek'.

My wife and I went out for a movie last night for the first time since our new daughter Molly Katherine was born three months ago (thanks to my sister Laurel and her husband Scott for the babysitting!). So off we went to the current big movie Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. We had seen the first one last year and it spurred me to try the book, which I read with some skepticism. My skepticism mainly grew from the whole 'phenomenon' of it; it was just a little too popular to be entirely trusted.

Now compared to a truly great work like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings--or even The Hobbit--Potter can't really compete. But the first book impressed me with its ability to keep my interest. I went on to read the other three books, and now so has my wife.

I'll make a confession--I like Harry Potter.

The Potter series is something I would have absolutely loved when I was a kid. It's an exciting world of make-believe with hidden passages, ancient books and likeable characters...

...and magic, wizards and witches. Is Potter repackaged Satanism attempting to sneak past our defenses in order to plant the seeds of witchcraft into young minds who will then grow up to join a Wiccan cult? Or is it harmless fun--a good story with a strong, positive moral message to kids? Despite the wide-ranging views, I'm going to side with the latter. Will Harry Potter lead anyone to Christ? No. Rowling's world is a secular one, by and large, despite some attempts to show an innate gospel message in it. I think it boils down to harmless fun. (My favorite criticism of the Potter books/movies is how we don't want children to admire characters who break school rules--oh please!)

I have a number of Christian friends (adults) who have read and liked the books: my wife Traci, my two sisters, my friends Dave & Mary Ann, Jennifer (despite her husband Sean's misgivings!) and Judy R. all immediately come to mind. Of course, none of us have a problem with Halloween, either. I just have serious doubts that there are large numbers of young readers being led down the path of witchcraft following the Pied Piper of Hogwarts.

Should parents be concerned what their children are exposed to? By all means, yes! My wife and I are very restrictive about that with our older daughter (just ask others who think we're very odd). But quite frankly I'd rather let her watch (and later read) Harry Potter than watch Sesame Street.

I loved reading about King Arthur and Merlin as a child (I still do). I devoured Lloyd Alexander's Prydain's Chronicles. I read fairy tales to my children. As my old boss the late Russell Kirk--a great fantasy and ghost story writer himself--said, children need fantasy and imagination, not 'see Jane run'. And if Harry Potter is not on a level with the greats, I don't believe it will do our children any harm. Read on!

Thursday, November 21, 2002


Yes, What Would Jesus Drive? The Evangelical Environmental Network has begun a campaign to convince us all that Jesus would never have driven a gas-hog SUV or mini-van (trouble for me since we bought one over the summer--where else to put these kids!?). Jesus would have been interested in alternative fuels it seems. The implication seems to be, if you're not so concerned then Jesus will be none too pleased with you.

Well, I think there is an expectation of stewardship. God has given us His Creation to oversee; we need to be responsible with it. But God ultimately is concerned with eternal things, not the transitory. I'm personally uncomfortable with an ad campaign that implies the authority of Jesus on something without some explicit reason for doing so. It makes me think of the 'Jesus was a vegetarian' campaign launched by PETA. Forget the fact Scripture records Him eating meat, and never implies vegetarianism as a lifestyle. We need to show more reverance in throwing the name of Jesus around for our pet causes.

One of the biggest movements in today's religious environment --particularly among evangelicals--is toward 'contemporary' worship, particularly in music. Some (many?) churches have multiple worship services in order to accomodate those who want a 'traditional' service and those who want something hipper. Ironically, folks have let corporate worship--meant to be something that unifies--become something that divides.

Barna Research has issued a new study on the worship wars. I think Barna hits the nail on the head when he says,

"Most of the church people who fight about their musical preference do so because they don't understand the relationship between music, communication, God and worship. Church leaders foster the problem by focusing on how to please people with music or how to offer enough styles of music to meet everyone's tastes rather dealing with the underlying issues of limited interest in, comprehension of, and investment in fervent worship of a holy, deserving God."

When worship boils down simply to people's tastes then we're missing the point. Ultimately worship is to be about what God wants to receive, not what we prefer to give. The account of Cain and Abel illustrates that perfectly. In our consumer environment everybody thinks they ought to have a choice in everything.

The church I attend only practices congregational a capella singing for our music. We do that because that's what we believe is authorized by God--that's what He wants us to do. My wife ran into a man who had visited with us for awhile and whose wife was now attending a more musically with-it church. He said our lack of musical instruments was really a barrier for others. We really ought to think about getting a piano or something.

Well, we won't. That's off the table as far as we're concerned. And it's not based on personal taste, but rather what we think God authorizes. That being said, there are some who think that if a hymn was written within the last 50 years (or 100!) it's suspect. While we need to make sure each hymn is Scripturally expressive in its teaching and praise, I don't know that there was anything particularly special about 19th Century hymn writing. Each generation is equally authorized to express themselves musically in keeping with Scriptural principles. There tends to be a feeling among some that the older the hymn the holier it must be (I think it tends to go along with the liking for lots of 'Thees' and 'Thous').

In the end, corporate worship is meant to be something that unites us under the authority of our Lord. And while it does matter what we get out of it (part of its purpose is to spiritually energize us), it matters a great deal more that God is pleased with what we do.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002


My sister Susanna has a couple of posts of interest to theosebes at cut on the bias. First, she tackles the moral questions raised by abortion, capital punishment and war.

More importantly, she has the best picture you've seen on the web in some time.

We talked about the pornographic culture below, well tonight CBS regales us with a one-hour Victoria's Secret ad. Not only are they showing it, they're showing it during the 'family hour' at 8 PM. Some folks are upset about it and even some affiliates are refusing to carry it. CBS tells us not to worry:

''Despite what the PTC [Parents Television Council] says, this is not pornography,'' CBS spokesman Chris Ender said. ''It's a one-hour fashion show mixed with musical performances and comedy segments.

It would seem that Victoria's Secret ought to look to their own name. I doubt much will still be a secret after this 'fashion show'.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002


I've been meaning to commend David Posey's editorial over at Focus Magazine:

[T]o whom or what do Christian pledge their allegiance? In reading and hearing what some of my brethren are saying, I get the impression that they have pledged at least part of their allegiance to someone or something other than Christ.

By way of disclaimer, the good folks over at Focus have been known to publish various writings of mine. But I'd like David's editorial even if they didn't.

Serge Trifkovic says no. A nice blow to the myth of religious relativism.

The myth of an Islamic Golden Age is needed by Islam’s apologists to save it from being damned by its present squalid condition; to prove, as it were, that there is more to Islam than the terrorism of Bin Laden and the decadence of the oil sheiks. It is, frankly, a confession that if the world judges it by what it is today, it comes up rather short, being a religion that has yet to produce a democratic or prosperous society, or social and cultural forms admired by neutral foreign observers the way anyone can admire American freedom, Japanese order, Israeli courage, or Italian style.

All ways can't be equally right.
MORAL DARWINISM is well reviewed by Richard Weikart. Benjamin Wiker in his book seeks to trace 'How We Became Hedonists' and rather than finding Darwinism at the root, he rather sees it as the fruit of a long philosophical tradtion looking back to Epicurus. Weikert finds flaws in the work, but there's no question that Wiker is onto something.
TEACHING TEENS isn't an easy task as anyone who's tried it can attest. At the Annandale lectures David Banning, who works with the South Bumby church in Orlando along with Robert Harkrider, gave a great lecture on teaching teens. David made the excellent point that very often teens make a big transition by going from a female instructor with a more interactive, vibrant teaching style to a male instructor who use the lecture method of teaching. I think he's very right about that. Teens don't like to be lectured to. He's developing a series of lesson books called the 'Get Them Talking' series based on the idea that teens want (need) to learn interactively and playing on the great truth that teens like to talk. I was really impressed with it.

Monday, November 18, 2002

PORNOGRAPHY is virtually inescapable these days. And I'm not talking about a Playboy at the local convenient mart. Our culture constantly is wearing down what once was a much clearer distinction so that simply driving down the road will expose you to a Hooters billboard and worse. My In-box is regularly regaled with spam 'offers' for websites and 'free' passwords. The subject lines are even unrepeatable--yuck! I think many of us can see the truth in the old 'sex sells' maxim, but some folks apparently are into some pretty sick stuff.

My sister's blog (thanks for today's link, by the way) provided a link to a column by Michelle Malkin called 'A generation of skanks' and talking about Christina Aguilera and her new 'song' 'Dirrty'. She's apparently appeared--quite a bit of her, well, pretty much all of her--on the cover of Rolling Stone. Malkin's daughter asks the pertinent question, 'Where's her shirt?' My own 2-year old has asked similar questions of folks on tv before (usually commercials). I've not seen the Rolling Stone cover, but I did see quite a bit more of LeAnn Rimes than I needed to on the cover of some magazine recently.

Yesterday my wife showed me a catalog selling a comforter set for young girls with Britney Spears on it. Britney's face is emblazoned on the shams. And a provocatively posed Britney with hands positioned to accentuate her bosom fills the comforter itself. As Malkin tells us, that's where we get the skanks. I pointed out to my wife recently that all these young girls we see with low pants and midrif bearing tops are constantly tugging their pants up and their shirts down. They want to be stylish, but I don't really think they want to show all they're showing. If they keep wearing it, though, eventually it won't bother them anymore.

Christian Reflection, a journal put out by The Center for Christian Ethics, turns its eye to The Pornographic Culture in the latest issue. I've found Christian Reflection a thoughtful publication. They write,

'Overt sexual imagery saturates our culture. When this imagery is calculated to arouse sexual desires that are inappropriate to a faithful Christian life, and when it distorts the dignity of men’s and women’s bodies, we call it "pornographic."'

Adam and Eve realized upon eating the forbidden fruit that they were naked, and that there was now an inappropriateness to that. What pornography ultimately seeks to do is both normalize public nakedness yet at the same time play on its titillating aspects.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

JAMES OSSUARY is on display in Toronto after beeing repaired. During the repairs curators 'discovered an incised star-circle and minute flecks of red paint on the back of the box, common decorations on ossuaries dating between 50-70 A.D.' The article reports Edward Keall, the museum’s director of Near Eastern and Asian civilizations, as saying

'it was unlikely anyone will ever prove scientifically it held the bones of the brother of Jesus. “It won’t stand up in a court of law,” he said. “Believing is an act of faith.”'

Now I certainly agree that in all likelyhood it won't be possible to prove definitively that the box is the box. And ultimately my faith is not affected one way or another by that--I had faith in Jesus as a historical person and, more importantly, as the Son of God, before the box was ever found. If the ossuary ever is found to be some dime-store forgery that will have no bearing on my faith in Jesus. But are 'faith' and 'things that stand up in a court of law' two irreconcilable things? Is Biblical 'faith' something that I just happen to want to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary or despite a lack of evidence? Or in fact is it a reasonable belief founded upon an accumulation of evidence, primarily the testimony of witnesses as found in the Bible accounts? That's certainly what I intend my faith to be.

Friday, November 15, 2002

ON THE ROAD again. After the morning session at Annandale we'll be heading back to Kentucky. I've got some comments about some of yesterday's lectures and probably today's after I hear them. I'll try to post those tomorrow. If you've never been to the Annandale lectures you really ought to come some year. It's well worth it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

SPLINTERING CHURCHES are always a problem, and the problem seems to be growing. Weldon Warnock told us about a man marooned on an island who finally waved down a passing ship. The man was showing the rescuers his living situation and they came upon three small huts. 'What are these huts?' they asked. 'The first is where I live. The second is where I go to church,' the man answered.

'What's the third one?'

'Oh, that's where I used to go to church.'
SETTING THINGS in order was the subject of Tack Chumbley's lecture yesterday at Annandale. He gave an exposition of Titus pointing out that Titus was literally to make things 'straight'. Paul was concerned with 1) straight leadership, 2) straight speaking, 3) straight living. The point I liked the most was in Chapter 2 where Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men, the older women and the younger men. But note that the older women--not Titus--were ordered to instruct the younger women. Not only are most men at a loss to competently address many problems that younger women might have (into which older women have obvious insight), but Paul's system also protects preachers from the dangers of meeting one-on-one with younger women. Preacher after preacher has fallen victim to sexual sin arising out of just such a situation. Young women seeking counseling are often very vulnerable emotionally. We do them, ourselves, our families and God a great disservice by not taking proper safeguards.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

ON THE ROAD to Annandale, Virginia this week. My family will be attending the preacher training lectureship sponsored by the Annandale Church of Christ. It's always an enjoyable time there; we'll be staying with our friends Bill & Jennifer Wilder (a lawyer and a doctor, but fine folks anyway!). This year's schedule (scroll down) looks good. I'll try to give some reports as the week progresses.
THE JAMES OSSUARY owner has been 'outed' and could be in trouble. Israeli antiquities authorities are attempting to determine exactly when Oded Golan purchased it and from whom. He claims it was in 1976, before current antiquities laws were passed. There is also a picture of the now damaged ossuary, with a crack running through the controversial inscription.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

TOLERANCE is a buzzword these days. The only thing seemingly not tolerated are those who are viewed as intolerant by the arbiters of such things. My brother-in-law Mitch sent me a link to this good column by William Bouknight, a Methodist minister in Memphis, on the topic.There is an increasing movement--particularly among those in the liberal 'mainline' denominations--to ridicule and silence those who would insist upon the uniqueness and necessity of Jesus Christ. We must always proclaim Christ with tact, expressing the 'truth in love', but we can never compromise on the proclamation of the gospel message regardless of how the culture at large chooses to view us.
RUSSIAN VISAS are apparently harder to come by these days for non-Orthodox religious workers and teachers as discussed here. After a decade of openness, the Russians seem to be pulling back from that. I know a number of brethren have been going to Russia and the former Iron Curtain countries during that time with some success. I pray the gospel is still able to penetrate a culture which suffered from state-sponsored atheism for 70 years.Someone was telling me of some brethren planning a trip within in the next few months. Now I've not been to Russia, but I'd think July-August might be a better time to travel there! In the article a man from Dallas, Jeffrey Wollman, says, "Now it looks like the door is shutting." As Paul did, we need to always pray for doors of opportunity to open both here and abroad.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

SUCCESS--what is it? We were talking about this very topic last night in the Ecclesiastes class I'm teaching. The folks over at Barna Research have been asking folks what they think success is. Among their findings:

'The study revealed that different faith groups had significantly divergent views of success. For instance, family health, faith development and making a difference in the world combined to reflect the success factors of nearly nine out of ten evangelicals (86%). That dwarfed the figures associated with non-evangelical born again Christians (47%), self-described Christians who are not born again (40%), atheists (33%), and people aligned with a non-Christian faith (29%). Similarly, about half of all Protestants (49%) and Catholics (47%) indicated that this parcel of factors would fit their concept of life success.

'One clear pattern was that the younger a person is, the less likely they are to identify their spiritual condition as the determinant of success. Baby Busters were only half as likely as Boomers and just one-third as likely as Elders to identify spiritual development as the key to personal success.'

Ecclesiastes tells us 'If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, "Better the miscarriage than he....'(Eccl. 6:3) He's talking about life from the 'under the sun' perspective. If this is all there is, and you didn't enjoy life or even get a decent funeral, then you just missed out buddy!

But what happens if you did get yours; you did get what life offers? Well 'He who loves money will not be satisfied with money' (Eccl. 5:10) we're told. So even if you are successful in worldly material terms you're not going to be happy with it. Vanity of vanities...

Where, then, is true success?

'Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man.' (Eccl. 12:13)

How successful are you?
JAMES OSSUARY skepticism over at Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log. Various links included there.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

PREACHING IS generally a joy to those of us who do it. Working with a local congregation as an evangelist can be a most satisfying job--what could be more important than helping to spread God's message? Over the past few years I've known some young, talented, energetic men leave preaching to pursue secular jobs. They were frustrated and suffered burn-out. I think we've all known that feeling from time to time; when it gets to be one's predominant feeling it certainly is time to leave full-time preaching. We can do more harm than good without the right mindset. But we as Christians need to assess how we view our local preachers and how we treat them. I'm constantly told there is a 'preacher shortage'. I suppose in a larger sense, that's always true (the fields are white unto harvest). But have we made men reluctant to enter preaching? Are we running them off? I don't think it's simply a matter of 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen'. Not everyone is suited for preaching, certainly. But we don't need to make preachers run the gauntlet every week, either. I found an article by preacher's daughter and preacher's wife Jill Slater that has a lot of good things to say on the topic. And may God bless preacher's wives for what we ask them to go through! Note: The article is from Wineskins, something of a liberal publication even among our institutional brethren. As with all articles I link, not everything there is endorsed by me.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

ANOTHER DAY, another James ossuary update. This one comes from TIME magazine. It's the most comprehensive article I've seen. Be sure also to look at the photo essay. Their photograph of the inscription is striking. Is it the real deal?
DISTRACTIONS DURING SERVICES are all too common. John Beukema has a humorous look at the problem. A congregation I'm familiar with (you know who you are!) had a member experience a 'religious swoon' during a sermon. Havoc ensued, the guest speaker's PowerPoint presentation was interrupted and 911 was called before veteran members could tell the callers that there was no medical concern. I don't think he ever did get back to that PowerPoint...

Monday, November 04, 2002

SILENCE IN THE SCRIPTURES...Few things separate religious folks more than their attitude toward silence in the Scriptures--is it restrictive or permissive? A friend (thanks Bill!) recommended this editorial by Stafford North to me. Considering the source--a publication for members of 'institutional' churches of Christ--his conclusion is surprising. But older folks in such churches are starting to realize that they've sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind with their permissive attitude toward God's word.

While you're over there, take a look at their conversation with Ferrell Jenkins.
POLITICS AT CHURCH...Tony Hooker over at Trojan Horseshoes was in for a rude awakening yesterday when he went to services at his United Methodist Church. Have you ever had a Children's Defense Fund flyer in your church bulletin? This is some great insight from inside a 'mainstream' church:

"Why exactly is my church bulletin telling me what political activity I should be taking, and advocating Government programs? If there is something that we need to do to help children, we need to do it ourselves."

Don't miss the comments, either.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

SERMON SEEDS appear everywhere. This article on going into deeper waters contains a number of points useful to putting together a sermon on its base passage, Luke 5:1-11. Sadly, the author really misses the point as he attempts to make various outreaches more Christ-focused. He writes:

'Our church is known for its recreation program.'

Now I'm sorry, but if that's your church's claim to fame there certainly needs to be a reassessment. He continues:

'For the first time in 70 years, the leaders of the recreation program committed themselves to the goal of evangelism and discipleship.'

This reminds me of a story my brother-in-law told me about a school-friend's account of a church run outreach focused on basketball and tutoring. The church believed in 3-5 years they would be able to bring some of the youngsters in the program to Christ. But at first they simply wanted to gain their trust.

I have my doubts that Paul took that model with Timothy, or Barnabas with John Mark.
BIBLE STUDY is one of those things we do too often simply as an afterthought. Take a look at this fine article about devotion to study. I think Greg Laurie covers all the bases on this one:

"Someone once approached a great Bible teacher and told him, 'Sir, I would give the world to know the Bible as you do.'

"The teacher replied, 'And that is exactly what it will cost you.' "

Saturday, November 02, 2002

JAMES OSSUARY update...En route to Toronto for display at a major conference, the ossuary cracked in transit. Now we're talking about a 2,000 year old limestone box--it wasn't designed by the Jerusalem Ossuary Company (yes, I made that up) to travel by plane to Canada. Can you imagine what the ossuary's maker would have thought of such a thing! I was amused by the articles assurance that the new cracks 'would not diminish its overall importance'. No, I didn't think so.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

'JAMES, SON of Joseph, brother of Jesus' reads the inscription on a first-century ossuary reported by Biblical Archaelogy Review. It gives us powerful archaelogical evidence of the existence of James, and more importanly, Jesus Himself. According to the print article, the statistical probability that it is the James and Jesus is quite strong. Quite frankly, there's not much controversy even among strong secularists that Jesus existed (a few die-hards argue against it). When I was a teaching assistant the professor I was working under dismissed any possibility that there was not a historical Jesus. The question ultimately isn't whether He existed, but rather who He was (is). Is the James ossuary genuine? It's probably impossible to say definitively, but if it was anyone but a Biblical figure there wouldn't be much debate about it. It would simply be accepted.
WELCOME TO my new weblog. It is my intention to give you my comments--from a Biblical perspective--on issues and events of the day. I do so with no claims to infallibility. I pray you can find things of use here.