Friday, December 24, 2004


Why, when it's religious speech, of course. The International Bible Society sparked controversy when it paid for New Testaments to be included in a newspaper. Some, as you might imagine, are not happy:
hen the International Bible Society paid to insert a copy of the New Testament in last Sunday's issue of The Colorado Springs Gazette, it thought it had found an astute way to spread Scripture.

The volume went into the same pocket of the newspaper's plastic pouch where items like CD's from America Online or soap samples often go. The Bible group paid the standard advertising rate, and its spokeswoman, Judy Billings, said it considered the 91,000 copies of the New Testament a Christmas gift to the people of Colorado Springs....

Some Jews and Muslims said getting the New Testament with the Sunday paper felt like being proselytized in their homes. Journalism critics debated whether this was free speech or skating too close to an endorsement of a particular religion.

Does anyone assume the newspaper endorses Moe's Hardly Damaged Automobiles when he advertises? Well of course not. Thankfully, the paper's publisher seems to be a sensible fellow:
Bob Burdick, publisher of The Gazette, said that the paper regularly took advertising from religious and political groups, and that most readers understood that such advertisements did not amount to an endorsement of their ideas.

"We're not in the business of stifling ideas," Mr. Burdick said. "I don't think papers have to back away from ideas because they're religious ideas, just as they shouldn't back away from ideas because they're political ideas."

Some were a little silly about it:
Rabbi Anat Moskowitz* canceled her subscription to the Gazette because she didn't approve of the way the text was delivered.

"All Jews treat holy books with reverence and respect," Moskowitz said. "I don't like the fact that most people drive over their newspaper in the morning. We find that disrespectful."

Moskowitz and other worshipers from Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs didn't protest the giveaway per se, but have decided to give copies they received to local churches that want them.

Most astonishing to Moskowitz was that IBS spent $125,000 to distribute the New Testament rather than donate the money to a homeless shelter or some other needy organization.

"There are so many things that the money could be used for," she said. "There are families who cannot get through the week, let alone the day. Get them a box of food. Feed their bodies and their souls."

The rabbi also was disturbed that photographs of the city of Colorado Springs and other landmarks were printed on the cover as if to suggest the city is a Christians-only city.

Uh, yeah. It's the International Bible Society, Ms. Moskowitz, not Meals on Wheels. There are far too many churches already that would rather spend their time and energy handing out food for the body instead of food for the soul:
But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus was quoting Moses from Deuteronomy 8:3. Ms. Moskowitz would do well to read it and see if she's able to learn what the Israelites of that generation failed to.

But I've gotten off track. Ultimately I can think of no better evangelistic effort than giving someone a Bible. And that's what has the anti-Christians upset.

[*Obligatory woman preacher quote from Samuel Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."]

Columnist Michelle Malkin tells us that the secularist's war on Christmas is nothing to a war on Christians:
Around the world, a bloody, repressive war on Christians rages on.

In Iraq, Islamist rebel troops have declared open season on Christian churches, priests and missionaries. In February, four American pastors were traveling in a taxi near the capital when terrorists ambushed them. Rev. John Kelley, pastor of Curtis Corner Baptist Church in rural Rhode Island and a former Marine, was killed in the attack. The missionaries were starting up a new church south of Baghdad.

The article is enlightening and troubling. It makes me think of all the Christians I know who go to foreign fields to spread the gospel. Lord willing, I myself will be going on my first such trip in 2005. Pray for the safety of those who take the gospel, but pray more that the gospel will spread.

[Link via BuzzMachine via Instapundit]

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Archaeologists think they may have found Biblical Cana, site of Jesus's first miracle:
Among the roots of ancient olive trees, archaeologists have found pieces of large stone jars of the type the Gospel says Jesus used when he turned water into wine at a Jewish wedding in the Galilee village of Cana.

They think these could have been the same kind of vessels the Bible says Jesus used in his first miracle and that the site where they were found could be the location of biblical Cana. But Bible scholars caution that it will be hard to obtain conclusive proof — especially since experts disagree on the location of Cana.

Diggers at a rival site urged caution:
U.S. archaeologists excavating a rival site several miles to the north, however, also have found pieces of stone jars from the time of Jesus and think they have found biblical Cana.

Another expert, archaeologist Shimon Gibson, cast doubt on the find at modern Cana, since such vessels are not rare and it would be impossible to link a particular set of vessels to the miracle. "Just the existence of stone vessels is not enough to prove that this is a biblical site," and more excavations are needed, he said.

While the finding are interesting, it's always odd to me that these scientists seem to assume that if they dig up a shard in what might be Cana then it's bound to be from the water pots Jesus used. It's similar to the fellow who recently revealed the supposed cave of John the Baptizer--hey, it had some areas that look like they could have been used for baptisms! It must be John's cave.

I'm sure there were thousands of pots just like the one's used in Jesus's miracle in Palestine at the time. Who knows how many in Cana? I believe that Jesus certainly turned water into wine at Cana. I'd love for them to find the actual location of the city. We'll never know the site for the wedding or find those jars.

Monday, December 20, 2004


In the middle of an article on the horrible and upsetting murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett and theft of her baby was a startling loss of persective by someone who ought to know better:
The Rev. Mike Wheatly, pastor of First Church of God in Melvern [,Kansas], said he wrote his sermon about the birth of Jesus before details about Stinnett's death surfaced.

Titled, "A Baby Changed Everything," it had added relevance.

"You could've put the situation of Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the same sermon because they are both special babies," he said.

Well, yes, they are both "special babies" but not in any sort of comparative sense. I understand getting caught up in the moment, but I think Wheatly might ought to read the source text of his sermon again.

I was discussing with a friend of mine about whether we've allowed our children to believe in Santa. We both have, although my four year old seems hot on the trail of exposure. Having seen Santa thrice this holiday she told my wife after Santa visit #2, "Santa didn't seem to know me. He called me 'child' and not 'Haydon'." Perhaps better than the child my friend told me about who said in Bible class, "Daddy said there used to be a real Santa but he died. I want to pray for him."

The Mobile Register has polled southern Alabamians to find out when is the best time to tell children about Santa:
A new poll suggests that Alabamians have widely differing opinions about exactly when children should become more fully informed about the fellow they know as Santa Claus.

Eleven percent of respondents to the Mobile Register-University of South Alabama poll said that children should be told before age 6, while 16 percent preferred ages 7 or 8. Another 16 percent said 9 or 10 is appropriate, according to the poll of 417 adult Alabama residents conducted Dec. 9-14.

If only my parents had seen this poll. I think they told me when I went to college...

Friday, December 17, 2004


We've seen how the Bible can be hate speech in Canada, in Philadelphia the Bible can be fighting words:
Four Christian protesters who demonstrated at a Philadelphia homosexual event face a possible 47 years in prison if convicted of felony charges filed against them, while a prosecutor referred to Scripture verses they read as "fighting words."

The four are part of 11 demonstrators who went before the Philadelphia Municipal Court in a preliminary hearing this week. Judge William Austin Meehan Tuesday ordered four of the Christians to stand trial on three felony and five misdemeanor charges....

It's not a pretty picture.

[Thanks to Susanna at cotb for the tip.]

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


A woman who killed her baby by cutting off its arms was, ahem, 'guided' by the Bible:
A mother who admitted killing her baby daughter by severing the girl's arms was guided by a Bible passage, the woman's attorney said Tuesday.

In the passage, Jesus refers to cutting off body parts to cast away sin, said the lawyer, David Haynes.

Dena Schlosser, a 35-year-old housewife with a history of mental illness, has referred to the New Testament passage since the killing of her 10-month-old daughter, Haynes told The Associated Press.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says: “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

Schlosser has been charged with capital murder.

Haynes said that Schlosser was mentally ill at the time of the slaying. Schlosser is still disoriented, he said, but is improving under medication.

Now, it's well to note that Jesus said "if thy hand offend thee, cut it off". He failed to mention that if your hand offends me I can cut it off. (Biblical interpretation hint: Jesus was not advocating self-mutilation.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Yes, most of them do, actually. This story seems to think it's news that "almost a third" don't. I'm shocked that many do!
Almost a third of people in the UK do not know Jesus was born in Bethlehem, according to a survey published today.

Asked “Can you name the town where the Bible says Jesus was born?”, 28% of respondents did not know.

The survey, which was conducted by YouGov for Sky Box Office, also highlighted “You shall not kill” as the Old Testament Commandment people felt was still the most relevant to their lives.

This was followed by “Honour your mother and father”, “You shall not steal” and “You shall not commit adultery”.

The least relevant of the 10 Commandments was identified as “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me”.

Many theologians believe this was the Commandment Christ himself considered the most important.

The poll, which coincides with the UK TV premiere of the controversial Mel Gibson movie The Passion Of The Christ, was put together in consultation with The Very Reverend John Drury, Chaplain at All Souls College, Oxford.

It surveyed about 2,000 people on questions such as where Jesus was born, what happened on Easter Day, and who was the first man in the Bible.

I'm not the only one who was suprised they did as well as they did:
He added: “The questions were designed to be very basic but it is remarkable that 70% of all those surveyed gave correct answers. There have been times in the past when it might have been higher. However, Christian basics nowadays seems to be better than I expected.”

The survey is published just two days after the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, said that Britain would now be “hard-pushed” to be called a Christian country.

The research showed the over-50s fared significantly better than 18 to 29-year-olds when answering these knowledge-based questions:

Who is the first man in the Bible? (73% said Adam: 83% of church-goers; 70% of non-practising Christians);

Can you name the town where the Bible says Jesus was born? (72% said Bethlehem: 85% of church-goers; 71% of non-practising Christians);

What is the name of the special table normally found at the east end of a church? (61% said altar: 66% of church-goers; 62% of non-practising Christians);

Can you name the authors of the four gospels in the New Testament? (71% named Luke and John and 70% named Matthew and Mark: of church-goers Luke 80%, John 78%, Matthew 78%, Mark 80%; of non-practising Christians Luke 71%, John 72%, Matthew 70%, Mark 69%);

What was Jesus’s race or nationality? (71% said Jewish: 83% of church-goers; 72% of non-practising Christians;

According to Christian religion, what was supposed to have happened on Easter Day? (85% said the Resurrection: 92% of church-goers; 88% of non-practising Christians).

There may be hope for that bunch yet.

Monday, December 13, 2004


The Mormons Strike Back, disciplining an out of line author:
After an exhausting six-hour disciplinary hearing Sunday, Mormon leaders temporarily suspended Grant H. Palmer's membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Palmer, a longtime Mormon educator, was asked to defend himself on charges of apostasy stemming from his 2002 book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, which challenged traditional beliefs about the church's history.
The all-male priesthood leaders in his Willow Creek Sandy LDS stake could have excommunicated the 64-year-old author, but chose instead a lesser punishment - to "disfellowship" him - which means he may not enter the temple, serve in a church position, give a talk, partake of the weekly sacrament or offer a public prayer. This typically lasts about a year, but the length will be determined by his LDS stake president, Keith Adams, who may also spell out more conditions of the suspension in a letter sometime later this week. Palmer has the right to appeal the decision to higher church authorities.

What shocking things did Palmer write in his book (which has sold a staggering 3,000 copies):
In the book, Palmer argues that the faith's scripture, The Book of Mormon, reflects LDS founder Joseph Smith's own 19th-century environment, not ancient America as Mormons believe. He further suggests that Smith embellished his divine revelations to respond to critics and to stabilize the church.

This is in dispute somehow? Had Palmer concluded otherwise he would have been disfellowshiped by the historical community.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Long time English atheist Anthony Flew has become a believer in, at least, some sort of divine hand in creation:
A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew is far from being a Christian, however:
Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

Flew's conclusion is an interesting one. Intelligent Design can be used as a wedge (see Johnson's The Wedge of Truth) to show that the heavens do indeed declare God's existence. Once that acceptance of God's general revelation of creation is made the next step is to gain acceptance of God's direct revelation of Scripture. Not all will do that, of course, but for a professional atheist like Flew to change is an amazing thing.

The Bible meets the Far Side is how artist Chris Sushynski describes his new comic strip, "In The Beginning...". I have to admit, this one's pretty funny.

I wouldn't risk a lot of money on it, but there is a struggle to come to grips with November's setbacks at the ballot box:
Leaders of the gay rights movement are embroiled in a bitter and increasingly public debate over whether they should moderate their goals in the wake of bruising losses in November when 11 states approved constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriages....

The leadership of the Human Rights Campaign, at a meeting last weekend in Las Vegas, concluded that the group must bow to political reality and moderate its message and its goals. One official said the group would consider supporting President Bush's efforts to privatize Social Security partly in exchange for the right of gay partners to receive benefits under the program.

"The feeling this weekend in Las Vegas was that we had to get beyond the political and return to the personal," said Michael Berman, a Democratic lobbyist and consultant who was elected the first non-gay co-chairman of the Human Rights Campaign's board last week. "We need to reintroduce ourselves to America with the stories of our lives."

What November shows us is that the visceral reaction against homosexuality is still there, "Queer Eye" and "Will & Grace" notwithstanding. As I've written before, there is a window of opportunity to push through a constititutional amendment banning homosexual "marriage" but it is closing fast. I don't believe you're going to find many national politicians who sincerely want to lead the charge, the Bush Administration chief among them. They've ridden the campaign issue and will likely be content to let the issue fade into the sunset. I assure you the homosexual activists will not let the issue go away:
But others involved in the drive for gay and lesbian equality say the Human Rights Campaign's approach smacks of pre-emptive surrender and wrong-headed political calculation.

"For a certain segment of the movement, for which I would certainly elect the H.R.C. as poster child, it means that the error was that we were wanting too much too fast," said Jonathan D. Katz, executive coordinator of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale. "It is entirely characteristic for them to believe that what is required is a sort of retrenchment and a return to a more moderate message. They are, of course, completely wrong."

Mr. Katz and other aggressive advocates of gay rights said they believed that marriage rights were the key to winning fundamental equality for gay men and lesbians and that retreat from that struggle was self-defeating.

George Chauncey, director of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Project at the University of Chicago, said the marriage debate had galvanized gays more dramatically than any other issue in recent years.

Those who are supporters of God instituted marriage better be sure that regardless of this past November's results, the homosexual activists aren't going away on this.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Time and Newsweek have both provided cover stories on the "Christmas story", i.e., the birth of Jesus. Rob Moll provides a breakdown. Needless to say, the results are predictable:
Both Newsweek and Time have Jesus on their covers, and neither article quotes an evangelical scholar in its attempt to narrate how Christians concocted the story of the birth of Jesus....

Newsweek says they want to find the middle, somewhere between London's childlike faith and severe skepticism. Then, author Jon Meacham goes on to report only what those scholars say who do not believe what the Gospels report about Jesus' birth. "The first followers, we should always remember, believed that the Risen Lord was going to return and usher in a new apocalyptic age at any moment."

But when Jesus didn't return, these followers decided they'd better write down the story of Jesus' life, says Meacham. This Gospel story, Newsweek says, cannot be trusted historically because early Christians were by then far removed from the actual events, and, besides, they were only using the story as a means to gain believers....

But, rather than telling us why many scholars find no contradiction between faith and history, Meacham gives those of us who do believe the Gospel story a piece of advice. "Christianity is a religion of perplexing contradictions. To live an examined faith believers have to acknowledge those complexities and engage them, however frustrating it may be."

Shocking! There's no place in the story for the believer's perspective? Well, there's really not at Time, either, it seems:
Time's story goes through all the same scholarly dilemmas, but with a little more sympathy. For example, some of the differences between Gospel narratives, David Van Biema writes, can be understood by recognizing the different audiences intended to read the story.

Van Biema, though, ends without condescending advice. Even those with a "politically progressive analysis of Scripture" find something miraculous in the birth of Christ, as the Gospels tell it. During the nativity pageant at Arlington Heights First Presbyterian in Illinois, pastor Dianne Shields won't be including her historical qualms. She's preached her "scholarly sermons on the Magi and the meaning of Mary's answer to Gabriel," says Van Biema. But she's also going to play the angel in the play.

As she walks down the aisle holding Jesus, Van Biema says, "Many will cry out, if only silently within their hearts, Hallelujah!"

So, even if the Gospel accounts aren't true, it really is fun to pretend it is once a year--woohoo!

I really don't think it's possible for the national news magazines to bring themselves to take the Bible seriously, or even consider letting serious believers speak for themselves.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Newsweek has polled Americans and they have declared the virgin birth of Jesus true:
Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe that, as the Bible says, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father, according to a new NEWSWEEK poll on beliefs about Jesus.

Sixty-seven percent say they believe that the entire story of Christmas—the Virgin Birth, the angelic proclamation to the shepherds, the Star of Bethlehem and the Wise Men from the East—is historically accurate. Twenty-four percent of Americans believe the story of Christmas is a theological invention written to affirm faith in Jesus Christ, the poll shows. In general, say 55 percent of those polled, every word of the Bible is literally accurate. Thirty-eight percent do not believe that about the Bible.

In the NEWSWEEK poll, 93 percent of Americans say they believe Jesus Christ actually lived and 82 percent believe Jesus Christ was God or the Son of God. Fifty-two percent of all those polled believe, as the Bible proclaims, that Jesus will return to earth someday; 21 percent do not believe it. Fifteen percent believe Jesus will return in their lifetime; 47 percent do not, the poll shows.

Really, these are some encouraging numbers. Two polls I would love to see the results of: the same questions asked of Americans in July, divorced from the Christmas season, and the same questions asked of Western Europeans.

Friday, December 03, 2004


Just in time for the Christmas season are a couple of new products for the computer inclined Bible student. First is a new Palmtop version of the NIV Study Bible, which, although not my favorite NASB version does give access to the Zondervan Study Bible notes that I consider very good. It lists for $30 but can probably be found cheaper.

A bit more expensive, but a lot of punch for the dollar, is the new offering from, an 8-cd set of Historic Views of the Holy Land. It's high on my "to get" list. I have their original 10-cd Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, which I highly recommend especially if you do any PowerPoint presentations. It's indispensible. The new Historic Views set is being offered for an introductory price of $99, which is half off regular price.

Theosebes has no financial interest in either of these products, but they both caught my interest.

In statistics released yesterday, the government reports that 40% of Americans are on drugs:
More than 40 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug and one-in-six takes at least three, the government reported Thursday.

"Americans are taking medicines that lower cholesterol and reduce the threat of heart disease, that help lift people out of debilitating depressions, and that keep diabetes in check," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said in a statement.

The annual report on Americans' health found that just over 44 percent of all Americans take at least one prescription drug, and 16.5 percent take at least three.

Those rates were up from 39 percent and 12 percent between 1988 and 1994, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported....

The report said prescription drug use was increasing among people of all ages, and use increases with age.

Nearly half of all women were taking prescription drugs - 49 percent - compared to 39 percent of men.

Usage peaked at 84 percent for people aged 65 and over, with the top rate at 89 percent for black women over 65.

Even for people under age 18, however, nearly one-fourth - 24.1 percent - were taking at least one prescription medication. The rate rose to 34.7 percent between age 18 and 44; for those ages 45 to 64, it was 62.1 percent.

I certainly recognize the increasing life expectancy and that an aging nation will, on average, take more prescription medicine. But do one fourth of all children need to be on drugs and one third in my age group? Personally, I find these statistics highly disturbing. Particularly when it comes to mental health in children and women it seems the first option is drugs. I have a hard time accepting that as a wise choice.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


The United Methodist Church has declared guilty an openly lesbian Methodist minister:
A jury made up of United Methodist Church clergy convicted a lesbian minister Thursday of violating church law by openly living with her partner in a committed relationship.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud could be defrocked as a result of the ruling, which came on the second day of her church trial. The same 13-member jury was set to meet Thursday afternoon to decide her penalty.

Methodist law bars "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from ministry. Nine votes were necessary for a conviction and the jury voted 12-1 to find Stroud guilty.

The last time the 8.3 million-member denomination convicted an openly gay cleric was in 1987, when a New Hampshire church court defrocked the Rev. Rose Mary Denman.

Well, they'd eliminate half the problems with homosexual clergy if they'd stop ordaining women.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of this. It looks like the Methodists will live up to their tradition of being Episcopalian Lite in the long run.

Readers of theosebes may recall my not infrequent references to Dr. Russell Kirk, America's greatest 20th century expositor of conservatism. I had the good pleasure of working for him for a year. Dr. Kirk was, of course, a Catholic, an allegiance that informed his conservatism. I, of course, am not a Catholic and the issue of religion and conservatism came up on a listserv in which I participate. Below is a recent post somewhat adapted for inclusion here. It is presented without full context as it was part of an ongoing discussion. Still, the comments largely stand on their own. Someday I intend to write an extended essay on it all that will be of great interest to almost no one but me.
What is the purpose of tradition? Not tradition for tradition's sake, certainly, but rather as a means for generations of men to arrive at truth, or at least place a brake on man's experimental fancies. As Edmund Burke says: "The individual is foolish; the multitude, for the moment is foolish, when they act without deliberation; but the species is wise, and, when time is given to it, as a species it always acts right." Tradition is the action of the species. It is particularly valuable when it comes to political and societal concerns.

However, traditions (in this context the handed down decisions of generations of man) are not necessary to arrive at truth when we have God's revelation. God tells us what truth is, because man, regardless of how many generations, cannot ever apprehend the great mysteries that God knows unless we are told by Him, ie, revelation. In the face of revelation tradition becomes an impediment. Jesus said to the very religious, but tradition bound Pharisees "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." (Mark 7:8) They had allowed generations of man's teachings to obscure God's revelation.

My ultimate goal is to live true to the word of God as revealed in His word. Traditional responses and understandings of that word can inform my understanding of it, but it must not dictate it. Man's ways and understandings-even if done as a species-can only obscure what God has made clear in His word.

Now Catholics claim that God has instituted authority in a pope and a church, which I deny. Catholics operate from a point of definition-the primacy of the Catholic Church-which I do not accept. I see the Catholic Church as an obscuring of God's word by man's tradition. I do not think that makes me a radical at all, other than I seek radically to hold to God's word. I understand Catholics will disagree with that. But I would submit that there is, in fact, respectable ecclesiastical scholarship that disagrees with the Catholic historical understanding. And I'm not speaking of iconoclastic scholarship of the left, but rather work done by men who have great respect for God's word.

Yes, incomplete comments, but food for future discussion.