Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pro-life Demonstrators OK'd

The Supreme Court has ruled on racketeering laws used against abortion clinic protestors:
The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to abortion clinics in a two-decade-old legal fight over anti-abortion protests, ruling that federal extortion and racketeering laws cannot be used to ban demonstrations.

Anti-abortion groups brought the appeal after the 7th Circuit had asked a trial judge to determine whether a nationwide injunction could be supported by charges that protesters had made threats of violence absent a connection with robbery or extortion....

Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said Congress did not intend to create “a freestanding physical violence offense” in the federal extortion law known as the Hobbs Act.

It's amazing how those for the "Constitutional right" of "choice" aren't much interested in the actual Constitutional right of free speech.

In reading Ross King's Brunelleschi's Dome I came across a section where King discussed the use of 'perspective' in art, which represents distance or gives the impression of three dimensions in a two dimensional medium. Brunelleschi helped rediscover the principles of perspective and the vanishing point, which had been lost to art. However it seems the very issue of using perspective in art was a controversial one:
After the decline of the Roman Empire, however, the technique of perspective drawing was lost or abandoned. Plato had condemned perspective as deceit, and the Neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus (A.D. 205-270) praised the flattened art of the ancient Egyptians for showing figures in their "true" proportions. This prejudice against the "dishonesty" of perspective was adopted in Christian art, with the result that naturalistic space was renounced throughout the Middle Ages. Only in the first decades of the fourteenth century did the ancient methods of perspective reappear when Giotto began using chiaroscuro--a treatment of light and shade--to create realistic three-dimensional effects. (p. 34)

Well, I confess this was a new one on me. I had assumed that the flattened art one sees in medieval art was simply a lack of artistic sophistication, not that there isn't a great deal of skill on display. That is readily apparent in illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. But it is interesting that at least in part the lack of perspective was a conscious choice, a moral choice from their, er, perspective.

When I read that section to my wife her response to the argument that perspective was dishonest was, "Couldn't the same argument be made the other way?" Good point.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Newsweek has an article on the 'New Abortion Debate', and finds that (who knew?) many people feel guilty about aborting their children:
...the pro-abortion-rights interest groups are just beginning to grapple with an uncomfortable truth: that many of the million-odd women who have abortions every year are deeply troubled, if not guilt-ridden. "Our patients are not coming to, quote, 'exercise their constitutional rights'," says Claire Keyes, who runs a Pittsburgh abortion clinic. "They want to talk about prayer and forgiveness."

They also bring up the strategy of the pro-life (aka, 'anti-abortion' in Newsweekspeak) law in South Dakota:
Even if Bush-appointed Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito want to overturn Roe (not a certainty), there is still a five-vote majority on the court to uphold the precedent, which was reaffirmed as recently as 1992. For that simple reason, trying to reverse Roe now would be a "strategic loser," says James Bopp, general counsel of the National Right to Life Committee. The federal courts would likely strike down the South Dakota law, and the Supreme Court would either refuse to hear the case or—worse for the pro-lifers—once again re-affirm Roe, say conservative legal strategists.

They are likely right that an incremental approach is better:
States may have more luck chipping away at abortion. There are bills in many state legislatures to give fetuses "personhood" and requiring waiting periods and pre-abortion counseling. Some states are considering laws to require women to get an ultrasound image before obtaining an abortion.

The good news is that there are cracks in the once perceived unassailibility of abortion in this country. That can only lead to good things.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


South Dakota's Governor Mike Rounds indicates he likely will sign that state's abortion bill. No shock, Planned Parenthood will file suit.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The 'Pepper Bible' in Dallas

Jame Pepper is holed away in a Dallas church copying the Bible by hand:
The embodiment of James Pepper's life during the past 18 years is spread out over the floor and tables of his apartment and in a special room set aside for him at Highland Park United Methodist Church, where he attends and volunteers.

Since 1987, Pepper, an investment manager, has painstakingly copied portions of the Bible word for word, and he's doing it the old-fashioned way, like scribes did centuries ago: with stylus pen and black ink on plain sheets of drawing paper, and with ancient styles of calligraphy. He shuns using a computer.

After spending as many as 16 hours on some days sweating over handwriting the entire New Testament, a task he completed in 1995, Pepper is days away from completing another phase: an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels - 304 entirely handmade, highly decorative pages in a 550-page, four-year project.

And like the St. John's Bible, Pepper is using modern themes in his illustrations:
Like the ancient scribes who placed items in their Bibles from their world, Pepper has added multicolored drawings of the Space Shuttle, Skylab, Texas flora and fauna, the Titanic, and the World Trade Center towers, where three of his friends perished during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He's hoping to get a publisher for it. It really does look beautiful.

But for all their supposed rarity, there seems to be a lot of these lately!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, by Ross King. It's pretty good so far.

Swinging for the fences, South Dakota lawmakers have rejected a strategy of containing abortion through restrictions and is going for the homerun: outlawing abortion entirely:
The shifting makeup of the United States Supreme Court, the opponents said, offered a crucial opportunity, the first since at least 1992.

"It is a calculated risk, to be sure, but I believe it is a fight worth fighting," State Senator Brock L. Greenfield, a Clark Republican who is also director of the South Dakota Right to Life, told his colleagues in a hushed, packed chamber here.

After more than an hour of fierce and emotional debate, the senators rejected pleas to add exceptions for incest or rape or for the health of the pregnant woman and instead voted, 23 to 12, to outlaw all abortions, except those to save the woman's life.

The governor still has to sign it, but it seems like he probably will. He has previously mentioned a preference for limiting abortion through restrictions.

Is now the time to challenge Roe again in the courts? Well, I'm not sure if Roberts and Alito will be as advertised, but nothing ventured nothing gained. I think perhaps what might be well to see is now that S. Dakota is leading the charge for other states to offer support: begin passing legislation outlawing abortion and flood the courts. The message will at least be sent, a type of civil disobedience, if you will. And if nothing else it will tax the resources of the usual suspects trying to fight it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


British campuses are facing a student revolt from those who (gasp!) believe creationism is true:
A growing number of science students on British campuses and in sixth form colleges are challenging the theory of evolution and arguing that Darwin was wrong. Some are being failed in university exams because they quote sayings from the Bible or Qur'an as scientific fact and at one sixth form college in London most biology students are now thought to be creationists....

In the United States there is growing pressure to teach creationism or "intelligent design" in science classes, despite legal rulings against it. Now similar trends in this country have prompted the Royal Society, Britain's leading scientific academy, to confront the issue head on with a talk entitled Why Creationism is Wrong. The award-winning geneticist and author Steve Jones will deliver the lecture and challenge creationists, Christian and Islamic, to argue their case rationally at the society's event in April.

"There is an insidious and growing problem," said Professor Jones, of University College London. "It's a step back from rationality. They (the creationists) don't have a problem with science, they have a problem with argument. And irrationality is a very infectious disease as we see from the United States."

Establishment Science as usual tries to have it both ways. There is the attempt to crush debate by 'legal rulings' against any dissent from the Darwinian model. When people still insist on holding on to their subversive creationist views despite official dissaproval there is a call for 'rational discourse'. 'Rational discourse', however, is always defined by the Scientific Establishment in such a way that creationism is ipso facto declared as 'irrational': Why, no rational person could believe such a thing! Rational people believe that the universe exists as the result of a great cosmic accident then billions of years later something or other crawled out of the muck and now we have all sorts of different living things running about. We know that is rational because rational people believe it, and no one I would know would believe in a (ha!) 'God'. Only irrational people believe that thus such belief is irrational. Why won't these irrational people engage us in rational debate?

Yes, the creationists certainly are the problem...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Luke Chandler gives the order information for his father Royce Chandler's Florida College lecture on the nearly 30 year work in Colombia. I was blessed to travel with Luke & Royce to Colombia last month, and pray that I can return with them. The Lord's work there is impressive. As Luke put it,

1 Christian + 28 years of God-given growth = nearly 40 congregations

Monday, February 20, 2006

SCRAPPLEFACE REPORTS on Bishop Robinson's gaffe.

Daniel C. Dennett, self-appointed priest of the cult of Reason, wants to save us from ourselves:
An ant climbs a blade of grass, over and over, seemingly without purpose, seeking neither nourishment nor home. It persists in its futile climb, explains Daniel C. Dennett at the opening of his new book, "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" (Viking), because its brain has been taken over by a parasite, a lancet fluke, which, over the course of evolution, has found this to be a particularly efficient way to get into the stomach of a grazing sheep or cow where it can flourish and reproduce. The ant is controlled by the worm, which, equally unconscious of purpose, maneuvers the ant into place.

Mr. Dennett, anticipating the outrage his comparison will make, suggests that this how religion works. People will sacrifice their interests, their health, their reason, their family, all in service to an idea "that has lodged in their brains." That idea, he argues, is like a virus or a worm, and it inspires bizarre forms of behavior in order to propagate itself. Islam, he points out, means "submission," and submission is what religious believers practice. In Mr. Dennett's view, they do so despite all evidence, and in thrall to biological and social forces they barely comprehend.

Now that is iconoclasm — a wholehearted attempt to destroy a respected icon. "I believe that it is very important to break this spell," Mr. Dennett writes, as he tries to undermine the claims and authority of religious belief. Attacks on religion, of course, have been a staple of Western secular society since the Enlightenment, though often carried out with far less finesse (and far less emphasis on biology) than Mr. Dennett does; he refers to "the widespread presumption by social scientists that religion is some kind of lunacy."

Hmmm. I think I've heard this before. Just as Voltaire predicted the demise of the Bible and religion over 200 years ago, Dennett seeks to step into the role of modern iconoclast. Mr. Dennett himself will soon join the dustbin of history, however. The Goddess is not kind to her adherents.

Like a flashback to the 19th Century, Domino's Pizza millionaire and devout Roman Catholic Tom Monaghan is bankrolling his own Florida town:
The 5,000-acre tomato field in southwestern Florida sure doesn't look like heaven. Bulldozers scrape the land flat while clusters of Porta Pottis signal an undeniable earthiness. But soon a massive cathedral will rise from this barren spot. Reaching 100 feet in the air behind a 65-foot crucifix, the Oratory will anchor Ave Maria, a whole new town and Roman Catholic university 30 miles east of Naples. Ground was officially broken last week, and the plan is to build 11,000 homes—likely drawing families who already hold the church at the center of their lives.

For Tom Monaghan, the devout Catholic who founded Domino's Pizza and is now bankrolling most of the initial $400 million cost of the project, Ave Maria is the culmination of a lifetime devoted to spreading his own strict interpretation of Catholicism. Though he says nonbelievers are welcome, Monaghan clearly wants the community to embody his conservative values. He controls all the commercial real estate in town (along with his developing partner, Barron Collier Cos.) and is asking pharmacies not to carry contraceptives. If forced to choose between two otherwise comparable drugstores, Barron Collier would favor the one that honored that request, says its president and CEO, Paul Marinelli. Discussing his life as a millionaire Catholic who puts his money where his faith is, Monaghan says: "I believe all of history is just one big battle between good and evil. I don't want to be on the sidelines."

Well intentioned, certainly, (for the record, I am not opposed to most contraception), but it will, of course, fail. History has shown us time and time again that utopian communities do not succeed. Sometimes they become wildly successful flatware manufacturers, but generally they drift into oblivion. If they continue it is without the focus the founders intended.

On the bright side, though, all the right people are upset about the new town:
The ACLU of Florida is worried about how he's playing the game. "It is completely naive to think this first attempt [to restrict access to contraception] will be their last," says executive director Howard Simon. Armed with a 1946 Supreme Court opinion that "ownership [of a town] does not always mean absolute dominion," Simon will be watching Ave Maria for any signs of Monaghan's request's becoming a demand. Planned Parenthood is similarly alarmed.

It's nice to see something good come out of the whole thing.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


A wonderful find of a 'new' set of 19 Robert Blake watercolors that date from 1805 is to be split at a Sotheby's auction. Art experts aren't pleased:
The discovery was pure serendipity: nosing around in a dusty bookshop in Scotland on a spring day five years ago, a pair of British booksellers stumbled upon a weathered red leather case engraved with the words "Designs for Blair's Grave." Opening it, they found 19 Romantic yet macabre watercolors — depicting angels, sarcophagi, moonlit graveyards, arm-linked spirits — rendered in a subtle range of grays, black and pastels.

Five years, one lawsuit and an export battle later, the watercolors — illustrations created in 1805 by the poet and artist William Blake for a 1743 poem — are being heralded by scholars as the most important Blake discovery in a century.

Yet to the consternation of many experts, all 19 are headed for auction this spring at Sotheby's in New York, which plans to break up the set and sell them on May 2 for a projected $12 million to $17.5 million. Estimated prices of the watercolors, each mounted on a 13-by-10-inch backing, range from $180,000 to $260,000 for the inscribed title page to $1 million to $1.5 million for the most intricate and compelling scenes.

It's a true cultural shame, and a travesty that the Tate was unable to raise the money to buy them. I will say, however, that I am against every work of importance ending up in a museum, but I also hate to see such a seminal set broken up.

Some of you are familiar with the issues that divided many churches of Christ during the second half of the 20th Century. These boiled down to what is labeled 'Institutionalism', a broad term that included the support of parachurch institutions (colleges, missionary societies, etc.) out of the church treasury. Those who opposed doing this were anti-institutional, NI for short, or, in a somewhat less kind description: 'Antis' (the 'i' is pronounced as a long 'e'; say it with a bit of a sneer to get the full effect). For full disclosure purposes, I would be considered an 'Anti'.

With that bit of background one can perhaps appreciate this 'Contending for the Faith' lectureship in Spring, TX, which is, well, anti-Anti. The best part, however, are the Thursday lectures in which the speakers insist that despite all the things that they are against they themselves could never be considered (gasp!) 'Anti' (remember the sneer). Here are a few of the Thursday topics (snide comments in brackets are provided by your humble weblogger):
9:00 AM Opposing Support for Colleges from the Church Treasury is Not Anti-ism [why, no, of course not]

10:00 AM Are We Practicing Anti-ism Because we will not Fellowship the Denominations? [never!]

11:00 AM The One-Cup Doctrine Refuted [anti-one cup, but certainly not 'Anti']

3:30 PM The Hats and Hair Doctrine Refuted [anti-hats and hair?]

7:00 PM Are we Holding a Form of Anti-ism Because we Oppose False Doctrine and False Teachers in ACU, OCU, Harding U, FHU, Lipscomb U, and the like?

8:00 PM Are we Occupying an Anti Position When we Oppose The Church of Christ Disaster Relief Agency?

Self-reflection is good, right?

The entire lectureship is available via streaming audio. Enjoy!

Unwed teacher Tessana Lewis was fired by Hoover (AL) Christian school when it was learned she was pregnant. This will shock you: she sued. Genuinely shocking: she lost:
A federal judge has upheld the firing of a former teacher at a Hoover Christian school because he said the school is exempt from a federal pregnancy discrimination law, according to an opinion made available Wednesday.

The case involved a teacher at the school who was pregnant when she was hired, but was not married.

Senior U.S. District Judge William Acker Jr. said a jury correctly found that Tessana Lewis' pregnancy was a motivating factor in her firing, but the school, Covenant Classical School of Trace Crossing, is exempt because it is a religious institution that can make hiring and firing decisions based on its belief system....

Lewis claimed she was fired three days after she was hired Dec. 6, 2003, because she was pregnant. Lawyers for Covenant argued that Lewis was fired not because she was pregnant but because she had sex outside marriage, violating the Bible-based values and principles taught there.

School officials testified that the school forbids its employees from engaging in immoral conduct, both inside and outside the classroom, and is entitled to make employment decisions based on its Christian beliefs.

"The court has no quarrel with the conclusion reached by the jury that Lewis' pregnancy played a part in the decision to terminate her," Acker wrote. "It was clearly the pregnancy that alerted Covenant to the fact that Lewis had engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for the jury to have answered otherwise."

Testimony showed that Lewis, when she was hired, agreed with the school's statement of faith and policies, including those concerning morality. A court filing said, however, that Lewis would not assure the school she would stop her conduct of engaging in sex outside marriage.

Well, chalk one up for religious freedom on this one. If the school couldn't fire her under those circumstances then they had essentially no ability to exercise their religious principles, which she agreed to when she was hired.

Oh, and I love this typical American jury's reasoning:
The jury, after listening to four days of evidence last week, suggested awarding Lewis $600 in back pay and $15,000 for mental anguish, according to a court filing. But Acker said the jury's clear finding in other areas favorable to Covenant prevented the jury from awarding Lewis damages.

Yes, they had every right to fire her, but let's give her a big check anyway. *sigh*

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


According to the NYT "churches nationwide" are singing the praises of evolution:
On the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin, ministers at several hundred churches around the country preached yesterday against recent efforts to undermine the theory of evolution, asserting that the opposition many Christians say exists between science and faith is false. At St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, a small contemporary structure among the pricey homes of north Atlanta, the Rev. Patricia Templeton told the 85 worshipers gathered yesterday, "A faith that requires you to close your mind in order to believe is not much of a faith at all."

In the basement of an apartment building in Evanston, Ill., the Rev. Mitchell Brown said to the 21 people who came to services at the Evanston Mennonite Church that Darwin's theories in fact had compelled people to have faith rather than look for "special effects" to confirm the existence of God.

"He forced religion to grow up, to become, really, faith for the first time," Mr. Brown said. "The life of community, that is where we know God today."

The event, called Evolution Sunday, is an outgrowth of the Clergy Letter Project, started by academics and ministers in Wisconsin in early 2005 as a response to efforts, most notably in Dover, Pa., to discredit the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools.

"There was a growing need to demonstrate that the loud, shrill voices of fundamentalists claiming that Christians had to choose between modern science and religion were presenting a false dichotomy," said Michael Zimmerman, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and the major organizer of the letter project.

Mr. Zimmerman said more than 10,000 ministers had signed the letter, which states, in part, that the theory of evolution is "a foundational scientific truth." To reject it, the letter continues, "is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children."

"We believe that among God's good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator," the letter says.

But just which churches?
Most of the signatories to the project and those preaching on Sunday were from the mainline Protestant denominations. Their congregations have shrunk sharply over the last 30 years. At the same time, the number of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians has risen considerably, and many of them, because of their literalist view of the Bible, doubt evolutionary theory.

No shocker there. Any church that decides to make a Holy Day out of the birthday of Saint Darwin shouldn't be surprised that people are running--not walking--away from them as quickly as they can. They proffer secular humanism with a Jesus veneer and pat themselves on the back about both their worldly sophistication and their deep spirituality. If you want to worship Darwin the Divine don't bother Jesus with the whole thing, just sleep in on Sunday instead.

Hindu and Muslim groups (hey, at least they agree on something!) are protesting Valentine's Day:
Hardline Hindu and Muslim groups burned Valentine’s Day greeting cards on Tuesday and held protests across India against celebrating the festival of love, saying it was a Western import that spread immorality.

Saint Valentine’s Day has become increasingly popular in India in recent years, a trend led by retailers who do healthy business selling heart-shaped balloons and fluffy teddy bears.

But the growing popularity of the day in officially secular, but mainly Hindu India has also sparked protests which have sometimes turned violent....

About two dozen women separatists, veiled in black from head to toe, rummaged shops and burnt Valentine’s Day cards in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital, witnesses said.

“Valentine’s Day spreads immorality among the youth,” Asiya Andrabi of the Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of the Muslim Faith), a group of women separatists, said in a statement.

“We appeal to our children to stay away from this western culture.”

In Bangalore, India’s technology capital, as well as Hubli town, both located in the southern state of Karnataka, groups of Hindu nationalists burnt a big heart-shaped card.

Hmmm, sounds like somebody doesn't have that special valentine this year.

Monday, February 13, 2006


A tomb from the time of Alexander has been uncovered in Greece:
Archaeologists have unearthed a massive tomb in the northern Greek town of Pella, capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great.

The eight-chambered tomb dates to the Hellenistic Age between the fourth and second century B.C., and is the largest of its kind ever found in Greece. The biggest multichambered tombs until now contained three chambers.

The 678-square-foot tomb hewn out of rock was discovered by a farmer plowing his field on the eastern edge of the ancient cemetery of Pella, some 370 miles north of Athens, archaeologists said.

"This is the largest and most monumental tomb of its kind ever found in Greece," said Maria Akamati, who led the excavations.

Archaeologists believe the tomb _ filled with dozens of votive clay pots and idols, copper coins and jewelry _ will shed light on the culture of Macedonia in the period that followed Alexander's conquest of Asia....

The tomb's size suggests it belonged to a a wealthy Macedonian family, Akamati said.

The tomb, believed to have been used for two centuries, was probably plundered in antiquity as most of the artifacts were strewn by the entrance to the chambers, Akamati said.

The complex is dominated by a central area surrounded by eight chambers colored in red, blue and gold dyes. Three inscribed stone slabs inside bear the names of their female owners _ Antigona, Kleoniki and Nikosrati. A relief on one of the slabs depicts a women and her servant.

And still lots still out there.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Dating from roughly the time of the Exodus, a tomb located near King Tut's was opened Friday:
The discovery of the tomb, a rectangular chamber cut from the rock, was announced this week by Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The tomb contains five mummies from the 18th dynasty era (about 1567 B.C. to 1320 B.C.) in wooden sarcophagi with lids carved in human shapes and colored funerary masks. It also contains 20 sealed clay storage jars used for offerings and as vessels for beer, Mansour Bouriak, director of Luxor monuments, said in a telephone interview from Luxor.

"This cache is important because it will tell us what the Valley of the Kings was really like," Mr. Bouriak said. "It also proves that the Valley of the Kings is not exhausted. It has a lot to offer to us just waiting to be discovered."

The Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the Nile, holds numerous Pharaonic tombs, but no intact tombs had been discovered since Howard Carter, a British Egyptologist, opened King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922.

"I believe the most important and interesting fact about this discovery is that it came after 80 years," said Dr. Salima Ikram, former professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.

The tomb was discovered 16 feet from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, who reigned during the 18th dynasty, a time in which Ancient Egypt's power peaked. Thebes, now known as Luxor, was the capital.

Mr. Bouriak said that although the archaeologists had not entered the tomb, they had observed its contents through a 5 by 6 foot vertical shaft.

"One thing we are sure of, those mummies are not royal," Mr. Bouriak said. Royal sarcophagi carry certain signs and epitaphs and more, he said.

Ah, yes. There's so much still out there.

Well, of course they are, but the new pope spoke to the subject today:
Science made such rapid progress in the 20th century that people may sometimes be confused about how the Christian faith can still be compatible with it, Pope Benedict said on Friday.

But science and religion are not opposed to each other and Christians should not be afraid to try to understand how they compliment [sic] each other in explaining the mystery of life on Earth, he told the Vatican's doctrinal department.

The Pope made his comments at a time of heated debate, mostly in the United States, about intelligent design arguments challenging evolution. A Pennsylvania court ruled in December that intelligent design could not be taught as science in school.

"The Church joyfully accepts the real conquests of human knowledge and recognizes that spreading the Gospel also means really taking charge of the prospects and the challenges that modern knowledge unlocks," he said.

The dialogue between religion and science would actually help the faithful see "the logic of faith in God," said the Pope, speaking to members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

As I've said before, the trouble isn't with science but rather with many scientists. True science is simply another window into understanding God's creation.

My friend and fellow former assistant to Russell Kirk Prof. Lee Cheek has been interviewed by PBS's History Detectives television program about John C. Calhoun. I hope he remembers the little people.

I discovered that Bible commentator Ben Witherington has a weblog, and in a recent post he offers thoughts on the inspiration of Scripture:
If one studies the ancient concept of inspiration, whether in relationship to Biblical or other prophets it is perfectly clear that it was believed that the prophetic words, inspired by God, had authority because of the source and the character of the one inspiring the prophet to speak. Indeed sometimes it was even believed that the deity in question took over the human being and simply spoke through them. The Holy Writings were not seen as merely revelatory of God’s Word, they were seen as synonymous with God’s Word, such that God said what the Scriptures said.

There are other thoughts, and the comments are interesting, too. I have several of Witherington's books, and generally recommend them, although I tend (no surprise) to be more conservative than he. I used to preach in Nicholasville, Kentucky, about five minutes from where Dr. Witherington teaches at Asbury Seminary, never met him, though. I probably should have called him up for lunch one day...

Suburbanite turned hipster Kanye West has declared that he should be in the Bible:
The JESUS WALKS hitmaker, who picked up three Grammy Awards last night (08FEB06), feels sure he'd be "a griot" (West African storyteller) in a modern Bible.

He says, "I bring up historical subjects in a way that makes kids want to learn about them. I'm an inspirational speaker.

"I changed the sound of music more than one time... For all those reasons, I'd be a part of the Bible. I'm definitely in the history books already."

He does music?

The good folks at Sony who will bring you the Da Vinci Code movie have decided to deal with their critics by offering them an 'online pulpit':
Should the studio try to mollify the critics who say the "Code" is blasphemy, with its plot describing a church conspiracy to cover up the truth that Jesus married and never rose from the dead? Or should it ignore the complainers, sit back and watch the controversy boost ticket sales?

Instead, Sony has decided to hand a big bullhorn to the detractors of "The Da Vinci Code."

The company is putting up a Web site today — well ahead of the movie's release on May 19 — that will give a platform to some of the fiercest critics of "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, the book that is the movie's source.

The site, thedavincichallenge.com [not yet active, nac], will post essays by about 45 Christian writers, scholars and leaders of evangelical organizations who will pick apart the book's theological and historical claims about Christianity.

Among the writers are Gordon Robertson, the son of the television evangelist Pat Robertson and co-host of their television show, "The 700 Club," who is writing about how early Christianity survived; and Richard J. Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif.

Dr. Mouw, who contributed an essay on, "Why Christians Ought to See the Movie," said: "It's going to be water cooler conversation, so Christians need to take a deep breath, buy the book and shell out the money for the movie. Then we need to educate Christians about what all this means. We need to help them answer someone who says, 'So how do you know Jesus didn't get married?' "

Well, one must question Sony's reason for doing this. It must be to try to manage and blunt the criticism for the movie. And I, for one, will be unimpressed by reading what Gordon Robertson, or rather his ghostwriter, has to say.

Dr. Mouw is half right, at least. We do need to know how to answer the questions that Brown raises. Always remember that anyone can assert anything, and that it is often difficult to prove a negative. Brown asserts that Jesus married, but the burden of proof ultimately lies with him. As there is zero evidence to support the claim, we need not be defensive about it.

Now on the part about shelling out money to buy the book and see the movie, I'm not so sure. I have read the book, but I found my copy at a thrift store. I'll likely see the movie, but I will probably wait to rent it. I want as few dollars as possible to go directly into the coffers of Sony and Dan Brown on this one.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


An effort to introduce a Bible literacy class in Alabama public schools has fallen short:
The Alabama House has turned down a bill that would have allowed public high schools to offer a course teaching the literary and historical significance of the Bible.

The bill was sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Ken Guin of Carbon Hill and supported by Speaker Seth Hammett of Andalusia. But Republicans objected to the bill naming a specific textbook to be used in teaching the class.

Surely naming a textbook is legislative micromanaging. Perhaps it will come back up without the specificity.

Led by such megachurch megapastors as the ever purpose-driven Rich Warren, a group of evangelicals have signed a global warming initiative (actually anti-global warming, I think):
Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."

Among signers of the statement, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, are the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller "The Purpose-Driven Life."

"For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority," the statement said. "Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough."

The statement calls for federal legislation that would require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through "cost-effective, market-based mechanisms" — a phrase lifted from a Senate resolution last year and one that could appeal to evangelicals, who tend to be pro-business. The statement, to be announced in Washington, is only the first stage of an "Evangelical Climate Initiative" including television and radio spots in states with influential legislators, informational campaigns in churches, and educational events at Christian colleges.

Now I'm a big proponent of Christian stewardship, particularly as advocated by such individuals as Wendell Berry. But I confess I'm somewhat skeptical of this sort of grandstanding; I fear this is simply more pointless feel-goodism that seems to characterize so much of the megachurch movement. And not everyone is convinced by the initiative:
Some of the nation's most high-profile evangelical leaders, however, have tried to derail such action. Twenty-two of them signed a letter in January declaring, "Global warming is not a consensus issue." Among the signers were Charles W. Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Their letter was addressed to the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of churches and ministries, which last year had started to move in the direction of taking a stand on global warming. The letter from the 22 leaders asked the National Association of Evangelicals not to issue any statement on global warming or to allow its officers or staff members to take a position.

E. Calvin Beisner, associate professor of historical theology at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., helped organize the opposition into a group called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. He said Tuesday that "the science is not settled" on whether global warming was actually a problem or even that human beings were causing it. And he said that the solutions advocated by global warming opponents would only cause the cost of energy to rise, with the burden falling most heavily on the poor.

The facts seem to be that far more global warming gases are pumped into the atmosphere by a single volcanic eruption than by all of us driving our cars. Yes, I'm for responsibility, but the reality is that the US is not the place where pollution is out of control. If you want pollution try the developing world.

Generally when it comes to issues like this these pastors would be better served to go work on their Sunday sermon instead.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I am the victim of a 'Tag' by Anastasis, so here goes (as best I can):

Four Jobs I've Had:
1) College History TA
2) Warehouse flunky at Service Merchandise
3) Library Tech
4) Setting tombstones (my Dad owned a monument company)

Four Movies I Could Watch Over & Over
1) Casablanca
2) LOTR Trilogy
3) Empire Strikes Back
4) Raiders of the Lost Ark

Four Books I Could Read Over & Over
1) The Canon of Sherlock Holmes
2) Jayber Crow
3) The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

Four Places I've Lived
1) Fogertown, Kentucky
2) Mecosta, Michigan
3) Versailles, Kentucky
4) Columbia, South Carolina

Four TV Shows I Watch
1) Sherlock Holmes (with Jeremy Brett--DVD)
2) Law & Order
3) 24
4) Gilmore Girls (with my wife)

Four Websites I Visit Daily
1) Drudge
2) New York Times (I admit it)
3) ebay
4) CatsPause.com

Four Favorite Foods
1) Hot Brown
2) cream candy
3) blueberry pie/pecan pie (tie!)
4) Corky's pulled pork barbecue

Four Places I'd Like to Be Right Now
1) Savile Row
2) Hyderabad
3) Australia
4) bed

Four Bloggers I'm Tagging
I'll be a party pooper and end the madness.

This morning:
Fires destroyed or damaged four more rural Baptist churches overnight. The blazes follow a rash of suspected arsons that burned five others in rural Bibb County early Friday.

The latest cluster of fires is about 60 miles west of Bibb County.

Ragan Ingram, a spokesman for the state Fire Marshal's Office, said two of the churches were destroyed.

The four fires reported today are in three west Alabama counties located near the Mississippi line.

They need to catch these guys soon.

Lutheran pastor Jimmy McCants was fired by his church, but he didn't take the hint. Instead, police arrested him mid-sermon, and removed McCants from the pulpit.

Yeah, I've heard a few sermons like that, too.

The secretive Catholic organization Opus Dei, which plays the bad guy in Dan Brown's fantasy book The Da Vinci Code, claims Brown got it wrong. Well, it wouldn't be the first time. The question is, is there anything that Dan Brown got right?

Sony is releasing a new e-book reader that uses, well, "E ink"; it's called the (how do they think of these things?) Sony Reader. It actually sounds and looks pretty neat, and probably even useful. But does it mean books--the real kind--are on the way out? Apparently Terry Teachout thinks so:
Musing on the Sony Reader, critic Terry Teachout noted recently in The Wall Street Journal, that a book, for all its objective and subjective virtues, "is also a technology – a means, not an end. Like all technologies, it has a finite life span, and its time is almost up."

Ralph Bennet is a little more realistic, I think:
Even those who might not do all their reading on it would like to have a Sony Reader or some clone of it, just to have a tailor-made mini-library at hand. I, as a writer (of sorts) wouldn't mind having an easily portable brace of books ready to the touch – H.L. Mencken's New Dictionary of Quotations, W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of the Bible, the Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, and the New York Public Library Book of Chronologies, to name a very few.

Some politician or journalist boning up for a debate on missile defense or asymmetrical warfare might like to have a Reader on the plane or in the Green Room. On a more mundane but no less useful level, take my favorite hot dog hangout, Beno's, in Ligonier, Pa. The proprietor, Pat Clark, keeps a little library of "bet settling" books on sports records, entertainment trivia etc. on the counter. They're propped up with a napkin holder and a ketchup bottle for book ends and they're always falling over and in the way. A Reader would take up less counter space and provide a wider variety of source material. Someday, every bartender will have one.

These devices could also be a boon to do-it-yourselfers, technicians and mechanics of every sort. Imagine having home repair, auto repair or other such manuals literally at your electronic fingertips, whether you're under a kitchen sink or the hood of a vintage Mustang. I suspect that just such specialized uses will provide one of the biggest markets for the Reader.

Just so. The death of the book keeps being proclaimed regularly, and while technology has made some inroads, and likely will continue to, I wouldn't schedule a book burning quite yet. Bennett again:
But, some technologies, like the wheel, have proven to have a very long life span, and books may prove mighty like a wheel. I know I'm marking myself as irredeemably old school. But, I'm a little uneasy envisioning a time when all the wisdom, folly, humor, beauty, ugliness etc. of the human condition, reflected in history and story, might repose in some micro-electro-digital Somewhere that can only be reached and breached by hand-held electronics.

What happens when we need the answer or the laugh or the inspiration, and the power goes out? Won't the pages of a book be practical and reassuring, even by candlelight?

Yes, somehow "E ink" just wouldn't be the same.

[Link via Instapundit]

Monday, February 06, 2006


I was blessed to be part of a seminar sponsored by the
Liberty Fund foundation over the weekend. There were about fifteen participants, mostly 'clergy', and we sat around and talked about readings related to the American Founding (you can download the whole thing in pdf for free if you're so moved). It was nice to exercise some intellectual muscles rarely used since my academic days. It was also informative to be around the participants from various denominations, and getting a clearer idea of how our worldviews--and Biblical views--differ.

One of the issues of particular interest to me was whether a Christian could have supported the American War for Independence, or whether Biblical injunction would have required the Christian to support the British crown. A sermon by 18th century Anglican clergyman Jonathan Boucher argued just that.

Oh, and the pralines in Savannah are really good.

I know everyone is aware of the shocking burning of six churches in Alabama. I was relieved to hear the newsreader on FoxNews inform us as most of the churches had a predominantly white membership that the fires were not considered to be hate crimes. The search for a loving and cuddly arsonist continues....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Jesus has appeared again, this time on the door of an Indiana church. Now usually I can see what they're pointing to with these things, but I just don't see this one:
Members of a church in Indiana said a wooden door bears the image of Jesus, according to a Local 6 News report.

Congregation members of the Reigning Light of the Healing Chapel in North Vernon, Ind., said the image in the wood grain is similar to that of the Shroud of Turin.

The church's pastor, Charlotte Pahls, believes it is a sign that the Lord is inviting people to knock on her door.

Associate Pastor Carroll Molenhour said she was skeptical at first.

"I don't fully understand about it, but his ways are far higher than ours and I'm sure he had a purpose," Associate Pastor Molenhour said.

The church is getting attention from people around the state wanting to visit the church for a glimpse of the image.

Huh. People flocking to the church because of it. Maybe I should go stare at the door where I preach (where was that tv station's phone number...).