Monday, April 30, 2007


PBS will be airing episodes on American Experience: The Mormons. They air tonight and tomorrow. The New York Times also has a review of the episodes. They appear to be well worth watching.

Need to unburden your sins? Then you need the right website:
A woman kept her secret for nearly two decades.

Finally ready to confess, she turned not to a minister, but to her computer.

''I am sorry God for not keeping that baby,'' her anonymous confession reads. ``I had an abortion and had kept that secret for over 18 years. I feel so ashamed. Please forgive me!''

The confession appears at, a website launched by the Flamingo Road Church in Cooper City. It's one of a growing number of such sites across the country -- some secular and others church-sponsored -- that offer a place to spill out ugly secrets or just make peccadilloes public.

The move is not without its critics:
The church has received some criticism, Gruenewald said, from people who think that ``we're trying to encourage people to confess to a computer instead of God. We just believe it is a catalyst to have people open up to family and friends and God. I think sometimes it can be misunderstood.''

A recent redesign gave readers the option to post prayers or responses to the confessions.

The Catholic Church is among those who reject the idea of confessing online.

Confession is ''the opportunity to confess sins to someone ordained as a priest who is a representative of Christ,'' said Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Miami Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

The websites, with their voyeuristic appeal, may fulfill people's need to feel better about their own behavior or moral values.

'What makes it so popular is not so much the people confessing but people going to read all these things, saying, `My life's not so bad,' '' said Greg Fox, who runs the site

``It's kind of the car wreck you're driving by. You can't help but watch. It's kind of the car wreck of life.''

'Car wreck' sounds just about right.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Lust & Adultery' (Mat 5:27-32) from my series on the Sermon on the Mount. The heart to the matter is commitment, both to God's kingdom, and to our relationships.

Our song leader called me last night to get the sermon topic so he could pick songs to go with it. When I told him 'Lust & Adultery' he decided he might go in a different direction...

Thursday, April 26, 2007


An Ohio judge frees a man after a Bible quiz:
When Eric Hine appeared in court this morning, his attorney described him as a church-goer, hoping the judge would set a low bond.

Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge John Burlew was skeptical and asked Hine to recite the 23rd Psalm.

He did: all six verses. Some in the courtroom applauded.

Burlew was satisfied and released Hine on a $10,0000 appearance bond, meaning he'll have to pay that amount if he doesn't show up for his next court date.

I understand if he's convicted he'll need to recite all the judges and kings of Israel and Judah.

(Thanks to Theosebes reader S.B. for the link.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

ARRESTS MADE IN TURKEY following the murders of Bible publishers:
A court jailed five suspects Sunday on murder charges linked to the killings of three Christians who were tied up and had their throats slit at a publishing house which had drawn protests by nationalists for distributing Bibles.

Six others were released pending trial, the court said. It was unclear what charges the six faced and a trial date has not yet been set. A 12th suspect, who tried to escape from police by jumping from a fourth-floor balcony at the scene of the killings, remains hospitalized in stable condition and was expected to be charged later.

The three victims — a German man and two Turks who converted to Christianity — were killed Wednesday at a Christian publishing house in Malatya.

As the article points out, this incident will not help Turkey's bid for EU membership.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

MARY WINKLER HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY of voluntary manslaughter:
The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for almost eight hours before returning the verdict.

Voluntary manslaughter is a Class C felony that carries a standard penalty of three to six years and a maximum penalty of 15 years.

She could be eligible for parole after serving 30 percent of the time.

She is scheduled for sentencing on May 18, and will remain free on bond until that time.
THE WINKLER TRIAL goes to the jury today. One of the best sources of coverage I've found has been The Jackson Sun, well worth keeping an eye on. You can read about Mary Winkler's testimony--some of which struck me as believable, some...less so--and an overall round-up of the case here.

My own personal view from what I've seen and read is that I would have a hard time convicting her of first-degree, premeditated murder, but would vote to convict of a lesser murder charge. Of course, the jury has heard more testimony and seen more evidence than I have; it is their decision that counts here. We need to pray for everyone involved in this, particularly the Winkler children who are already the big losers here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

BIBLE PUBLISHERS killed in Turkey:
Attackers killed three people Wednesday at a publishing house that had been the subject of protests for distributing Bibles in Turkey, the government-run Anatolia news agency reported.

One person who had his throat cut inside the publishing house and another who jumped from the third floor to escape were taken to local hospitals for treatment, the private Dogan news agency said. Anatolia said one of those taken to the hospital later died.

Nationalists previously had protested outside the Zirve publishing house in the city of Malatya, accusing it of proselytizing, Dogan reported.

Video footage broadcast on private NTV news channel showed one man being tackled by police outside of the building, and another in a neck brace being loaded into a stretcher.

Malatya is known as a hotbed of nationalists and is the hometown of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981.

You've got to appreciate such openness and tolerance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Reader 'Anonymous' posted the following in the comments to my post just below regarding Dan Winkler's court comments indicating he has not forgiven his daughter-in-law for shooting his son:
I might suggest that it is impossible to forgive someone who has not genuingely sought such. "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him" (Lk. 17:3). What if he does not seek forgiveness?

I think it is comparable to the fact that while God knows the things we need before we ask, he still expects us to ask. As James told some, "You have not, because you ask not" (Jas. 4:2).

While we should certainly not hold a vengeful disposition, being always ready to forgive any offense, it simply is impossible to forgive those who do not want it.

Does God forgive us without our asking? If not, are we more generous than God?

This is sort of a pet peeve of mine, so I wanted to address it more fully where it would be more widely seen by both of my readers.

Let me start out by saying that I am not addressing the issue of whether it would be easy for Dan Winkler to forgive Mary. I think it would be horrendously difficult in a way I cannot imagine. However, I would like to step back and look at the issue of personal forgiveness as objectively as possible.

I quoted the following verses in my post below; I believe it wise to refresh ourselves on them:

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matthew 6:14-15)

"For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:2)

As we discuss the issue of forgiveness, we must remember there are two separate issues here. One is God's forgiveness of a sinner and the other is my forgiveness of another. They are not the same thing, but I believe that confusing the two is what often leads people down the wrong road in their understanding of personal forgiveness.

One problem is the idea that in order for God ever to forgive there must be a specific confession and repentance for each individual sin that I commit. If there is such a requirement then each of us is hopelessly lost. Such a position demands several things, first being a complete understanding of God's will followed by an objective understanding of my own actions and their motives. After I have all of that, I then must perfectly execute this law of specific confession and repentance for every sin. That's not grace, that's perfect lawkeeping, something the Old Law demonstrated we were not capable of (see Galatians). Jesus explained a way that is acceptable to God in Luke 18:13-14 using the tax collector: "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

"I tell you, this man went to his house justified...."

What led to this justification? Confession of sinfulness? Yes. Repentance? Yes, I believe that certainly is implied here. A complete and detailed listing of every sin ever or recently committed by this publican? There's certainly no record of it, and Jesus pronounces him justified without it.

Does that mean that I do not need ever to pray to God for forgiveness of specific sins? I'm not saying that at all. I think David certainly prayed to God for forgiveness for his sin with Bathsheba and the sordid situation that developed. Do you think Peter prayed for specific forgiveness for denying His Lord? I sure do! Peter informed Simon the Sorcerer that he needed to pray for specific forgiveness when confronting him with his sin (Acts 8:21-22) I'm not talking about an excuse for obstinacy in the face of sin. That's not a penitent spirit at all. What I am saying is that I cannot possibly comprehend every way in which I fall short of God's expectations and disappoint Him. I am aware that I do fall short, I ask forgiveness for those failures, and ask for God's strength that I can lead a life more pleasing to Him.

Anonymous states that "it simply is impossible to forgive those who do not want it." My response is, that is most certainly not the case. Without question it is easier to forgive someone who wants forgiveness, but my personal forgiveness of another has nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. Forgiveness is a personal decision on my part. I have control over my own decision making and attitude. We could ask, is it impossible not to forgive someone who does want it? We all recognize that it is possible to refuse forgiveness. Someone could be embittered to the point of refusing forgiveness in the face of all pleading. We immediately think of the ungrateful slave who refused to forgive his fellow slave in Matthew 18:28-30: "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' "So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' "But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed."

I believe one of the reasons people resist the idea of forgiving one who has not specifically asked them for forgiveness is the imagined idea that the offending person has somehow gotten away with it. But in this case we confuse our own position with that of God's. I need to remember that God's forgiveness of someone and my own forgiveness are two very distinct things. I am a fellow servant, a fellow sinner with this person. Do I dare claim the moral high ground with a fellow sinful servant? Isn't that exactly what the slave did whom Jesus condemned? When Jesus states "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you," He is reminding me that my own gratitude for the grace that I have received (remember, grace is unmerited) is something that should overflow in me. I forgive others for my own spiritual benefit, not necessarily theirs.

My forgiveness of someone's actions has no bearing whatsoever on that person's relationship with God or his standing with God regarding that particular sin. But Jesus makes it clear that my forgiveness of someone else can have a great deal to do with my own standing before God, and that God will use my own standard of forgiveness on me. Therefore, for my own spiritual well-being it is incumbent upon me that I be as forgiving as possible with my fellow sinful slaves. I will allow God to take care of His business as it relates to His slaves. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)

Finally, 'Anonymous' asks "are we more generous than God?" I will end by saying most certainly not! I could never be more generous than God, and would not presume to think so of myself. If anyone imagines that he is, then he is not aware at all of the spiritual blessings that flow by grace from our Heavenly Father.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I'M NOT SURE about this one:
Dan Winkler also said that despite what previously had been reported by a family friend, he did not forgive Mary for the shooting because she did not tell him she was sorry.
Jesus had some thoughts on this sort of thing:

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matthew 6:14-15)

"For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:2)

My general approach to these passages (and those like them) is that I want God to be as absolutely forgiving with me as He can be, because I need all the forgiveness I can get!

Friday, April 13, 2007


Both sides presented their theories of the crime in day one of the Mary Winkler trial:
A prosecutor said Winkler killed her husband not because of any mistreatment, but because she had been depositing bad checks and feared that he would find out.

The defense told jurors that she killed her husband accidentally while trying to protect their child from him.

Mary Winkler, 33, only intended to hold her husband at gunpoint to force him to talk about his personal problems after a situation involving their 1-year-old daughter, Breanna, defense attorney Steve Farese said. The defense did not describe the situation.

"The morning he did what he did to Breanna, she was going to get his attention — with the very things he had always threatened her with," Farese said. He said Matthew Winkler had threatened his wife with a gun many times.

The defense is pushing the Nigerian scam angle. The abuse card is an easy card to play as Matthew Winkler cannot deny the charges, nor can a one year old daughter testify to any sort of "situation", as of yet undescribed. One thing the defense argues I have no problem believing: Mary Winkler was a woman under intense pressure, pressure she was not dealing with adequately.

Meanwhile, the parents of Matthew Winkler have filed a wrongful death suit against their daughter-in-law. I'm not sure what they hope to accomplish with it, other than perhaps better their position regarding custody of the children. They're certainly not going to collect the $2 million in damages unless the Nigerians finally come through with that deposit or, as the article suggests, they anticipate her benefitting from book or movie deals.. As the criminal process is (properly) underway against Mary Winkler, I'm not sure about the scripturalness of their suit, either.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

U.S. District Judge David Proctor sentenced Matthew Cloyd, 21, and Benjamin Moseley, 20, to eight-year prison terms for setting fire to nine churches in West Alabama. Russell DeBusk, 20, who confessed to setting five fires, received a seven-year sentence.

In addition, the judge ordered combined restitution of $3.1 million, with Cloyd and Moseley bearing a greater share of responsibility for those payments than DeBusk.
I'm sure everyone involved is glad to have some resolution.

Monday, April 09, 2007

MARTIN COTHRAN AT VERE LOQUI discovers what the well-read atheist is reading.
THE TIMES ON JESUS & THE EYEWITNESSES. Richard Bauckham has stumbled onto a brilliant approach: common sense.

[Link via LRC and suggested by reader Sean]
THE WINKLER TRIAL is about to being with jury selection. I admit to a curiosity about the entire affair. Past revelations indicate a Nigerian email scam was involved.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

PREACHING THIS MORNING..."'Some Women Amazed Us': The Women at the Tomb" on the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I get a lot of amusing hits to Theosebes from various search strings. Today I got one of the saddest I've ever had, this from a search from someone in Singapore: "past abortion cannot be baptised?" via Google. I don't know if the searcher has in mind infant baptism or baptism for the formerly expectant mother, but regardless it opens a window of insight into the baggage that accompanies what is popularly protrayed as just another visit to the doctor. The innocent victim is just that, innocent and sinless, without the need for the forgiveness effected at baptism. The troubled mother can seek the same forgiveness that the rest of us sinners need through the blood of Christ. (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3-7)

Not according to Newsweek, which asks the variant 'Is God Real?'
In the NEWSWEEK Poll, 91 percent report they believe in God, with 82 percent identifying themselves as Christians. Yet half those surveyed say they "personally know" an atheist, and 47 percent believe the country is more accepting of atheism than it has been in the past—which suggests there may be closet atheists who do not believe but do not wish to say so to a pollster. Other cultural indicators are unmistakable: books making the case against religious belief are selling briskly, evidence that many Americans are entertaining arguments against God and what these authors see as the destructive effects of faith.

That such questions—they date back to at least Homer and Plato—are gaining fresh force suggests there is growing worry that religion has too much influence on the world around us, from inspiring terrorists to shaping federal policy on embryonic-stem-cell research.

Perhaps they should name the next one, 'Is God Real? We Sure Hope Not'. Meanwhile CNN has allowed a genuine scientist who actually does believe that God is real say so. None other than Director of the Human Genome Project Dr. Francis Collins reflects on his spiritual journey from atheism to belief:
I had always assumed that faith was based on purely emotional and irrational arguments, and was astounded to discover, initially in the writings of the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis and subsequently from many other sources, that one could build a very strong case for the plausibility of the existence of God on purely rational grounds. My earlier atheist's assertion that "I know there is no God" emerged as the least defensible. As the British writer G.K. Chesterton famously remarked, "Atheism is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative."

But reason alone cannot prove the existence of God. Faith is reason plus revelation, and the revelation part requires one to think with the spirit as well as with the mind. You have to hear the music, not just read the notes on the page. Ultimately, a leap of faith is required.

For me, that leap came in my 27th year, after a search to learn more about God's character led me to the person of Jesus Christ. Here was a person with remarkably strong historical evidence of his life, who made astounding statements about loving your neighbor, and whose claims about being God's son seemed to demand a decision about whether he was deluded or the real thing. After resisting for nearly two years, I found it impossible to go on living in such a state of uncertainty, and I became a follower of Jesus.

Yeah, well, wait until he reads Newsweek...

The great state of Texas may make the Bible a textbook:
The bill's author, Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, said learning about the Bible is necessary to understanding America and Western culture.

"We need for people to know why we are the sort of country we are," said Chisum, who teaches Sunday school at a Baptist church. "We ought to know where we come from and why we do what we do."

The bill instructs teachers to teach the Bible from a secular point of view, Chisum said. No text other than the Bible would be required, according to the bill. School districts and students could chose which version to use, and teachers would not need special training, Chisum said.

Bible classes would be offered in the next school year if the bill becomes law.

Bills like this are worth it just for the fun of watching the secularists go ballistic.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Having been taken to task in an email by Truth in Love blogger Jeff Barnes for dropping the ball in Theosebes coverage of the recent Fred Thompson-James Dobson dustup, I wanted to make things right. While Theosebes slept, The Christian Chronicle was on the case of whether or not Fred Thompson really is a "member of the Church of Christ", which his spokesman assures us he was "baptized into".

I was amused at this little bit of assurance reported by TCC:
David Pinckley, treasurer of the Pulaski Street Church of Christ in Thompson’s hometown of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., said the two grew up together.

“We went to school together, played football, went to church for many years here in Lawrenceburg,” Pinckley told the Chronicle on Friday.

“I don’t know his religious status right now, but we were both baptized around 1951-1952 maybe,” Pinckley added. “We were either 10 or 11 years old. He was baptized at the First Street church in Lawrenceburg. It’s a non-institutional church now, but it wasn’t then.”

However, his mother apparently attends the Brentwood Church of Christ, a known non-institutional group.

So the question is still open: Is Fred Thompson a lapsed institutionalist or a lapsed 'anti'? Perhaps the good folks at The Christian Chronicle will stay on the case.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Named Poet Laureate of Kentucky

My friend and former professor Jane Gentry Vance has been named Poet Laureate of Kentucky in one of the best decisions in a long time. She is author most recently of the poetry collection Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig from LSU Press. As it so happens, the title poem of the collection some ten years ago was the first project of a now on-hiatus private letterpress called Adela Press based out of Versailles, Kentucky. It was run by a younger and with-more-hair Alan Cornett, who also commissioned the linotype of the pigs that are now on the cover of the book. Traci and I were then living in a downstairs apartment recommended to us by the very same Jane Vance. Hey, I wonder if those broadsides are worth something...

Congratulations to Jane Vance! It really could not have been given to a nicer and more talented person.
THE WARNING SIGNS for Ted Haggard were there; they were enabled or ignored. If you're thinking about it, you're eventually going to talk about it.

An historical old church in the country town of Clitheroe, England is now slated to become a mosque:
On a chilly night this winter, this pristine town in some of Britain’s most untouched countryside voted to allow a former Christian church to become a mosque.

The narrow vote by the municipal authorities marked the end of a bitter struggle by the tiny Muslim population to establish a place of worship, one that will put a mosque in an imposing stone Methodist church that had been used as a factory since its congregation dwindled away 40 years ago.

The battle underscored Britain’s unease with its Muslim minority, and particularly the infiltration of terrorist cells among the faithful, whose devotion has challenged an increasingly secular Britain’s sense of itself.

Britain may continue to regard itself as a Christian nation. But practicing Muslims are likely to outnumber church-attending Christians in several decades, according to a recent survey by Christian Research, a group that specializes in documenting the status of Christianity in Britain.
Britain, along with the rest of Europe, has shown it does not have the political will to stand up to Muslim immigration, but their lack of faith for the past several generations has made impotent their ability to combat Islam,secularism not having the strength to stand before it. The progression from church to factory to mosque is not a coincidental one. A secular industrialized West that has abandoned the Christian roots from which it sprang is no match for the vibrant faith of Islam. In our own generation we are witnessing the transformation of western Europe as we know it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

PREACHING THIS MORNING...'Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Found: Is It True? Does It Matter?' Obviously, it's a look at the claims of the recent James Cameron Discovery Channel documentary. Well, the tomb of a guy named Jesus was found, but it's most certainly not Jesus of Nazareth. This is also the first of a possible series of 'Invitation Sundays' in which particular emphasis will be made on inviting others to services, with--we hope--a sermon with that in mind.