Thursday, March 27, 2008

A "Man" is Pregnant: Absurdity in the Media (GASP!)

A headline on ABC news' website reads "Oregon Man Says He's Pregnant". Unfortunately, at no point in the story does the reporter concede to the (rather obvious) reality that the "man", who "used to be a woman", has, in fact, remained a woman. The pregnant individual took testosterone treatments and had reconstructive surgery, but nevertheless, Thomas finds herself pregnant. It does not reflect well on society that this story is being quite seriously reported as "a man who is pregnant", and showcases the hideous excrescence of political correctness in the media that actively chokes out what is true.

*Update: the story has since removed 75% of its content (and added a strange picture), but still refers to Thomas as a man.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sola Amor, or "Love" Alone: An Emerging Gospel

A common complaint from both inside and outside the church is that the body of Christ is not adequately caring for the poor and downtrodden, that it is not "showing love" to the world. (This post will not deal with the legitimacy of such observations.) What happens when there is a perceived lack of caring and concern for "the least of these" (Mat 25:45, NET) within the church? Three reactions are possible. First, one may react by trying to sensitize the Church to the need for outreach, but without taking away from discipleship and sound, Biblical teaching. A second option is one of apathy, where there is simply little or no reaction. Third, the option that has morphed into an entire movement, is to overcorrect in the other direction, exalting love to a level even to the point of idolatry. Before the fleshing out of this third option, it would behoove critical onlookers to understand that while these perceptions may or may not be valid, a valid conclusion does not always follow from valid observations.

Although this movement might be well intentioned, it terribly misses the Biblical mark regarding love. Frequently, emergers and some who flirt with being rather emerging will cite "God is love" as their rally cry. This is true, as it is Biblical (1 John 4:8). However, many of the aforementioned persuasion will also cringe at the Biblical truth that God is righteous, holy, and just. Rather than embrace these attributes, they then create and live a modified theology of "God is only love", with a verbally silent but no less powerful "only". The word "only" is where the modified theology diverges from Biblical truth. Other equally true attributes of God fade into the background, or even disappear entirely. When this occurs, love as the one and only important attribute is exalted above all else, frequently even above the true God. Love then has become the entire message; it has become an idol.

When we decide that God is "more loving" than any other quality, we are engaging in a-Biblical, speculative theology. Despite its popularity in the postmodern church (and in sympathetic churches), speculative theology is precisely that: speculation. Due to its dependence on the fallible and wavering human mind, it is dangerous, leading us to contrived, false images of God. God as only love is one such contrived perception. The attributes and character of God are revealed to us through Scripture, and that which humans concoct about His character is powerless to affect what truly is.

According to the underlying assumptions of many emerging leaders, the goal of love seems to be to increase immediate happiness and well-being. Young Christians are buying into this mentality with reckless abandon, all the while proclaiming their hatred for the lack of love in "organized religion". Many wonder, "if it makes people happy and sounds good, what's the problem?" The problem lies in the fact that the Christian goal of being loving is far greater than the short-sighted ideal of "spreading happiness". Happiness may occur as a byproduct, but it may not. A pastor who is corrected in his consideration of a dangerous theology or philosophy of ministry by the board of elders is unlikely to "feel happy", yet if it is done in the spirit of loving correction, the elders are only correcting out of love for the pastor and love for the Church. Love is far broader and deeper than merely "providing and spreading happiness". Thus, the popular "emerging" vision of love is vastly incomplete in relationship to Biblical love, and is therefore incorrect.

"Emerging love" is not the "be-all and end-all" of Christianity. Admittedly, not all "emergers" believe this to be true, but the view is nevertheless pervasive. Many even assume that all you need to be an effective evangelist is to be loving. This might sound like a wonderful plan, except when you realize that there are exceptionally loving Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, and the like. Love is significant, certainly, but is not the whole story and cannot on its own determine truth value. The whole story requires the whole truth. In our churches we should not be content to exalt this "love" to idolatrous heights and to leave out the truth of God being simultaneously righteous, holy, and just simply because of how it makes the congregation feel. It is true but often ignored that we do not deserve His grace, and is true that He offers grace because He is also love and is merciful. Without a recognition of our depravity alongside His other qualities, love becomes a meaningless, utopian feeling. Preaching the "love gospel", however common, is doing an immense disservice to the church. When it is adopted, the forces of darkness leap for joy as they watch it render the message spiritually inept and devoid of eternal significance. Are we preaching this renegade and amputated version of "love" or are we telling and accepting the whole story?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Michael Behe to Speak in Fort Collins (Among Other Places)

Summitview Community Church in Fort Collins, CO is co-sponsoring two talks by Michael Behe. Quoted from the Summitview website: On Friday, April 18th, Dr. Behe will be speaking at 3:30PM at the Lory Student Center on the CSU campus. His topic will be "Darwinian Boundaries and the Evidence for Design." At 7PM he will speak at Timberline Church on the topic of "The Edge of Evolution/The Limits of Design."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reminder from Romans:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how fathomless his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36, NET

A Jeffersonian Firearm Consideration

Gun ownership and the second amendment have become rather hot-button issues, particularly in light of vicious, monstrous, and highly publicized shootings as well as the current Supreme Court case. The question looms large, tending to touch many a raw nerve: do individuals truly have the right to bear arms, and if so, should that right be limited or even revoked? Does the right to bear arms aid the nefarious, or protect the innocent? One influential thinker and founding father, Thomas Jefferson, gives us much to go on in our ponderings of second amendment rights, such as considerations of the collective versus the individual, natural law and natural rights. Jefferson's ethic consistently assumes that the primary duty of the government is to secure the natural rights of its citizens; though he warns that when left unchecked, any government would eventually try to force its will on its citizens regardless of their natural rights, and therefore supports the right to rebel when those rights are violated. Further, the Jeffersonian implication here seems to be that responsible citizens have the collective right and duty to fix a government that shows a pattern of despotism, by force if absolutely necessary. In a spirited letter to James Madison in 1787, Jefferson said, “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”

Here is where firearms come into play. Jefferson logically concluded that if any government became truly totalitarian, in other words possessed too much power, then the citizens under that government would have absolutely no chance to defend themselves or to reinstate the republic if they had been previously and strategically disarmed. It is for these reasons primarily that I will argue that in the second amendment, Thomas Jefferson clearly intended to preserve the individual’s right to bear arms.

The second amendment to the Constitution states “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Some argue that this amendment addresses a collective right to bear arms only as part of a “well regulated Militia”. Given the context, this is a false assumption. Jefferson actually stated in a notation to the Virginia Constitution “No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (within his own lands or tenements).” Jefferson did not state that “no freeman shall be debarred the use of arms within a militia”. Rather, individual rights were assumed.

During America’s infancy, a commonly held definition of militia was a group of able-bodied private citizens who differed in vocation from a professional soldier. Without the participating individuals, there is no militia. At the time, any use of the word “militia” assumed the recognition of individual, private entities within it. Furthermore, if the national government or other governing body removes direct access to and only dispenses arms as needed to a militia, then the very definition of militia has been changed to that of a military.

Jefferson’s vision to empower the citizens to protect their country from a totalitarian regime also extends to protection from each other. Some lament the very creation and existence of guns due to violence that has occurred when they have fallen into the hands of the mentally or emotionally disturbed. However, the fact remains that firearms were created, and most of the founding fathers in addition to Jefferson recognized that the most effective way to control “bad people” with guns is to also allow “good people” likewise to have guns. One may wonder if during tragic campus shootings, how many lives might have been saved if a well trained concealed-carry permit holder was in the area. However, interlocutors must understand that this in no way justifies a hyperactive, paranoid trigger-finger. After all, Jefferson said in a 1796 letter to George Washington, “One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.”

According to many who advocate restrictive gun-control laws, enacting such control will theoretically prevent people who wish to harm others from gaining access to firearms. History has shown this to be naïve, revealing that malicious individuals will seek out various other ways to harm victims or will illegally come by firearms regardless. It is also worth considering that in crimes involving guns, the offender commonly is already in possession of the gun illegally. If citizens are revoked of their right to bear arms, it will only limit gun access to those who fully intend to abide by the law. Those who attained guns illegally before the hypothetical law change will simply continue their insidious activities. Their actions cannot become more illegal. Therefore, we as a society must ask ourselves, who are we truly hurting through such proposed laws and revisions?

Keeping in harmony with Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin made this wise comment in 1759: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Friday, March 14, 2008

Obama Pleads Ignorance

Barack Obama has publicly denounced the racist, hate-mongering comments of his black-power-and-liberation-theology-spouting pastor. According to Obama, he did not know that Rev. Wright believed these things, and claims that if he had heard a sermon such as the ones circulating the media, he would have felt very uncomfortable at the church. This tells us something about Obama.

Either:

A. Obama is incredibly dense and after 20 years of devotion to the church and pastor, remained genuinely in the dark about the passionate tirades frequently given by Rev. Wright.

OR

B. The Obama and Jeremiah Wright love fest was a "marriage of convenience" to assure the American public that Obama was indeed a Christian, and Obama either never or rarely attended the church.

OR

C. Obama was fully aware of Jeremiah's radical bombasts, and now that they have surfaced in public, is attempting to plead ignorance in order to remain the "sugar pill of hope" for America. Obama is, after all, the same man who refused to wear a flag pin after 9/11, and who refuses to put his hand over his heart during the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance.

We may never know. However, we can conclude that Obama is either devoid of discernment and/or perceptiveness (bad for a president), slept through all of Jeremiah Wright's sermons (this also does not bode well; presidents need attention spans), or is a slick and highly deceptive politician (code for blatant liar).

Weather Channel Founder Brings the Heat

John Coleman, founder of The Weather Channel, is suing Al Gore for fraudulent pontificating in the area of supposed "Global Warming". No longer affiliated with TWC, Coleman also rightly laments the direction that the network has taken in "telling us what to think" rather than reporting the weather. For example, TWC meteorologist Heidi Cullen has remarked that any meteorologist who doubts Global Warming should have their certification revoked. This is television. At least there will finally be media attention drawn to the members of the scientific community who are Global Warming skeptics.

Monday, March 10, 2008

On Listening

Doug Groothuis has posted an extremely well written and meaty essay called A Short Theology of Listening which is a must-read.

The Numbers Driven Church

What is a megachurch? Saddleback Church, Willow Creek and especially Joel Osteen's mothership, Lakewood, are some that are brought to mind as obvious examples. According to Forbes.com, Saddleback, the smallest of these listed, had a 2003 attendance estimate of 15,030. These and churches like them easily fit the label of "megachurch".

But what about smaller churches? The same article in Forbes defines a megachurch as any church with an attendance of 2,000 or more. What about a church with 1500 people? 1000 people? Is there more to the definition than the hard line of 2000 attendees? Even a church with 1000 people can grow to the 2000, so is "megachurch" a philosophy that this church may have always possessed, or does the church automatically become a megachurch once it hits 2000 attendees?

I submit that "megachurch" is a label which does not only belong affixed to churches that are overflowing with masses of attendees, but that it also applies to any church whose leadership becomes governed by the idea that the numbers of attendees are what determine its success. Therefore, perhaps a rather long, but practical definition of "megachurch" is: "Any church in which the leadership orient their goals towards accommodation of the masses in order to bring in more people. Expansion is key, and in the eyes of the leadership, the numbers are the direct and predominant meter of success. This can be seen in churches which display either a monolithic leap in the direction of wishful growth, forfeiting attention to other areas within a healthy church, or in churches that still pay attention to these other areas (i.e. rich, challenging sermons, long time member and spiritual development programs, etc.), but the quality of said areas is beginning to wane due to time, energy, and funds being hyper-focused on outreach and growth."

A vital question arises: is being a "numbers driven" megachurch a good thing? Philosophies (in this case philosophies of ministry) have consequences, and the implementation of any idea will produce winners and losers. What is gained in a megachurch orientation is namely outreach; what can be easily lost is discipleship. The great commission was: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Mat 28:19, NET, emphasis mine). Many insert evangelize for make disciples, even though the former term is better placed in the second imperative of the commission. These are two very different concepts. Evangelism deals with spreading the Gospel and the act of conversion, and beyond that, the entire spiritual person must be brought up in the faith through study and discipleship. Too often Christians live out the tragic mentality of "just bring them in and leave them to go get more". True; we must evangelize in order to have any potential disciples, and for that reason evangelism is of massive importance, but the former should not stand without great attention to the latter. Without helping believers to mature through discipleship of the entire spiritual person, what "church" are we bringing new believers into? We must be wary that we are not building a house of cards which may tower above other things and be rapidly growing, but when any wind comes at all it will be blown apart.

If a goal of the church is to raise up and mature the whole Christian within a community of like minded people, then a common manifestation of the megachurch, the "seeker sensitive" church, may not be doing its job. While evangelistic outreach and nurturing of the present flock are not mutually exclusive and should both be present, a church which mimics many (much needed) parachurch ministries every Sunday because of its "seeker sensitive" nature is almost certainly neglecting its body. Pastor Jeff Miller said that while parachurch ministries have the luxury of selecting and catering to a specific, target group, it is not a luxury churches share.

When we gear our churches towards seekers and growth, who are we losing? Further, what are we losing? Do we believe that we are evangelizing but in reality are merely entertaining the masses? As Spurgeon's sermon was so wisely titled, are we "Feeding the Sheep or Amusing the Goats?" These are questions many might be wise to ponder. Jeff Miller has said that we should pursue "faithfulness over effectiveness". In other words, the question should be not "are we growing", but "are we remaining faithful to God's Word". Numbers can truly become an idol.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Some "changes" we can count on if we begin calling Obama "Mr. President"

John Hawkins has written a list of the "Top Nine "Changes" Barack Obama Would Make as President", and because they are grounded in Barack's strikingly consistent but brief stint in the Senate, the predicted "changes" have a phenomenally strong likelihood of coming to fruition.

As Hawkins cites in his article, "All change is not growth; as all movement is not forward." -- Ellen Glasgow

Here is an excellent excerpt before you read the rest of the article-

If you boil Obama's appeal down to its essential core, most of his supporters seem to like him because he's a relatively young, charismatic, black man who talks a lot about "change," "unity," and the "audacity of hope."

But, what does that tell you about how Obama would behave if he gets into office? Very, very little. After all, pretty much anybody, from Napoleon, to Fidel Castro, to Mickey Mouse could run on a platform of "hope," "change," and "unity" because it's so broad and meaningless.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"What Does The Bible Mean to You?"

Many Christians today find themselves infatuated with a dangerous way of thought when approaching the study of Scripture, one which attacks and atrophies the perception of the truth within Scripture (of course, truth itself remains unaffected). An apathetic attitude towards the existence of the absolute and even a mindset that we cannot truly know anything for certain provide prime soil for this noxious weed to grow. Frequently, this study method reeking of the cultural assault on truth is summed up in one popular self-directed question: "What does this passage mean to me?"

This little question and all of its similar manifestations (e.g. "I like to think of Jesus as _____, so he didn't mean that") pose a gargantuan problem. Concession to postmodernism in varying degrees is the seed for questions such as these, and as a consequence, the absolute authority of God's Word is reduced to a set of moldable musings, bendable to the whims and "gut feelings" of the reader, and thus the value of an absolutely, objectively true meaning of a passage is placed far below that of one's emotion and experience. To the reader for whom emotion and experience rule, perhaps this truth does not even exist at all. Brian McLaren claims that those under 55 do not have the luxury of opposing postmodernism. Correct; opposition to postmodernism is no luxury. However, McLaren's claim is quite false, as it is the Christian's duty to oppose even the seemingly harmless seeds of such thought.

God's Word is timeless. God's Truth remains regardless of how we feel about it. As Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn said, initially "truth is seldom sweet; it is almost invariably bitter". However, he went on to write grand allegories about the joy experienced by those who embraced the truth, a joy that transcends mere pleasure and happiness, a joy that persists deep in the soul whether "peace like a river attendeth" or "when sorrows like sea billows roll", as the old Spafford hymn says. This prevailing joy is the hope of eternity with the triune Creator, Redeemer and Lord; it is the knowledge of the only universal, objective, absolute, beautiful truth. How we feel about what God's written Word says will always be a reaction to rather than a source of truth, despite how greatly we delude ourselves into thinking otherwise. How foolish it is when Christians deny the existence of the solid Rock that they stand upon in favor of reliance upon themselves as a wavering and fallible source of truth.

When reading and studying Scripture, please do not ask the worthless question "what does this passage mean to me?". Instead, ask yourself "what does this passage say, and what do I need to do or change about myself to understand and accept it?". The truth of God's Word exists independently of how we recieve it or if we understand. Truth is knowable, or there would be no reason to pursue it. In short, Truth IS.

Colson to debate the place of religion in politics

"On March 6 in Richmond, Virginia, the National Discussion and Debate Series will examine the role of religion in the public square. Four participants will have one hour to debate the proposed resolution: "Religion should have no place in politics or government."
Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Jacques Berlinerblau, Associate Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, will speak in favor of the resolution. Chuck Colson, Founder of Prison Fellowship, and Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church, will argue against it. Evan Thomas, Editor at Large of Newsweek, will moderate the debate.
The event will be webcast live on this site [at 7 p.m. Eastern], and broadcast on PBS stations nationwide. Check your local listings for details.
-- Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia"

Monday, March 3, 2008

One more reason the Beijing Olympics are disgusting

The People's Republic of China is once again proven to be a massive misnomer, as nothing about the country even begins to resemble a Republic.

Charles Colson puts it well in this BreakPoint commentary: "China's human-rights record is abysmal—from forced abortions, to persecuting Christians and other people of faith, to clamping down on free speech, to supporting a government that has committed genocide in Darfur." Now, the Chinese Olympic committee is issuing an enforceable gag order on the athletes if they hear of or see any evidence of human rights abuse.