Monday, January 30, 2006

The Evolution Experiment

One argument that I see evolutionists make against Intelligent Design (ID) is that it isn't testable and therefore hasn't had any experimentation to "prove" its veracity. The claim is that evolution has generated experimentation.

The fact is that evolution does not have an experimental history. Evolution is a construct that consists of elements spanning multiple disciplines. Any experimentation is limited to a single hypothesis in a single discipline, the likes of which are not sufficient for claiming an experiment either in favor of or against a broad-based theoretical construct. Either the hypothesis is disproved or a likelihood for the truth value of the hypothesis is demonstrated. Evolutionists merely plug the results into the evolutionary picture in order to categorize the results. And when their current picture of evolution is defied by the results, they change the picture. ID does the same with the same results: Except that ID is exceptionally a more likely proposition than naturalistic evolution.

The linchpin in the evolutionary machine is macroevolution. Microevolution is demonstrable. Microevolution is the genetic diversity possible within the confines of a genetic structure. It is the difference, for example, between breeds of dogs. It has been tested and evidences of microevolution abound. Macroevolution happens to some extent. Macroevolution happens when the genetic structure itself changes in a beneficial way. Some micro-evidences of macroevolution have been discovered. ID-ers and creationists alike agree to these facts. However, macroevolution happens entirely by accident. It can be caused by a number of external factors. What usually happens when these external factors affect genes is detrimental. Often the genetic structure isn't affected, but the code becomes unusable at a certain location. This is the benefit of having two sets of code, one from the mother and one from the father. Where unusable code exists as a result of this genetic degradation, the code from the other set of genes can be used. This is why families shouldn't inbreed, the bad code often ends up being duplicated in offspring and genetic defects are likely. Sometimes, instead of just messing up the code within a structure, the structure itself is changed. In rare cases, this change of structure is beneficial to the organism. What doesn't pass logical muster is that macroevolution happens through the same process as genetic degradation, but it is much less likely. Therefore, if the rate of genetic degradation exceeds the rate of beneficial macroevolution, then no species can evolve in time enough to overcome genetic degradation.

Therefore, my question is: What is the extent of genetic degradation? Combined with its rate versus that of macroevolution, we should get an idea of the initial generation of life on planet earth.

Intellectual Diversity: Where Do You Draw the Line on Homosexuality?

As Brokeback Mountain continues to draw audiences, one has to wonder if the fight for diversity is over. More importantly, who won?

Jeff Spry, the minister of education at my church, today encouraged the congregation to ignore silly genetic differences like the amount of pigment people have in their skin. He suggested that it's as ridiculous as if we separated on account of our ear lobes. I have dangly ear lobes, but some people do not. I suggested after church that my wife and I have a mixed marriage. We are very different genetically. She is female and I am male. I suggest that the difference is greater than the difference between black and white skin tones. Genetically speaking, there is little diversity in a homosexual relationship.

Jeff also posted a blog disclosing Bill Gaither's lack of ability to rightly discern the difference between godly judgment and judgmentalism. Apparently, Bill thinks sexual sin is okay. I've loved his music and even sang a song of his or two. While such a high-profile figure coming out with such a position harms the witness of the Church at large, it is hardly devastating to those of us whose faith is not in Christian celebrity, but in Christ Himself. I'm sure the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas doesn't agree with Bill Gaither. Recently, they removed a church for holding a similar position.

The Roman Catholic Church has made a statement against Homosexuality in the priesthood. However, the timing of its release was delayed because of fear that homosexual activists would claim that the Vatican was blaming child sexual abuse on homosexual priests in the US. While the Vatican may have some common ground with the Southern Baptists on this matter, I doubt the SBC is as concerned with what homosexual activists think about them. What's so bad about making a general public statement against the sin of child abusing priests anyway? It would be a rather healthy way to weed out unrepentant padres (which should be confronted in private).

The college front has become more hostile:

A University in Britain has banned and frozen the assets of a Christian club in the Birmingham Guild of Students for refusing to allow homosexuals and non-Christians into leadership positions in the group.

In a subversive move, South Dakota lawmakers are passing a bill to ensure intellectual diversity on state universities. The goal, ostensibly, is to make sure that no one is harassed because of their views. My question is what determines whose expressed view "harasses" another's view? I could speak against homosexuality and be condemned because homosexuals feel harassed for being homosexual. However, if I complain that I feel harassed because a homosexual expresses his views, I may not receive the same treatment.

So where's the diversity? Who gets to decide?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Of Churches and Banks: What is Happening in the World of Eminent Domain

Is Eminent Domain not going where we fear? There is a small church in Oklahoma City that is to be destroyed in the interest in commerce and tax revenues. That's it, then. If you want to destroy a church, all you have to do is demonstrate that you can pay taxes using the land the church is sitting on.

Just so you don't think I'm missing the elephant on this one, the congregation is primarily of African lineage. This demographic is exceptionally weighted toward support for the Democratic party which is primarily liberal, although people of the sub-culture that grew out of the African slave communities is typically more conservative. (The reason, of course, is due to the myth that Democrats care more for civil rights than Republicans. This is fueled by the bait-and-switch legislation that Democrats promise will help them while Republicans have generally opposed such legislation to protect them from the virtual slavery hidden in the proverbial other hand.) Conservatives are against the encroachment of government dominance over personal liberties through the subversion of eminent domain for anyting other than civil necessity. Perhaps our fellow citizens in this demographic will realize with increasing frequency that the liberals are not the friends they purport to be. As a Christian, I pray that my bothers and sisters in this church will successfully defeat this attempt to destroy their fellowship. If they're the first, they certaily won't be the last.

The good news is that there are allies in the private financial sector against this treachery. BB&T, headquartered just down the road from me in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is one of the largest banks in the United States. They have recently announced a policy to deny loans to commercial developers that plan to build on land taken from private citizens by eminent domain. I hope other banks will also see the benefit of this position.

Friday, January 27, 2006

"Inflammatory" Politics

Senator Kerry whined about Ann Coulter recently. He called her manner of public discourse "inflammatory". I suppose that the star-spangled ballyhoo he had during the last Presidential race, where Whoopi Goldberg performed her vulgar "Bush" routine, had nothing "inflammatory" in it.

Sinful Driving

There are people who are anti-war. Typically this is because they see war as being a source of senseless death. To a degree this is an accurate assessment. There are also people who seek legislation toward a higher level of gun control for the same reason. There are people who seek legislation that controls pollution that emanates from factories and vehicles. This is because they believe it will result in an atmosphere that will be increasingly unfriendly to life. To some extent, they may have a point.

Here in North Carolina as gas taxes increase and the quality of our roads degrades, a law exists that will fine an automobile owner a couple hundred dollars and add points to his license if his inspection sticker runs out. Oddly, this is a higher penalty than if he got pulled over for exceeding the speed limit or driving recklessly. One crime is directly dangerous. The other is not dangerous. What I mean is that an up-to-date inspection sticker doesn't have any correlation to the output of atmospheric contaminants - yet it is considered worse by the law than if one threatens the lives of other motorists and passengers by driving dangerously.

In the news is an account of seven siblings riding in an automobile together. A truck driver wasn't paying attention and ran them over. It's bad enough for a parent to lose one child, but to lose all seven of them at once? Their grandfather was so grieved by the loss that his weak heart stopped and he joined them in death.

I drive a small car, a 2002 2-door Ford Focus. It gets good gas mileage and has power when I need it. It can turn on a dime and stop on that same dime. Unfortunately, unthinking motorists with vans, trucks, SUVs and even tractor-trailers seem to think they can stop as fast as I can and ride my going-the-speed-limit tail. One day, my children will attend their father's funeral and struggle with forgiveness toward the idiot that took my life because he didn't have the foresight to drive safely.

I almost got wiped out once as I sat just over the crest of a hill on a highway waiting for traffic to pass so I could turn left. A driver who didn't think she should be able see where she could stop came over the crest of the hill too fast. She couldn't stop in time and swerved off the road hitting another car waiting to enter the highway.

There are regular drivers on a back road near my house who like to pass vehicles on a double-yellow line. I've been run off the road coming from the other direction as I meet them on the other side of a hill.

Anymore, I look both ways at a green light because blind people are driving vehicles. How else can they miss those super-bright red LED lights? More than once I've been nearly hit by these people.

Where's the outrage from the peaceniks about the terrorism on our own roads? Where's the call for more traffic legislation from the gun-control advocates and environmentalists?

If you are a Christian, know that intentionally driving unsafely is a sin.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Shhh... Don't Talk About S-x

The line of demarcation between when to talk about sex and when not to seems to be a growing debate lately. It seems to follow the swell of teacher-student sex crimes in the news lately. When we consider the homosexual agenda that attempts to implement the normalization of homosexuality in the culture through the schools, I wonder if the sexual revolution has come home to roost. The thinking tends to be consistent on both sides with the respect that liberals want sex to be talked about and conservatives don't.

One example is going on at a San Francisco Bay area school. The superintendent has issued a policy requiring pro-homosexual posters to be hung in the classrooms. Ostensibly, it's to make the homosexual students feel safe. In reality, she's trying to teach kids that homosexuality is not wrong. Isn't morality a religious thing? Therefore, to promote homosexuality is a religious agenda.

Another example has recently graced the agenda of the school board of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation in Columbus, Indiana. A local student paper published an article about oral sex that promoted abstinence. Local parents called for more accountability and proposed that articles be subject to review by the district superintendent before being published. (The article doesn't mention if the superintendent would have approved of the article although the principle of the school and the faculty advisor both do.) The principle offered by the parents is that sex should be taught solely by the parents. Interestingly, the faculty advisor for the paper declared that she would resign if the measure was passed. (I guess she has no say in what the students print, because if she did then what she objects to is that the power of censorship would be taken out of her hands and given to someone else.)

The parents above were described as "Christian" in an article by WorldNetDaily, an internet news source friendly to Christians. Normally, when people are identified with a group in the media, it is an indication of the bias of that publication. For example, if a minority commits a crime, a liberal news source will not typically publish the ethnicity of the criminal. However, when an SUV is in an accident, the same news source will go out of its way to vilify it as the culprit. But one of parents made the comment that sex education should not even be presented to children by the pastor of their church. This raises my next question: to what extent should sex be openly discussed at church?

One record label, "Book 22 Inc.", is trying to put some pretty erotic music into the hands of Christians. "The Original Love Song" is a CD based on the Old Testament book, "Song of Solomon". Any Christian familiar with the book knows how erotic it is. Dr. Norman Geisler, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, recommends it for Christian couples. However, distributors are balking at the recording.

Even the Pope is getting in on the action. His first encyclical deals with erotic love. He encourages godly sex in a marriage, but warns that without unconditional love, men and women are nothing but merchandise.

But where we should draw the line is less clear. Personally, I don't want anyone teaching my kids about sex if I don't have a say in it. I think that churches should take up the task of teaching godly sex and take a rightful stand against sexual immorality. In the schools, reproduction is a natural topic for the biology classroom. However, sex is a deeply spiritual thing and should not be coldly objectified as mere reproduction. This is one reason I advocate home schooling. Public schools are not in a position to teach sexual reproduction objectively and offer students the spiritual direction necessary to adequately apprehend their place in the process. Without spiritual apprehension, reproductive education is as damaging as the teacher-student sex that we are hearing about with alarmingly increasing frequency.

The fact is that whether or not sex is discussed in the schools, kids will discuss it among themselves. And this discussion will center around what they saw on TV, what they discovered in their dad's bureau drawer, what they heard about so-and-so doing with so-and-so and what they claim they did with so-and-so. From my conservative Christian perspective, adulterous and homosexual sex should not be normalized for our kids. Kids should be spiritually prepared to handle their hormones as well as deal with the discussions about sex they will inevitably face. It is not a public service to offer sex education in public schools for this reason. A healthy marriage between a mother and a father is the best preparation for their children's sexual education and when it is time to discuss it, the responsibility should not be shirked by their parents or delegated to someone else. Also, it is helpful for Christians if their church reinforces the parents' teaching.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Peace in the Middle East

There is much to be concerned about in the Middle East - more now than ever. If you have a strong enough spiritual constitution you can view some of the atrocities of Saddam Housein now available in some sizeable video downloads. This is what Islamic law can look like. Indications are that these are not isolated to Iraq. The Taliban engaged in similar activities in Afghanistan. Sudan looks like this to some degree. Radical Muslims are not the only ones guilty of such horrendous brutality. Uganda is wrought with a rebellion that frightens young children into fleeing on foot for miles to "safe" areas where they sleep on the street until danger passes.

And we're up in arms about something as little as China wanting to censor information from the internet. (US execs in China might have some interest in that censored info.)

As if we didn't already know it, they're gunning for the US. But now they're not saying one thing in Arabic and another in English. Now Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is openly calling for the defeat of the US in order to destroy Israel. And he has nukes.

There is good news about the Middle East, however. Iranians don't generally agree with their President. Many Iranians are amiable toward western culture. Not only that, but most Iranians are Persian, not Arabic. However, there is a significant minority of Arabs in Iran and President Ahmadinejad has reneged on promises to share oil profits with them. They have become angry enough that some of them have attempted to assassinate him.

Over in Israel, voting has finished in the Palestinian election. While the votes are counted, initial exit polls indicate that the more benign Fatah party is favored over the violent Hamas among Palestinians. While the old media favors the outspoken Hamas in their reporting, a majority of Palestinians do not appear to assent to the violence.

We must be aware of the threat from the Middle East because of the weapons they propose to aim at us. However, we must keep in mind that a significan number of Middle Eastern people do not favor violence and many of them do not approve of their violent leaders. We have only recently freed a grateful Afghanistan and Iraq from oppressive and violent rule. The indication is that others are hopeful for similar liberation - despite mischaracterization by the old media.

1/26/06 - Update:

Apparently the exit polls were misleading. Hamas won a significan majority in the Palestinian election.

Of course, no one ever rigs elections...

What Do the Educated Believe?

A recent poll reported by the Skeptical Inquirer seems to indicate that education fuels stronger belief in the paranormal. It demonstrates that higher levels of education consist of higher percentages of students that believe in things like ghosts, "haunted houses, psychics, telepathy, channeling and a host of other questionable ideas."

I just wonder if these are some of the same ones who also believe in evolution.

...on the other hand, while college students exhibit a level of literacy beyond most adults, they aren't as skilled as they ought to be.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why I'm Not A Leader

While helping set up for a homeschool conference one year, I helped the husband of the director arrange tables in the cafeteria. There wasn't much room in the designated area and we decided that functionality was more important than aesthetics. The director had a different idea. She decided that aesthetics were more important than access to the drink table and ordered us to correct it according to her preference.

If I were in charge of this situation, I would have recognized the effort of the team and offered praise for the thought put into it. If my vision had placed priority on function, I would have recognized the minimal difference in value between aesthetics and function in this particular situation and left it as the team had arranged it. Of course, I imagine the team would be emboldened to take matters into their own hands at a later time when the difference in value may be much greater. This is why I'm not a leader. I expect people to be reasonable, which is not a realistic expectation. I have no idea how to exert authority over a lack of reason. Of course, many good leaders I know do not behave reasonably. Nevertheless, if they are placed in authority over me and they lack reason, I will defer to them as long as their lack of reason is not off the proverbial scale.

I suppose it's for this reason that when I lead, people tend not to follow. For example, most people with whom I converse are interested only in speaking about themselves and will do so as long as I smile and nod my head. As soon as I mention something about myself they quickly take their leave of me. If a conversation is in full swing and I approach I am typically ignored. However, when I am conversing with someone and another approaches, my conversation is typically interrupted and often dropped completely. (I'm considering keeping a journal to verify this phenomenon with actual statistical data.) Furthermore, when I issue instructions from a leadership position, people tend to argue with me. However, when I observe others who are in a leadership position issue instructions, they are not often argued with (although every leader has his share). All of this constitutes the practical reason why I'm not a leader. (It's also one reason why I married my wife: She actually follows my lead.)

This brings up another point. Leaders attain positions of power because people follow them. It's true that many are appointed to positions of power by those who have even greater authority, but they don't last unless their subordinates follow them. So power isn't created by the leader, but his power is granted to him by his subordinates.

The question then becomes: Why do people give some individuals their loyal follower-ship and not others? Is there something about an individual that compels people to follow his lead? I believe so. With my capacity to analyze, I cannot determine a principle by which all leaders command respect. Observation seems to indicate that something about the mannerisms, appearance and tone of voice of a leader are factors in that person's leadership ability. Such qualities present during a future leader's formative years only serve to reinforce those qualities as well as build a sense of identity as a leader.

All too often, people who exhibit these leadership qualities seek power for the sake of having power. This is unfathomable to me. Reasonably, to do so creates situations where people are intimidated into submission or, especially on a large scale, where people die. It's not reasonable, but it's understandable if we take into account that the world is not as it should be. People seek power because they unreasonably believe it will give them security.

There is one position of authority whose power is not derived by the loyalty of subordinates. Some people give power to superstition or speculation about things that cannot be discovered scientifically. Some people give power to demonic persuasion. These are all false gods and such power is given in vain. But there is one true God whose eternal substance is the foundation of the existence of this temporal universe. False gods have no power other than that which is given.

If there is an eternal Creator (God), then a creation which is not as it should be would have an influence that is destructive rather than creative. Unless we are given over to utter destruction (which we're obviously not) then this influence would be limited and would be created by God as well. Let's call this influence "demonic". Demons, therefore, have no power other than that which is given by God. But only the true God has the power to create subordinates. The demonic counterfeit of God's power is to persuade people that they have the power of God because they can destroy subordinates. When power is sought by a leader, it is an attempt to usurp power that rightfully belongs to God. God, in His wisdom, may allow some to have ill-gotten power for a time. However, this power is never truly usurped but granted by God for the destruction of the unrighteous to demonstrate His mercy to those He has created for His glory. Therefore, it is right not to seek power.

As a parenthetical... If there are false gods (whose worshippers may claim created the world) and a real God who created the world, then how do we know who the real God is? Has God not left us with plenty of clues? Is it any god whose worshippers claim demands us to save ourselves, or the God whose worshippers claim came to save us Himself? Perhaps He has given us some sort of communication. Which set of holy writings can be scientifically demonstrated to have been transmitted accurately over millennia of copying? Which set of holy writings were written over a couple of millennia by several authors from different nations at different times and yet retain a consistent message. Today, we can read philosophy from a couple hundred years ago and see how thought has changed. Yet one set of holy scriptures contain truths that have not. Which set of holy scriptures contain not a few, but a wealth of SPECIFIC prophecies that have been fulfilled (despite claims of skeptics to the contrary)? When you find the God of these scriptures, you will have found the God of creation. He is unique in a world of false gods for these reasons. I'm writing, of course, of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who didn't seek power, but were led by God to leave power that they may gain the promise of the messiah. The promise was fulfilled in the person of Jesus who took on human flesh that He may pay the penalty for the sin of Adam that has permeated all of creation so that those who have been created for His glory will be saved. There's a trial set for this week in Italy where an atheist is suing a Catholic priest demanding proof that Christ exists. I've said it before: I'd like to be witness at this trial.

Since I have brought up Christ, there are obviously Christian leaders. Are there legitimate Christian leaders who have been raised up aside from a desire to have power, but whose purpose is to glorify God through Christian leadership? Christian leadership is not based on the concept of personal domination and lordship over others. The concept of Christian leadership is founded in the person of Christ who came not to be served, but to serve. Therefore, Christian leadership stems from a heart of sacrificial service. There are some leaders among Christians who do not follow this pattern. They will answer to God for such impetuousness because they harm the testimony of Christ's Church.

Perhaps the greatest sacrificial servants to take the mantle of Christian Leaders have been missionaries. This year marks 50 years since five missionaries lost their lives contacting a tribe of native South Americans. Their story has inspired a generation of missionaries and has swelled interest in missionary work in some circles to the extent that there are now more missionary hopefuls than there are funds to send them. I am among them, being relegated to short-term missions as I have opportunity and can raise the funds.

This is why I'm not a leader...and God is faithful to make me so.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Whose God Is In The Classroom?

Last month, WorldNetDaily brought together lists of the top ten Conservative Colleges as compiled by Young America's Foundation and juxtaposed them against a list of the top ten Liberal Colleges as compiled by the Princeton Review. The observation I have is that one cannot have an educational structure without ideology. Educational ideologies are typically intentional. There is often some tension among the staff and faculty as to what the ideological vision may be, but these tend to be trumped by administrative vision.

A consistent ideology is rooted in a single primary doctrine from which multiple sub-doctrines may be derived. Tensions over sub-doctrines arise over which competing sub-doctrines best fulfill the primary doctrine. For example, if the school is Christian, then the primary doctrine may be that the school should glorify Christ. Competing sub-doctrines may be over whether students should be prepared primarily with Biblical Studies (which address students' spiritual lives) or Liberal Arts (which may assume that students already have a dedicated spiritual life and need "real world" skills in order to minister to the world). Faculty or staff with a primary doctrine that differs from that of the school may try to subvert the primary doctrine of the school by arguing in favor of sub-doctrines that they believe favor their own instead of that of the school. They may use arguments that cause others to believe they are arguing in favor the school's primary doctrine while their purpose is very different.

This same pattern can be applied to church bodies or other corporate entities like clubs, governments or civil organizations. I mention churches, because ideologies are religious in many respects. In Islam, the primary doctrine is that there is no other God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. In Christianity, God provided the solution for our salvation by becoming human and paying the penalty for our transgressions against Him. For a "liberal" college, it may ostensibly be to provide the education that instructs students in the greatest achievements of mankind. (This is basic humanism.) In reality, it may be to indoctrinate students in basic socialism. In a "conservative" college, it may ostensibly be to provide a classical education. In reality, it may be to indoctrinate students in limited government. The focus of schools is always on achievement of some sort, but what is achieved is the focus of the primary doctrine. In a business school, is the primary doctrine to develop students into people who will make good business decisions or those who will make business a platform for social reformation?

In the science classroom, what should the sub-doctrine be? In pubic schools, the primary doctrine is increasingly established not by local school boards but by federal bureaucrats through a clause of deferential mandate motivated by funding and judicial action. An example may look like this: "Maple Grove Elementary School will provide the best education available," where "available" depends on federal money and the ability of the school to stay out of the courtroom. For this reason science departments often declare that other than "naturalistic" conclusions may not be investigated or taught. This is often an easy step to take given that people who have been educated in schools that profess naturalistic ideology lead the scientific establishment. The problem with naturalism is that what is defined as "natural" is not defined by anything other than what is "accepted" as natural by a group of people who do not wish to consider the truth value of some things. This is why some of the finer theories of the physical universe are regarded as anomalous by the rest of the scientific community and relegated to science fiction as a popular outlet. I offer time dilation and string theory as examples. When physical theorization becomes metaphysical, biologists tend to leave the lab. This is because people who are subjective in their thinking are more attracted to biological and anthropological sciences while people who like to find mathematical absolutes in the world gravitate toward physical sciences.

The application of physics is made by engineers, but biology is applied to medicine on one count and by philosophers on another. For this reason, biological conclusions are more interesting to the armchair philosophers than the dry minutia of physics. For most, physics is only as interesting as the gadgets engineers design or the contribution engineers make to biological conclusions (or the cool plot devices of sci-fi movies). This is why biology may assume a position of indefinite naturalism, but takes on an aura of scientific conclusiveness. For example, when biological archeologists dig up a bone, carbon dating can be applied. When the carbon dating doesn't give the scientist the result he or she wants (as is often the case), other factors such as geological strata are taken into consideration and the results of the carbon dating refined - sometimes way outside a reasonable margin of error. But the fact that they were carbon dated at all lends popular credibility to the results.

All the verbage to this point has been to demonstrate the fact that a system of doctrine is the same as a religiously held belief. People who believe in a supernatural being will debate the nature of their God. People who don't believe in a supernatural God per se will yet adhere to a principle that transcends all other beliefs. Whatever principle this is can be considered their "god". For humanists, this is mankind. For an existentialist, this would be himself. For the naturalist, this would be anything not resembling the typical worship of a supernatural being. For some whose god is truth, they often find their way into a supernatural or metaphysical understanding of the world. This has been the case of more that one devoted Christian whose erstwhile atheism gave way to the God of Truth.

In schools, there is no education without one god or another. To remove one god is to replace it with another. To remove all gods is to replace them with the god of godlessness. A school in Lebec, California, was sued recently for teaching religious alternatives to evolution. The article states that the school violated the separation between church and state. This much-touted "separation" doesn't exist in any legal document. The "freedom of religion" says nothing about separating religion from the government. It forbids the government from establishing religion and preventing the free practice of religion. The school was not in violation because the school itself is not the government. As it is, the exclusive teaching of evolution is the establishment of the religion of naturalism. Once we realize this, we'll be in a better position to negotiate the disparate religious/ideological conclusions - politically, scientifically and religiously - that ravage our society.

However, it will never happen in a fallen world.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Judas, And The Theology Of The Vatican

There is a movement among Vatican scholars to take a kinder look at Judas Iscariot. Whether Judas has been misjudged or not is beside the point. The arguments and surrounding circumstances that lead them to this conclusion is disturbing.

First, they argue "that in betraying Christ Judas was fulfilling a divine mission, which led to the arrest and Crucifixion of Jesus and hence to man’s salvation." At the same time they argue, "If Christ died for all, is it possible that Judas too was redeemed through the Master he betrayed?" The presentation of both of these arguments is theologically unsound. They use a hyper-Calvinistic argument (which is historically not a Roman Catholic position) to deny Judas' culpability while applying the decidedly Arminian tenet of universal atonement to give him a means for redemption (which is logically unnecessary anyway).

Second, "the move to clear Judas’s name coincides with plans to publish the alleged Gospel of Judas for the first time in English, German and French." The rebuke for this comes from within the Vatican itself. "Monsignor Giovanni D’Ercole, a Vatican theologian, said it was 'dangerous to re-evaluate Judas and muddy the Gospel accounts by reference to apocryphal writings.'"

Third, this movement falls in line with a "The Pope’s drive to improve Christian-Jewish relations, which he has made a priority of his pontificate." It may be coincidental. If not, however, then it follows a pattern of theology rooted not in Biblical revelation but in convenience for the sake of Vatican politics: one that has marked Roman Catholicism since its inception.

Perhaps Judas has been misjudged. If so, then we must have better reasons for believing so.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Is It Wrong To Love Those Who Despise You?

In the linked article, Pro-Lifers (Anti-Abortionists) are holding a march in San Francisco to encourage people to love women who are faced with the decision to have an abortion. Pro-Abortionists (Anti-Lifers) want to forcibly stop them.

So the Anti-Lifers want to take away the choice of Anti-Abortionists to promote showing love to women who wish to kill their unborn babies. I suppose the Anti-Lifers would want the Anti-Abortionists to hate these women? Let me guess, their argument is that it's not really love if you take away their "reproductive choice" (which is a euphemism for killing their unborn babies). The Anti-Lifers know this argument is a farce. While they may not agree with Margaret Sanger, the mother of the abortion movement in the US, they don't honestly hold "choice" as foundational to their worldview. (Margaret Sanger's goal for abortion was to reduce the population of Blacks, Jews, southern Europeans and others by killing them before they were born.) What is the linchpin of the Anti-Lifers if it's not choice? It varies. For many, they just want to do what they want to do without anyone telling them what to do. For others, they have had abortions and the resulting emotional turmoil necessitated either admitting they were wrong or severely warping their understanding of the world in order to justify what they did. In this case, they would have chosen the latter which means that their foundation isn't intellectually consistent...

...which is why, according to the Anti-Lifers, it's wrong to love those who despise you as much as it is to show concern for a life enough to speak up when that life is in jeopardy.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Barna's Church

George Barna, respected Christian pollster and statistician, is espousing individualism over the local congregation in his recent book, REVOLUTION: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary. With so many Christians who seem disenchanted with "organized religion", I want to analyze the pros and cons of organization within the Christian Church and see if he has a good point or not.

What first comes to mind is the historical difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Revolution. The ostensible unity of the Roman Catholic Church is juxtaposed against the fragmentation of the Protestants. The problem with Roman Catholic unity is that its hierarchical system ignores the fallen nature of humanity. The initial disparity actually lent itself to the split with the Eastern Church and later the factions that fragmented into Protestantism after Luther's failed Reformation. (The global standardization of more recent centuries has helped to correct some of the discrepancies in the Roman Catholic Church.) What happens with strong hierarchies, however, is that governing powers so centrally located are easily compromised by apostate teachers and corruption, jeopardizing not just a single congregation, but the whole system.

Christ prayed for unity. Therefore, shouldn't we strive for unity? The simple answer is yes. After all, the Church Universal is collectively the Bride of Christ. However, Christ said that He came not to bring peace but a sword. He said that He would set sons against fathers. How do we reconcile this? The sword of division is not within the Church, but between the Church and the rest of the world. We are instructed to be Holy as He is Holy. Holy is "set apart" for a special purpose and within that which is set apart, there should be unity, right?

The idea of unity is idealistic. Although we are called to be Holy, we will never reach perfect Holiness on this side of eternity. We are a fallen people and most of us will take advantage of power to serve our needs if we go without check. Many of us will even conspire to gain power that has not been properly granted us. This is the historic failing of the Roman Catholic Church. It has also been the failing of many of the more hierarchical Protestant denominations.

So, is total independence the answer? Many who have grown to despise organized religion have come from denominations with corrupt hierarchies. They may also have come from churches where ministers or congregation members in those congregations, because of poor attitudes and behaviors, soured these people to church in general. Is the answer to shun a membership-oriented fellowship in favor of fellowship that has no standard of commitment?

One argument is that one's salvation is personal and that we must be free to come to God on our own terms. The problem with this argument is that it has no scriptural basis. For example, the Great Commission has in it the command of Christ to baptize. Is the command to baptize to those who are being saved? No, it is to those who are already mature Christians in the service of Christ. Baptism is a command to the church to perform on those who are discipled to the point of realizing redemption. Baptism is a church activity that is organized to some degree. When Paul went out as commissioned by Christ, he didn't just leave people to figure out things on their own. Paul set up churches in towns complete with pastors, teachers, traditions, offerings, baptisms and the sharing of communion as also commanded by Christ.

The benefit of a local congregation is that we are held accountable for our faith among believers. We are also called to be vigilant in holding others accountable as well. It's not always fun, and a faithful church will be attacked as a group of people who threaten the power of the evil one to imprison the minds of men.

Total independence is wrong also in that the focus isn't on our dependence on Christ (whose body is the Church). Instead, the focus is on the individual. Which individual is right? Where one individual disagrees with another, Christ is not revealed. There is some room in the wings for legitimate disagreement in serious Biblical study, but unless we agree on the central tenets of Historic Christianity, we will fail to proclaim Christ. The focus must on Christ, and for His sake we must give up certain measures of independence. Where we suffer at the hands of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must also remember Paul's admonition in his question to the Corinthians, "Why not rather be wronged?" This for the sake of Christ.

So where is the balance between too much hierarchy and too much independence? Certainly, accountability can be had in congregations for individuals. Some congregations stop there and say they need no fellowship with another congregation. Large churches may become this way and may be justified in doing so if they function like a church of churches where the power of accountability is spread out among the different groups. However, if the power remains central or the church is small, then a church is exposed to the possibility of corruption or the slide into obscurity by unbalanced teaching. There needs to be some association with other churches for the purpose of accountability. For example, a few years ago a Church in our region was removed from the Southern Baptist convention for performing a same-sex "wedding". It was held accountable for condoning sexual impurity. This form of accountability may seem mild compared to a potential hierarchical treatment of replacing the pastor. However, how many hierarchical denominations have done this lately? (Admittedly, the UMC has, but this is the exception and not the rule.) Nevertheless, there are many such pastors, bishops and others in hierarchical denominations who give reason to the hierarchy to exercise discipline against them.

I believe my denomination of choice, the Southern Baptist Church, while not perfect, has as good a balance as we can achieve. Because of the propensity of Christians to sin albeit being redeemed is the reason the Universal Church will be imperfect witnesses until Christ returns. Admitting
this and seeking the committed fellowship of believers for the purpose of accountability is the first great witness of our need for Christ. Neither hierarchy nor outright independence accomplishes this with any effectiveness. It's a good thing such as Christianity Today can hold George Barna accountable for a poor teaching.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Shell Shock

Ok, they have a fancy name for it now: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whatever. It's all the same.

After I came back from Desert Storm and went back to school I worked at a Vet Center where guys came for therapy for PTSD. I considered myself fortunate that I hadn't suffered any such ills. My time in the desert hadn't been under as extreme duress as some. Then I got married.

It wasn't being married that did it. It was the fact that we live near a fire department. In Saudi Arabi, whenever the Iraqis would launch a SCUD missile at us, it was typically at night and we were alerted by an air-raid siren. We had maybe a minute to get up, dress, don our gas maks, helmets, web gear run outside and dive into the special bunker we had built. We would wait in stunned silence (except for the siren) for awhile until the siren sounded "all clear". This meant that the Patriot missile had done its job. The thing is that the siren at the fire department sounds remarkably similar to the air-raid siren they used in Saudi Arabia. For awhile I would wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night when it went off. I might have dived out of bed a couple of times or reached under my pillow for my gas mask. It doesn't happen anymore. I got over it somewhat and installed new windows that serve to dampen outside noise considerably. Even without a siren, on rare occasions when I become extremely anxious, I might do unpredictable things. This is my programming. It's part and parcel with the whole PTSD thing.

For some, after having trained to kill, when in the anxiety of battle they watch themselves do horrible things necessary for their survival, they are marked indelibly with something that is frankly indescribable. There is a look in the eyes that is not recognizeable by any but someone else who shares a similar experience.

God bless our troops. Let us respect them and understand that their service comes with a price that many of them will pay for the rest of their lives.

'The Book of Daniel' and the Art of Distorting Real Life

This show's writer, Jack Kenney, has in mind that the characters he has created "are very spiritual people. They believe in God, they believe in Christ as their savior, and I think that's wonderful." All baloney aside, everyone is spiritual. It's what you do with your spirituality that's important. But the distortion of truth in the program comes not from the fact that people do things that are bad, but that people who are Christian, especially those in the position of full-time ministry, doing things this bad are portrayed as normal for the Christian life.

Jack Kenney may have an idea that these things are better than what he has experienced in life. If so, I'm saddenned that he doesn't know any better. I suspect, however, that he does know better, but subvertly wants to normalize a depraved lifestyle in order to distort the public conversation on it. If so, he would never admit it.

Palestinian Terrorists - Prepared to Celebrate

Palestinian terrorists promise to launch rockets into Israel if Sharon dies. What's holding them back from firing now? Apparently, they only want an excuse to justify the senseless deaths of Israelis to the rest of the world.

Not all Palestinians are so filled with hatred against Israelis. There are even Arabic Israelis who are Muslim who have no problem with their fellow Israelis. It's only this dangerous group of Palestinians who have this blood lust for killing Jews. Incidentally, those rockets that are aimed at Israel are certainly more substantial than the rocks and sticks that the popular media claim they only have the resources to use.

Were it not for the anti-Jewish Europeans in the UN, there would be no problem eliminating the Palestinian terrorists and bringing peace to the region. After all, the land was not given back to the Jews after WWII because the UN wanted to do something good for them. The land was given back because the Europeans wanted them to leave Europe. Despite much opposition from many of the Arabs in the area, Israel has worked hard and prospered. If the Palestinians would have done the same instead of trying to kill the Jews who came to the land as refugees, they would be just as prosperous today if not more so.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Death of Reason, The Beginning of Wisdom

The title is a slight misnomer. I don't mean to indicate that a lack of reason is necessary for wisdom. For the Christian, godly wisdom is akin to faith in that wisdom is the willingness to submit to truth. Christian faith is also not blind, and I would admonish any who consider themselves Christian to investigate why they believe that Christ is the Messiah sent by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to fufill the promise made at the fall, reiterated in every milestone covenant in the Hebrew scriptures, and fulfilled as set forth in the Greek scriptures. If one can find no good reason to believe this, the primary tenet of the Christian faith, then I have good news: there is good reason to believe the veracity of it whether you know it or not.

Without getting into Christian Apologetics, you may read through the rest of my blog and find in my writings a healthy ability to reason, whether you agree with my conclusions or not. This is the first point I'd like to make. Good reason and strong arguments are only as compelling as the willingness of someone to submit to the ramifications of the conclusions. The substance of intellectual blindness is to devise dubious rationalles to justify denying the conclusions of overwhelming arguments. What this means is that you don't persuade people by good argumentation. That doesn't mean that you don't try.

What it does mean is that you shouldn't get frustrated when people continue to deny the truth. Jesus knew this. He intentionally cloaked much of the truth He espoused openly. This is why He often spoke in parables. Sometimes He spoke in no uncertain terms. He did so once in order to sour a large group who didn't want to believe so they would go away and stop bothering Him for simple miracles. Jesus effectively thinned the ranks leaving only those who really wanted to understand the truth.

So does this mean that those who are truly wise are the most informed or have the greatest intelligence? Unequivocally: No. Godly wisdom is the willingness to submit to the truth. It doesn’t mean that one who is wise fully understands the truth or knows all there is to know about Christian Apologetics and Christian scholarship. I once heard about a Christian home for people who have Downs Syndrome or other conditions associated with cognitive disabilities. One of the authorities of the home was asked in an interview what the biggest maintenance issue is. One would expect to hear of dirty linens or carpet stains. The reply was unexpected. Apparently the residents wake every morning and rush to press their noses to the windows to see if Jesus is coming back today. Do they know or understand the debate between pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, pre-mil, post-mil or a-mil views of the rapture? Even so, do they think that He will be seen in the morning if He comes back in the evening? What if He descends in Israel instead of the USA? None of this occurs to the residents at this home. Nevertheless they have wisdom even if their faith seems a little blind and they're not completely informed of the eschatological scholarship.

What's the difference? In the Greek Scriptures (the New Testament) Jesus is recorded as having indicated that another (of the same kind) will be sent from the Father (First person of the Godhead) to come alongside to help us in our spiritual life. This "another (of the same kind)" is understood to be the Holy Spirit (third person of the Godhead with Christ being the second). The Holy Spirit is revealed in these same scriptures to indwell the believer. This is in contradistinction to being possessed by demons. In demon possession the possessed, in the weakness of the human mind, give over control to the demon or demons. In the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the submission of the indwelt to the truth has the opposite effect of freeing the mind. This freedom allows the indwelt to understand the truth better according to his or her physical capacity with the promise that at the resurrection, when the physical ills of this fallen world are removed, all will be fully understood. Therefore, wisdom is not contingent on understanding, but produces it.

And reason is not the path to wisdom, although it can encourage those who are on that path.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Notes From a US Army Chaplain

There is a list of links I've placed in the left-hand column of this blog and I've never commented on them. I just let them sit there for anyone who has an inkling to explore them. Among the personal ones are my brother's web site and the blog of Jeff Spry, the current minister of education at my church.

There's a new link that I've just added to the list. Brad Borders has gone to my church longer than I have. It's a large church and we've never been more than acquaintances. However, he's doing some significant ministry with the men and women who are going through Army Basic Training in Fort Jackson, SC. Most of the recruits he ministers to will be deployed to Iraq within the next 6 months as other units rotate out.

I've not included my military background as a basis for this blog. It's not that it's not been significant to my ideological formation, but it just doesn't come up much. I joined the Marines under the command of President Reagan and played trombone in the Second Marine Division Band at Camp Lejune in NC for most of my active duty. We reverted to a special security unit when the division was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield / Desert Storm. Afterwards, I joined 'D' Company, Eighth Tank Battalion, Fourth Marine Division (the reserve division) stationed in Fort Jackson, SC, while I went to college. I left as a Sergeant (E5) while under the command of President Clinton.

I joined the Marines after having partied my way out of my first year of college. I was confused and depraved. In Saudi Arabia, during what I consider my own wilderness wanderings, God removed the distractions of everyday life in the US and sent godly men who involved me in a Bible study there. God began to draw me back to Himself.

It is because of this that I recognize the ministry that Brad has as an Army chaplain. I encourage you to visit his blog and learn about him and the soldiers to whom he ministers. Mostly, I encourage you to pray for his ministry. Pray for his family. He gets to see them a couple of times a month. Also, they are dealing with some health issues that I'll not disclose here. Pray for Brad who has the difficult mission of girding up the part of each soldier that is wounded the easiest - their soul. Pray for the soldiers who are part of deployment rotations to Iraq. Pray for their safety, but especially that they will be strengthened spiritually. Pray also for their families. Brad shared with our Sunday School Class that many families are being broken over the deployments of soldiers. Pray for fidelity in the marriages of those deployed.