Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mexican Immigration Laws

I received this e-mail recently:

Wow!!!! we need these laws!

  1. There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools.
  2. All ballots will be in this nation's language.
  3. All government business will be conducted in our language.
  4. Non-residents will NOT have the right to vote no matter how long they are here.
  5. Non-citizens will NEVER be able to hold political office.
  6. Foreigners will not be a burden to the taxpayers. No welfare, no food stamps, no health care, or other government assistance programs. Any burden will be deported.
  7. Foreigners can invest in this country, but it must be an amount at least equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage.
  8. If foreigners come here and buy land... options will be restricted. Certain parcels including waterfront property are reserved for citizens naturally born into this country.
  9. Foreigners may have no protests; no demonstrations, no waving of a foreign flag, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his policies. These will lead to deportation.
  10. If you do come to this country illegally, you will be actively hunted, when caught, sent to jail until your deportation can be arranged. All assets will be taken from you..

Harsh, you say?.......

The above laws are current immigration laws of MEXICO

I have some observations:

  1. We Americans don't really want to be like Mexico. There's a reason why illegal immigration goes one way. Who wants to go to Mexico when they can live in the US?
  2. Mexico doesn't have an influx of non-Spanish speaking immigrants. This is because of #1 above. It's easier to make laws like this when your citizens and immigrants all speak Spanish anyway. We have plenty of LEGAL immigrants whose first language is Spanish. They should strive to learn English. In the meantime, they also need to understand our laws until they get a firmer understanding of the language. Therefore, it's helpful to convey the laws in other languages so everyone is clear on them.
  3. Smart people learn multiple languages. Lazy people don't. If we have this attitude, we are asking immigrants to be smarter than our lazy selves. I'm humbled when I travel to other countries to note how many people know English as well as their own language. In many places people typically speak multiple languages. Most of us don't know English very well and many Americans have such a spirit of personal anti-intellectualism that they don't want to improve their minds and they vilify those who do. If most people around the world are polyglottal and most Americans can't even get English right, what does that say about us? Perhaps we need more special foreign language classes in school - not to appease immigrants, but to educate those born in this country.
  4. If traffic laws and corruption are any indication, Mexico doesn't enforce their laws very well. This makes the laws above moot. Maybe that's why Mexico has their own illegal immigration problem.
  5. The United States actually does have good immigration laws. We just don't enforce them very well.
  6. If you are a native American who wishes immigrants to learn English and be more like you, what are you personally doing (besides whining about it) to help enculturate the immigrants you know?

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." I Corinthians 13:

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Helpful Mutations in the Arguments of Darwinists

...Helpful for IDers, that is.

Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpost posted an insightful article titled, "10 Ways Darwinists Help Intelligent Design" (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Naturally, the Darwinists commenting on the articles worked diligently to demonstrate his point. Here are the 10 ways he lists:

  1. By remaining completely ignorant about ID while knocking down strawman versions of the theory.
  2. By claiming that ID is stealth creationism.
  3. By resorting to "science of the gaps" arguments.
  4. By claiming that ID isn't science since it's not published peer-reviewed literature...and then refusing to allow publications of ID papers in peer-reviewed journals.
  5. By making claims that natural selection/sexual selection is responsible for all behaviors and biological features.
  6. By invoking design in non-design explanations.
  7. By claiming that the criticism of ID has nothing to do with a prejudice against theism -- and then having the most vocal critics of ID be anti-religious atheists.
  8. By separating origins of life science from evolutionary explanations.
  9. By resorting to ad hominems instead of arguments (e.g., claiming that advocates of ID are ignorant, liars, creationists, etc.).
  10. By not being able to believe their own theory.

Read the article; Joe clarifies these points there.

I always learned that the strongest arguments are made when the one making it can make the argument for the other side better than his opponent. What really propels intellectual endeavors to excellence is when the debate is approached with such rigor as to benefit the growth of both sides toward an ever deeper understanding of the truth. It's frustrating to one side who has this goal when the other side isn't interested more in obfuscation for the sake of winning the argument rather than discovering the truth. So, while the poor arguments of Darwinists help the IDers in the public arena, the debate culminates at perhaps a lower level than it would and knowledge of the truth yet suffers.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Have You Thought About This, Lucy?

Linus actually has a pretty good start on a decent Reformed epistemology. But what do you do when your thought life primarily consists of what is represented here by Linus' discourse and most of the rest of the world responds to you like Lucy?

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Polygamy and Adultery

I've been keeping merely a mildly interested eye on the Mormon sect of polygamists that were broken up recently in Texas. I've seen some of the wives on Larry King and have read several articles. Most recently I read this article on Triablogue.

What interests me is the notion that polygamy is rightly vilified as wrong in much of the American culture. It's certainly illegal. Adultery is also illegal in most states, although the definition of adultery differs slightly. However, the ban on adultery isn't enforced. What makes us think that polygamy can be enforced aside from the fact that civil marriage at least requires a license.

I'm no polygamist and I think polygamy is wrong. But let my submit this:

1a) Polygamists, by definition, commit to the marriages they make.
1b) Adulterers, by definition do not commit to relationships.
2a) Evidentially, the families of polygamists typically raise their children to be otherwise very law-abiding and responsible citizens.
2b) Evidentially, the children of adulterers abandoned to one parent or another or grandparents or multiple homes raise a high percentage of their children to be troubled citizens.

So, which one is worse civilly? They're both wrong morally, but one seems to be more civilly tolerable than the other. Why would we as a culture put up with adultery while we condemn polygamy?

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Common Ancestry Begs the Question

I was listening to some lectures Dr. Alvin Plantinga gave at Southern Seminary last year concerning the origins debate. As I listened, it occurred to me that Darwinism has a serious flaw I had never considered before. It has many serious flaws, but this one is so obvious I wonder why I haven't heard this brought up. Surely someone else has noticed it, but in all my reading and debating on the subject, I've never seen or heard it discussed. As such I had three revelations:

First, without Common Ancestry (CA) molecules-to-man evolution is irrelevant.

Second, rather than Molecules-to-Man Evolution (MME) being foundational to CA, CA is foundational to MME. That is to say, one would expect CA to be the conclusion and MME to be one of the premises. Rather, Darwin noticed similar morphologies and concluded that CA was true. Later, genes were discovered and it was supposed that this would support CA. Therefore all the data, when interpreted by Darwinists, must be interpreted as though MME is true a priori. Then the argument is couched such that the conclusion becomes the premise and the premise becomes the conclusion.

Third, CA begs the question that genes are too complex to have happened spontaneously. Let me 'splain:

One of the keystones of Darwinism is CA. But why do they believe in CA rather than the spontaneous generation of early life in multiple places or multiple times? It's because they actually understand that spontaneous life is so improbable that it couldn't possibly have happened but once. They're unwilling to believe in an Intelligent Designer (IDer), so to them it had to happen at least once. Why is it so improbable? Because of it's exceeding complexity. This is the question that's begged. They never ask because they don't want to accept the answer.

If it is so complex that Darwinists must assume CA for all life, and MME as a consequence, then it is far more likely that there is an IDer than it just happened spontaneously. If there is an IDer, then there is no need to assume MME. That's why they're willing to assent to spontaneous life that is impossibly complex without recognizing the implications.

I can't believe no one else has realized this yet. And the problem is they've got a lot of people snowed into thinking that this is good science.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

More On Concept Categories

John Piper didn't go into this in his article, but I had a couple of additional thoughts about concept categories after I had written on this last night.

First, some Christians don't have a grasp on all the concept categories. It's a refining process and more in line with sanctification than justification as our minds are ever more subject to Christ.

Second, there are concept categories that are either useless or downright false. False categories abound. Name a false dichotomy such as "science versus faith" and you have a clear example of one that needs dispelled.

But useless concept categories intrigue me, because understanding them leads to useful concept categories. I'll give two examples: relativism and theological tension.

One would think that relativism is a false concept category, but the core of the relativistic worldview is a misunderstanding of the nature of truth rather than an overt departure from it. That's why relativists can be so blind to their own lack of logic in thinking that absolutists are wrong. The fundamental premise is to confuse truth with preferential opinion. In other words, relativists believe that something is true because they prefer it to be true. They have no thought as to whether something is true regardless of their opinion such that it can be asked, if a truth grows in the woods and no one thinks about it, is it really true? Relativism, therefore, is existential in nature. However, few relativists and absolutists have that concept. Therefore, it doesn't play a part of their presuppositional construction. In other words, even most absolutists are absolutists because they prefer to believe that truth is absolute, not because they truly understand the full implications. Therefore, relativism is a useless concept category.

Theological tension is not a category in and of itself, but are a class of categories that are theologically paradoxical or dubious. These categories actually are useful, but only in the sense that if you are an absolutist, you will notice the tension and try to rectify it by discovering the concept category that truly reveals God. I'll use worship as an example because it's been on my brain lately:

While we may observe that the common debate over worship is merely about style rather than substance, the historical debate over worship is between the Regulative (RP) and the Normative (NP) principles. I've written on this before, but I'll reiterate: the RP holds that we should only worship according to what is explicitly prescribed in the Bible. The NP holds that we may worship in any way not prohibited n the Bible. The problem with framing the debate according to this concept category is that it misses the real focus of worship. Ostensibly, it's about God, but only insomuch as it seeks to prescribe form and method. However, it's only a partial answer to say that worship is all about God. What does worship say about God? Both the RP and the NP focus on our behavior in worshipping God. If our purpose is to exult God, then our worship must focus on what God does for us. We can bring only our brokenness. That is the concept category we must teach.

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Conceptualization Rather Than Contextualization

In preaching or teaching, it is important to understand that the lesson be taught with the goal not of simply contextualizing the information but for creating new conceptual categories for apprehending and internalizing the message. I'll give part of my testimony as an example:

The two years after I realized my salvation in Christ were tumultuous. I ended up in a church whose idea of discipleship was to teach kids the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed, ask if they believed it, give them a book of worship, and call them saved. I, for one, was not well equipped to spiritually survive and I floundered. I knew I needed a good framework for understanding the truth of the Bible so I took a few Bible classes to get an idea of the big picture of the Bible. Then I started studying to form an integrated theology. You see I knew the context of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostle's Creed, but I didn't have the proper conceptual categories for normalizing any theological truth one could glean from them.

John Piper wrote on this recently. Here are some excerpts:

As we think seriously about contextualizing the message of the Bible, let’s remember that we must also labor to bring about, in the minds of our listeners, conceptual categories that may be missing from their mental framework. If we only use the thought structures theyalready have, some crucial biblical truths will remain unintelligible, no matter how much contextualizing we do. This work of concept creation is harder than contextualization, but just as important.

Here are a few examples of biblical truths that most fallen minds have no conceptual categories for conceiving.

  1. All persons are accountable for their choices, and all their choices are infallibly and decisively ordained by God.
  2. It is not sin in God to will that there be sin
  3. What God decrees will come to pass is not always the same as what he commands that we do, and may indeed be the opposite.
  4. God’s ultimate goal is the exaltation and display of his own glory, and this is at the heart of what it means for him to love us.
  5. Sin is not primarily what hurts man but what belittles God by expressing unbelief or indifference to his superior worth
  6. God is perfectly just and orders the complete destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan.
  7. The key to the Christian life is learning the secret of acting in such a way that our acts are done as the acts of Another.

Please read the entire article here.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why Surrogacy is Not Choosing Life

Newsweek ran an article about the use of surrogate mothers recently. They spun the practice in a positive light. Why spin it in a positive light if no one objects? Well, many object - including Christians who are also pro-lifers. You would think that pro-lifers would be all about surrogacy. After all, here are people who want to make babies rather than kill them.

One could argue that in an age where babies are being killed in utero by the millions that there would be no need for surrogate mothers. There are orphanages around the world full of kids that need good parents. There are kids in the Unites States that need good parents. These are good considerations. It's a needed minisitry to open a home to children. However, this argument is utilitarian rather than foundational.

"Choosing life" is an oxymoron. The Author of life is the only one qualified and capable of "choosing" it and He chooses to give it to whom He will. Abortion is requested for many reasons and is almost always an unwillingness to sacrificially submit to the needs of another, for that's what parenthood is. Surrogacy is the solution to fulfill the felt need to propogate using one's own genetic material. Both abortion and surrogacy are selfish endeavors and controvert a principle that life is sacrificial. Inasmuch as God is the Author of life and we gain life only by being in communion with Him, He demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. This death gives life, and not life that is a mere breath upon the earth, but life eternal. How much more should we, creatures of the Creator, likewise endeavor to live sacrificially and in submission to Him and even the least of His people if we have this life?

Otherwise, the dead know nothing.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Translator Torture

This video on the torture of a perfectly good translator is making it's rounds among ministerial blogs:

If you've never used a translator or tried to translate yourself, you might not get it.

I have some experience using translators. Currently we use two primary translators in Venezuela as well as one or two other Venezuelans who have learned some English. Actually, only one can accurately be called a translator, reciting almost word-for-word what is said. The others are better referred to as interpreters. I still find it disconcerting when I say something that takes only a very few words and the interpreter takes two or three sentences to convey my intended meaning. My attention span is dubious at best and it's a humorous way to cut to questions while I try to get my train of thought back on track.

Silly me once tried to use a translator to have a congregation of mostly Spanish-only and English-only speakers sing a simple praise chorus in both languages simultaneously. The resulting confusion was a lesson in disunity.

We have a preacher who travels with us who brings his favorite hand-puppet, Baggie the Bear. One year, he used Baggie to introduce a sermon. he has a special silly voice that he uses with Baggie. the funny thing was the translator imitated his voice in Spanish when he translated for Baggie.

One last thing. I had a translator once who I knew had studied his theological terms in Spanish, so I was comfortable taking the level of discourse up a notch. I brought up the term "propitiation" and was immediately asked by someone in the class to define it. I made the mistake of including the word "atonement" in the first sentence of my explanation. Even in Spanish, it's helpful to keep things simple.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Pemberton, Wigan, Lancashire, UK

Adam was with the Normans who invaded England in 1066 AD. As they conquered by village, city and county, a Norman would be appointed to the governorship of each place. A small village in Lancashire was well-known for its production of barley. Adam was made the governor of this village. It was also typical for each governor to assume the name of the place he governed. The word for barley in English at the time was not "barley", it was "pember". The name of the village Adam was appointed to govern was Pemberton, after the barley that was produced there. His name, therefore, became Adam d'Pemberton. He was the progenitor of the Pembertons, the Burtons and every other derivative name.

The village doesn't exist like it did back then, but I've just discovered that the area is still known as such.

I've never been there. Maybe someday.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Old Photos: Late 1960s

Here's another interesting photo from the wedding. Mom and Dad were married at Middle District Church of the Brethren in Tipp City Ohio. I can't remember the name of Dad's best man, but you can see my grandparents in the right of the photograph, my mom's parents flanking my dad's parents. Just behind my dad is Mom's sister, my aunt Wilma, the Matron of Honor. Then the best man and his wife. Then Wilma's husband, Uncle Jerold Brewer. Beside Jerold is my mom's brother and his wife, Norman and Betty Reeder. The last couple is my mom's youngest sister, Ann, with her husband, Norman Weaver. The kids, from left to right are Marie Brewer, Jeanette Reeder, Bill Brewer and Sheila Brewer, who are my four oldest cousins and whose parents are also all in the photo.

The Church of the Brethren is an offshoot of the Mennonites. I can't say their distinction is great theology. As it is, the most I can come away with is that they are pacifistic and practice "trine immersion". Otherwise, they don't seem to really push theology as a denomination. This seems rather wishy-washy to me. Nevertheless, while some in the denomination have gone wrong in their teaching, most that I have seen have managed to keep it pretty close to center, although I can't say that it's a very deep center.

I do recall some in the church I grew up in still wearing the older style clothing. This is a gathering of the Brethren of some sort:

Here is my dad directing one of his high school bands:

My family always enjoyed camping and we often camped with our extended family. From right to left: cousin Bill, Uncle Norman Reeder, cousin Marie, cousin Jeanette and Aunt Betty:

At the other angle (with cousin Bill again in the foreground) from right to left: Uncle Jerold, Aunt Wilma, Cousin Sheila, Cousin Eric (being entertaining), and my little face being fed by my dad:

It seems I may have jumped ahead slightly. I had to come into this world at some point:

For some reason everyone always commented on my hair. Yes, it's standing straight up on it's own. It'll curl some if I let it, but it's too easily unkempt that way:

My little brother, Mark, also came along right at the end of the 60s. Hi, bro!

I think I take after my Ma-maw.

I remember always liking to play on the farm equipment, much to the chagrin of my parents. Not always, though. Mom was pleased enough to snap this photo of me on grandpa's tractor:

I showed this photo to my kids and asked them who it was. They thought it was my yongest son, Paul.

Here's an Easter photo of the kids for comparison:

God is good!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Divide Between Justification and Sanctification

My wife and I went to a Casting Crowns concert in Charlotte this past Saturday. I have their latest studio album, The Altar and the Door. I had listened to it a few times, but the messages on it just hadn't sunk in. I just haven't taken the time to study the lyrics more closely, which I regret not having done. I appreciated Mark Hall explaining the songs they sung from the album and will be contemplating them more closely in light of scripture.

The title song, The Altar and the Door, is really from a line in the song Somewhere in the Middle which really expresses the theme of the album. It's about the difference between the well-intentioned prayers and offerings made at the "altar" that seem to change when we get up and head for the door.

Justification is God's eternal decree. There is one act of justification that demonstrates this in time. God promised justification to all who trust Him. We can be certain of our justification. Sanctification happens over time. Goc provides sanctification prior to the time we begin to trust Him in order to give us the life we need to have faith. After we realize our justification, God continues to sanctify us as we daily live in Him. Justification is God's absolute provision. Sanctification is His subjective provision. We need sanctification because we continue to sin even after we realize our justification.

Trusting God means that we must be satisfied with His provision. It also means that we cannot be satisfied with where we are.

I am to be satisfied with my house, my spouse, my kids, my job, my church, my income, my ministry... So what justifies change at all? We continue to sin and others continue to sin. So what do we say? Does God perpetuate His purposes through sin? No, but we have a limited understanding of sin. We tend to focus on the actual rather than the intentional. What we intend for evil, God intends for good for we have not surprised God with any sin we commit. Does God allow sin by withholding judgement for a time? No. He works all things according to His good purpose.

So, we must be satisfied for God is good. However, there is a hot earth under the cold oceans. Such satisfaction threatens to erupt when sin is exposed. I rejoice where I am today because of a battle won yesterday, but I cannot be satisfied because I must advance to new ground tomorrow.

We are satisfied at the altar, but we must get up and go. The good news is that the altar doesn't stay. Our lives are the altar upon which our bodies are given as a living and holy sacrifice which is our spiritual service of worship. And so sanctification returns to justification.

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