Friday, May 28, 2004

It's who I am...

In It's Me, Me, Me as School Spirit Slips Off the Ring: Jewelry makers hope to attract seniors with lifestyle symbols instead of mascots, we see yet another result of our society's slip into the abyss of self-centered mentality. It seems that simply having a standard high school ring, that is - one with your high school mascot on it, is not personal enough.
School mascots and graduation year, the hallmarks of rings in the past, are being bumped aside or minimized to make room for "pride sides" — minuscule designs that would be hard to link to in-class accomplishment, including zodiac and peace signs, skateboarders, ethnic flags, rock climbers and figure skaters.
What do, if anything, these pride sides reflect? Are we losing the concept of unity (via, in this case, a school)? Or are we just redefining our priorities to what really matters? Or maybe we've progressed beyond the simplistically naive values of our parent's?
"We are kind of losing touch with the idea of a ring bringing a class together as a unit. With the ring evolving into me-me-me product design, the school is less and less a part of the process," says Kean Chan, product manager for Balfour, based in Austin, Texas, one of the big three companies that sell rings on campuses. ..."I put a Jewish star on the side, because I am always going to be Jewish," the 16-year-old says. "I am not always going to be dancing." ...While at a ring event at a Minnesota school last year, a high school junior told Stoebe, "Well this year, I finally have the opportunity to put things on my ring that represent me — NASCAR and fishing."
In our insatiable quest for individuality, have we not, rather, ended up losing our identities?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Rivera on Pandas...

The June issue of Touchstone Magazine has a reprint of a Breakpoint article by Roberto Rivera, re-titled to Of Pandas and Men. Besides highlighting the logical inconsistency evolutionists find themselves in whenever they presuppose morality, he also makes an interesting point regarding the so-called self-sacrifice that some humans will perform. Rivera states,
One hundred forty kilometers north of Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province lies the Wolong Nature Preserve, a 200,000-hectare area that contains approximately ten percent of the world’s giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Wolong’s Giant Panda Research Center, which was the subject of a recent Discovery HD Theater documentary, Panda Nursery, has made important breakthroughs in the breeding and raising of the endangered species. Panda Nursery documented the first six months in the lives of two giant panda cubs. For the staff, especially the head of the breeding program, ensuring their survival was a 24-hours-a-day-seven-days-a-week task. The head of the program told viewers that he only saw his own two-year-old daughter two days a month. ...the willingness of the breeding program director to spend time away from his own child to care for the panda’s was depicted as a sign of his dedication. What wasn’t noted was the irony that a member of the apex species would — forgive the way I’m putting this — sacrifice the care of its own young to care for the young of a species incapable of doing it on its own.
Perhaps the head of the breeding program really isn't being inconsistent with naturalism. Afterall, if we are nothing more than another member of the animal kingdom, then there really isn't any difference between a two year old human and a two year old panda. But the evolutionary mandate is that all we should be interested in is our own species survival. If we want to be true to naturalism then we have to consider ourselves Numero Uno. But morality keeps popping up its ugly head doesn't it? We keep tripping over that silly notion known as the right thing to do. Where did it come from?

Caption needed...

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

ACLU lunacy...

Okay, so the title is redundant. Check the official seal of the County of Los Angeles, California. Pretty outrageous stuff isn't it? Well the ACLU thinks so. In ACLU threatens to sue over L.A. County's cross seal, we find,
The American Civil Liberties Union says it will sue the county unless it removes a tiny cross from its official seal. The ACLU Southern California chapter said Monday the "Latin cross" on the nearly 50-year-old seal is a religious symbol and represents a government-sponsored endorsement of Christianity.
County supervisor Mike Antonovich was not impressed as he wrote, in a letter to the ACLU,
Your failure to understand the history and to rewrite it from the so-called political correctness follows the hate of past book burners...
From the County's website, the significance of the cross is explained as,
The cross represents the influence of the church and the missions of California.
Anyone the least bit familiar with California history understands that the Spanish missions played a significant part in that history. Whether it was good or bad is a debatable issue, but the fact remains that it was an objective reality. So instead of trying to keep the government from establishing a religion it seems that the ACLU is more interested in erasing historical background. Interestingly enough, the female so prominently portrayed on the seal is none other than the pagan goddess Pomona. Again, per the County's website,
The Goddess Pomona – the goddess of gardens and fruit trees – is holding in her arms a sheaf of grain, an orange, a lemon, an avocado and a few grapes to represent Los Angeles County’s agriculture.
Of course we should expect the ACLU to soon file suit with regards to her depiction on the County's seal... right?

Which Resurrection?...

Back around Resurrection Day (Easter) I received an e-mail from a reader named Darren who inquired about potential discrepancies contained within the four narratives on the Resurrection of Christ. He said, among other things,
If you contrast the accounts of the resurrection in the book of Matthew to that written in the book of John, there are some discrepancies that make the resurrection seem less than plausible. In Matthew we read of a post-resurrection story where the two Marys are greeted at the tomb by an angel who had just rolled away the stone from its entrance. After revealing to both women the empty place where Jesus’ body once laid, the angel proclaims to them that Jesus had already risen from the dead. The angel goes on to instruct both Marys that they are to tell the disciples that Jesus had gone before them to the Galilee to meet them. (Matthew 28:1-7) If that encounter wasn’t convincing enough for the two women, Matthew continues to relate how, after leaving the tomb, both Marys unexpectedly meet the resurrected Jesus himself, whom they both worship. Jesus then essentially repeats the angels instructions to them, and sends the women to inform the disciples that they are to meet the resurrected Jesus in the Galilee. (Matthew 28:8-10) In Johns version of the first Easter morning, when Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb, there is no angel there to greet her with information about Jesus’ whereabouts or instructions about a rendezvous in the Galilee as we find in Matthews account (Matthew 28:5-7). On the contrary, in Johns story, after Mary finds the empty tomb, she concludes that someone had removed the body from the grave. Mary certainly had no reason to believe otherwise. She therefore quickly runs back to the disciples and reports, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him!” (John 20:1-2) The above account is entirely inconsistent with Matthews post-resurrection narrative. Why didn’t Mary know that Jesus’ body was not laid anywhere? In Matthews story, the angel had already reported to her that Jesus rose from the dead and had gone to the Galilee. It would therefore have been ridiculous for her to think that someone had moved the body when the angels had already informed her that Jesus’ resurrection had occurred. Moreover, if the angels instructions to her were not convincing enough, Matthew maintains that Mary also met the resurrected Jesus himself right after leaving the tomb (Matthew 28:9); and all this transpires before Mary ever sees the disciples. Why then in Johns Gospel is Mary clueless as to where Jesus’ body was moved, when according to Matthew, Mary had already heard from two reliable sources, the angel at the tomb and Jesus himself, that Jesus rose from the dead?
Not surprisingly, Darren also had questions about whether the doctrine of the Trinity is truly taught in the Bible. I will not address Trinitarian doctrine on this post but concentrate, instead, on the Resurrection. There are many sources of information with regards to the historicity of the Resurrection accounts, e.g., William Lane Craig, or Jeremy Pierce (from Parablemania), but I found two sources to be particularly helpful with regards to the issue of contradictions within the accounts. One was Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, by John W. Haley, and the other was Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, by Gleason Archer. Archer states, with regards to the four Gospel accounts,
The very fact that each of the four writers contributed individual details from his own perspective and emphasis furnishes the most compelling type of evidence possible for the historicity of Christ’s conquest over death and the grave. A careful examination of these four records in comparison with another demonstrates that they are not in any way contradictory, despite the charges leveled by some critics. It is helpful to synthesize all four accounts in order to arrive at a full picture of what took place on Easter itself and during the weeks that intervened until the ascension of Christ.
In our Western cultural mentality we tend to look for detailed and exact accounting with regards to historical presentation. Our typical view of a genealogical listing, for example, is that it be as detailed, precise, and comprehensive as possible. Yet cultures from the past, the Middle East in particular, viewed a genealogy as a means of identifying how ancestor A got to ancestor Z, regardless of whether every intermediate ancestor was listed. Reading a genealogy, written in a different culture, with our 21st century mindset may give us a false impression of the information being conveyed. Similarly, we need to understand that multiple accounts of the same event need not be exactly the same, so long as they are not formally contradictory. That said, it should not be surprising that events listed in one account of the resurrection may or may not be listed in another account. Further, we must be careful not to make the assumption that if an event was not listed in an account, then it means that the event did not occur. An omission of data is simply that – an omission. Also, we should be aware that a writer may skip a portion of the narrative that he felt unnecessary to include. That seems contrary to our mentality which states that if we want to prove a point (e.g., the resurrection), then we should outline all the pertinent facts. Of course this ignores the probable fact that the Gospel writers did not include every detail anyway. Lastly, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we are reading the account with full knowledge of events prior to and after the resurrection. We understand the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ resurrection only because of the chasm that the initial witnesses spanned as it was revealed to them. Archer analyzes the four Gospel accounts as such:
On Saturday evening three of the women decided to go back to the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, where they had seen Christ’s body laid away on Friday at sundown. …There were three women involved (Mark 16:1)… They apparently started their journey from the house in Jerusalem while it was still dark, even though it was already early morning (John 20:1). But by the time they arrived, dawn was glimmering in the east (Matt. 28:1).
Where the women were, when the earthquake occurred in which the angels rolled away the stone from the tomb, we are not told. They were apparently unaware of the event given their reaction upon reaching the tomb and finding the stone rolled away for them. Archer continues,
They then entered the tomb, side-stepping the unconscious soldiers. In the tomb they made out the form of the leading angel, appearing as a young man with blazing white garments (Mark 16:5), who, however, may not have shown himself to them until they first discovered that the corpse was gone (Luke 24:2-3). But then it became apparent that this angel had a companion, for there were two of them in the tomb.
The angel tells the women not to be afraid, yet one can hardly expect them to immediately calm down. The angel also reminds them that Christ Himself had spoken of His resurrection and that they are to go and tell His disciples that He had risen from the dead. In the Gospels we see, time and time again, that Jesus’ identity as Messiah is intentionally revealed and not necessarily deduced. That his resurrection could be both knowable and yet unexpected should not surprise us. We are told in John 20:9, “For they did not yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.” It is sometimes difficult for us to realize the paradigm shift in thinking that the disciples had to go through, e.g., even after they understood that Jesus was resurrected, they still expected Him to begin His earthly reign as Messiah (Acts 1:6). Thus, the women leave the tomb, for the first time, and tell the disciples that, “They have taken the Lord away from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid Him!” (John 20:2). The Jewish concept of the resurrection was that all were resurrected at the end of the age. That Jesus was to rise from the dead, on his own, was a foreign concept to them, not to mention that at this point in time they had yet to see Jesus for themselves. Regardless, Peter and John decide to inspect the tomb for themselves (John 20:3). Archer states,
John arrived there first, being no doubt younger and faster than Peter. Yet it turned out that he was not as perceptive as Peter, for all John did when he got to the entrance was stoop down and look into the tomb, where he saw the shroud… But Peter was a bit bolder and more curious; he went inside the chamber and found it indeed empty. Then he looked intently at the winding sheet… Instead of being spread out in a long, jumbled strip, it was still wrapped together in one spot…
It appears that Mary Magdalene decided to return to the tomb after Peter and John. There is no mention of whether Peter and John saw her at the tomb or on their way back home. After she returned to the tomb she was once again greeted by the angels who asked her why she was crying. She apparently still had not understood the full meaning of what the angels had initially told her. After asking the angels, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they put him,” Jesus appears behind her. She turns to see him but does not recognize him. We are not told whether this was intentional on Jesus’ part or whether it was due to Mary’s emotional state. Per Archer,
It was at this point that the kindly stranger revealed Himself to Mary by reverting to His familiar voice as He addressed her by name, “Mariam!” Immediately she realized that the body she was looking for stood right before her, no longer a corpse but now a living, breathing human being – and yet more than that, the incarnate God. “Rabbouni!” she exclaimed (that is to say, “Master!”) and cast herself at His feet.
Jesus then instructs her to return and tell His disciples that He must briefly ascend to the Father (John 20:17). Conferring with Matthew 28:9 we see that the other women also returned to the tomb and were met by Jesus as well, although we are not told if they met Jesus specifically at the tomb. That point is important because Peter appears to be the first male disciple to be visited by Jesus after His resurrection for when the women returned the second time from the tomb to report their news of meeting Jesus, the disciples replied, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34). We are told that Jesus had appeared to Peter, but we are not told when or where the event happened. This is just a brief analysis of the Gospel accounts regarding the resurrection. Far from being contradictory in nature, the Gospels provide a rich tapestry of detail with regards to the various events surrounding that unique day two thousand years ago.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Moore insanity...

Frank Beckwith has a short interesting post at Moteworthy.com titled, Michael Moore is a Liar. Pretty self-explanatory title. Bill Wallo also has a short post on Moore titled, Michael Moore Wins.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Ultra-conservative DNA...

I've posted in the past about the so-called Junk DNA sequences that, as research progresses, are shown to have functionality we were previously unaware of. Evolutionists will typically respond by stating that a few functional anomalies within the vastness of Junk-DNA do not point towards Design. Yet my point from the beginning has been that continued research will indicate that so-called Junk-DNA is not so junky afterall. Enter the ScienceDaily article, Surprising 'Ultra-conserved' Regions Discovered In Human Genome. The article starts off with,
Researchers comparing the human genome with the genomes of other species have discovered a surprising number of matching DNA sequences in a variety of vertebrate species, including the mouse, rat, dog, and chicken. The fact that these sequences have remained unchanged over long periods of evolutionary history indicates that they are biologically important, but for now their functions are largely a mystery. ...Although they have been conserved meticulously through hundreds of millions of years of evolution, only a small fraction of these elements code for proteins. Protein coding, whereby DNA code directs the production of a specific protein, is how most genes carry out their functions. But fewer than a quarter of the ultra-conserved elements overlap coding regions of the human genome, and in most of those cases they overlap only a short span of the coding region and extend beyond it to noncoding areas. Nevertheless, most of the 481 ultra-conserved elements appear to be associated in some way with genes, if not overlapping them then residing near genes or in the noncoding portions of genes. Furthermore, they tend to be associated with parts of the genome that are involved in regulating the expression of genes in various ways. "These parts of the genome are far more conserved than we would have imagined. We think these segments evolved in the past, then froze into place and were inherited unchanged from then on," Bejerano said. (emphasis added)
It's interesting to note that the evolutionary paradigm forces the researcher to posit that evolution took place and then, for whatever reason, froze into place the conserved elements. What other explanation could serve as an answer to this scenario? The article further states,
Because they were not able to trace the ultra-conserved segments to even more distant species, the authors speculate that these particular parts of the genome represent innovations in the genomes of chordate species that evolved rapidly at first, then became effectively frozen in birds and mammals. "These ultra-conserved elements are long, they evolved rather rapidly, and they are now evolutionarily frozen. We don’t know of a biomolecular mechanism that would explain them," Haussler said. (emphasis added)
Large refineries periodically have upgrades done to them. There may be many areas within the refinery that are undergoing both similar and unique upgrades. In setting up progress report spreadsheets for each of the areas I will typically build a similar template as a base model, depending on reporting requirements, to be used for every area. Once the template is finished I will then add the distinctiveness inherent to each particular area. Looking back over the process one can see where I froze certain elements into place and yet continued to alter other elements of the worksheets. There may indeed be a biomolecular mechanism that explains the reason evolution froze these ultra-conserved elements way back when. But the Testable Creation Model predicts that further research will reveal additional qualities of Design within such a mechanism. Hat tip: Creation Update

Bible Translations...

Jeremy over at Parablemania has a very good post highlighting various English translations of the Bible, as well as recommendations on which ones to use, when, and why. Check Review of Bible Translations.

Hey, Hey, Hey!...

Bill Cosby, besides being a class act, doesn't pull his punches. Consider his statements last week at Constitution Hall,in Washington, D.C., at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. He chastized those blacks who don't take responsibility for their actions, play the race-card for run-ins with the law, and don't bother to learn proper English. You can read about it at the Washington Post, WorldNet Daily, and Newsday.com. Among other things, Cosby said,
Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids – $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.' ...They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. ... Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. ... You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!
Evidently, when he was finished, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert and NAACP legal defense fund head Theodore Shaw were less than pleased. The truth hurts sometimes. Hat tip to La Shawn Barber and Semper Ubi Sub Ubi.

Muggeridge & family...

I've been thinking about Joe Carter's recent comments on gay marriage and polygamy (see - Three’s Company on the Slippery Slope: The Case for Polygamous Marriage). I responded to his post by commenting on the decadence we would be inviting in, were we to allow gay marriage into the fold. I said,
...heterosexual marriage will still exist, but it will now have to be framed within the context of a worldview that is ultimately at odds with the original intent of marriage.
Part of Joe's response was,
I think we are already there. The ease with which people can divorce has caused more damage to the institution of marriage than anything gay marriage could do.
While I agree with his opinion regarding the damage that easy divorce has brought upon society, I don't necessarily think that it is worse than what gay marriage is capable of doing. In Touchstone Magazine's December 2003 issue there is an article by Adam Schwartz titled, Vanity Fair's Thanatos Syndrome: Maclolm Muggeridge, Modern Capatilism & the Culture of Death. Besides giving a good synopsis of Muggeridge's life, Schwartz also highlights the reasons why Muggeridge vehemently supported a pro-family worldview. In speaking of Muggeridge views of Western culture, Schwartz states,
He argued that its favoring of the quality over the sanctity of life engendered sensualist attitudes inimical to the family: "The quality of life means simply gorging, fornicating, and never having children and so on." Moreover, because the affluent "have no material obstacles to shedding relationships," an acquisitive society erodes and degrades ties between spouses and between parents and children. He found it unsurprising that a culture that made sex a commodity considered the marriage bond a contract rather than a covenant, and regarded the family as "a factory farm whose only concern is the well-being of the livestock and the profitability of the enterprise." ...For Muggeridge, one crucial expression of the death wish was artificial contraception. He believed that sundering sex's procreative from its unitive function fostered many of the trends he feared. "The purpose of [sex] is procreation, the justification of it is love; if you separate sex from procreation and love, very rapidly you turn it into a horror." For example, he argued that only a society characterized by this bifurcation could simultaneously sanction in vitro fertilization and abortion. He judged this contraceptive mentality an essential element of consumerist society's eugenic bent, as it allows "all our procreation [to be] done in test tubes" by genetic engineers eagerly creating an army of ad-men while "leaving us free to frolic with our sterilized bodies as we please, unconstrained" by "unwanted children." He regarded contraception as the "crowning glory of the pursuit of happiness through sex," but deemed this quest for an "unending, infertile orgasm" a "death-wish formula if there ever was one."
That our society's attitudes towards marriage, divorce, sex, and children have degraded to such a low point appears to validate Muggeridge's forecasts. Yet, his comments are also interesting in light of the fact that the act of homosexual sex, in its unnatural and contrary to designed method, is the essential defining characteristic of homosexuality. What better way to pursue the pleasures of sex without the burden of children? But the Image of God is not so easily covered up. We, as a society, still want children, whether we be promiscuous hetero- or homosexuals. Interestingly enough though, the only means of procreation available for a so-called married gay couple, barring an adulterous relationship and/or surrogacy, would be the use of in vitro fertilization.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Gay marriage & polygamy...

Joe Carter has a post regarding gay marriage titled, Three’s Company on the Slippery Slope: The Case for Polygamous Marriage, in which he argues that the while the dire predictions of gay marriage opponents will probably never occur, there is one slippery slope conclusion that is unavoidable – polygamy. He states,
…a stronger argument can be made for polygamy than can be made for same-sex marriages. …After all, there is already a great deal of precedent since, unlike gay marriage, polygamy has been widely practiced throughout history. There are few civilizations, religions, or cultures where polygamy has not taken root. In fact, almost ever religion has, at some point in their development, accepted the legitimacy of polygamy. All of the major world religions - Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity – have condoned the practice of taking multiple spouses. In contrast, none of them has ever tolerated, much less openly accepted, same-sex “marriage”. …When the facts are taken into account, the reasons for favoring gay marriage while excluding polygamy are completely arbitrary and based on personal preference. If you truly believe that gays have a legal right to marry then you have no grounds for barring polyamorous groups from doing the same. This leaves proponents of same-sex marriage with two choices. They either have to accept that polygamy is just as legitimate as gay marriage or they must admit that there is no inherent “right” to expand the definition of marriage.
Joe’s “end-around” attack on the same-sex marriage issue is interesting, but I’m concerned that he seems to brush off the slippery slope conclusions that many Christian conservatives are warning of. He states,
Gay marriage isn’t going to lead to legitimizing incest or prostitution nor will heterosexual marriage fall apart because Adam and Steve got hitched. I also don’t expect anyone (other than Peter Singer perhaps) to be in a rush to marry their goat.
What we need to understand, though, is that even if the dire slippery slope predictions never come to pass we will, nevertheless, have turned down a path shrouded in darkness. The issue goes far beyond whether Adam and Steve have a loving relationship and want to get the blessings of the government in the form of marriage. It goes far beyond whether Adam and Steve can lovingly raise children. The issue hits at the very core of what actually defines Adam and Steve - that is - their sexual preference. The issue hits at the very core of how humans have been designed to procreate and nurture their young. The issue hits at the very core of how our young will learn to view the world through their formative years. That incest may become legal because of gay marriage is, in reality, a mere footnote.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Spirit Creatures...

Joe Carter has an excellent post titled, The Birth of Neism: Greg Graffin and the Rise of Naturalistic Deism, in which he essentially explores the aspects of Naturalism with respect to the supernatural, hence, Naturalistic Deism. He quotes from one Greg Graffin, an evolutionary biologist,
We still live in a world, however, that is predominantly theist, particularly in America where 95% of the citizens believe in God (according to the Gallup Poll of 2001). In this environment, many evolutionary biologists are reluctant to carry the implications of Darwinism to their logical extent. Theists vote, pay the taxes, and support the research institutions where most naturalists work. Theists do not appreciate hearing the vulgar truth of evolutionary theory, that mankind is no fallen angel, has no immortal soul, nor free will, and was not specially created. So what is a naturalist evolutionary biologist to do in this climate? The options are many. Either support the controversial conclusions above (as E.O. Wilson or Richard Dawkins do ), or try to erect a world-view that incorporates elements of theology and evolution (as Ruse, Miller, Ayala, and countless deists of the past have done), or suggest the mutual exclusivity of the two magisteria (as Steven Jay Gould does), or simply lay low and not even enter the arena of discussion, and merely hope for the best when the uneducated voters determine the relevance of evolution. (emphasis added)
Even though Graffin's worldview is wrong, at least he understands its implications. One hopes that, as he stands at the fork in the road, he chooses wisely.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

At no other time in history...

Families Heckle Giuliani at 9/11 Hearing, per Yahoo!News.
Outraged relatives of World Trade Center victims heckled former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on Wednesday as their hopes that he would be grilled by the Sept. 11 commission faded in the face of gentle questioning and effusive praise from panel members. "My son was murdered because of your incompetence!" shouted Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son died in the trade center. Seated three rows behind Giuliani, she jabbed her finger at the former mayor and waved a sign that read "Fiction" as he gave the city's emergency response a glowing review.
In Colonial House, over at the RoughWoodsman, Swamphopper states,
I spent the last two nights watching the Colonial House series. Postmodernist 21st century Westerners trying to reenact 17th century Puritan colonization had its expected results: Sabbath violations, profanity, drunkenness, laziness, etc. Those same human frailties existed in the Puritan colonies too, but I bet that in the 1600’s the need to survive most often superceded the desire to usurp one’s independence. I think Jamestown would have been a better comparison to the Colonial House setting than Puritanism.
The Happy Homeschooler echoes Swamphopper's comments in her post, also titled Colonial House. She states,
Would someone please make the women of Colonial House STOP WHINING? Yikes. What did they expect? Room Service? Did their education in history limit them so much that they did not know what to expect in terms of life in those times? Did they expect a Colonial House with ERA? Did they expect religious diversity? Did they expect religious freedom?
What do these stories have in common? They illustrate how far removed the 21st century West is from the brutal realities of life. We have become so accustomed to having things go our way that we've forgotten how the rest of the world lives - and dies. Was it a tragedy that so many innocent lives were lost on 9/11? Certainly! Were mistakes made in the emergency response? Probably. Does that indicate incompetence? Even if it did, what right do we have to expect recourse? Does anyone really expect 21st century postmodern Westerners to understand what Puritans experienced simply by putting them in semi-comparable physical conditions? I realize that the reality show mentality mandates that arguments and in-fighting occur between the participants, but other than make it a glorified soap opera, what has been gained? A true understanding of the Puritan worldview? I doubt it. My brother-in-law and my sister are missionaries and have spent a fair amount of time in Central America. He told me of an incident in which a group of people from the U.S. flew down to El Salvador, for a week, to provide medical assistance. At the end of the week, as the group was preparing to return to the States, one of the members told my brother-in-law, "Well, I guess it's time to head back to reality." After pondering that statement my brother-in-law realized that it was, in actuality, the other way around. The living conditions he was in, there in El Salvador, is reality for most of the world - these volunteers were traveling back not to reality, but to our Western fantasy.

Naturalistic Supernaturalism...

Parablemania has piggybacked off of the God's Will posts that I and Jollyblogger have done with a post titled, God's Will and Naturalism. He addresses two concerns he has with Naturalism's influences on Christian thought: 1) that Christians will expect God not to intervene in supernatural ways and, 2) that Christians will expect God to intervene in supernatural ways. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn't it? Well it's not. What he's addressing in the second point (the first one being pretty self-explanatory) is that we sometimes put up a wall between the natural and the supernatural when there really shouldn't be one. Parableman (aka Jeremy) states,
It places a distinction between the natural world and the supernatural world and assumes that the presence of the supernatural involves a breaking of the natural order. It requires an assumption that the natural world continues on its own as much as possible, and then God breaks in with various things from time to time. Thus it minimizes God's role in everyday life, in ordinary events. It thus gives up too much to naturalism. The Christian view, as developed in the Bible itself, is that God ordains events even on the level we would be tempted to describe as natural. All along in this post I've been influenced by naturalism even in describing them that way and in making a distinction.
C. S. Lewis had a lot to say about this in his book Miracles. Part of our problem is that we tend to think of our world - our natural realm, if you will - to be reality and, therefore, any intrusion into that realm, via means that are not abiding by the natural laws, to be supernatural. While this is true in a certain context, we need to be reminded that God exists not only outside our reality but within it as well. Therefore, any act that He performs is, from His perspective, a natural act. That such an act is an intrusion on the realm we are confined to does not invalidate it from being perceived by us, nor does it mandate questioning why God would perform such an act (as opposed to letting things happen naturally). Additionally, although we know that God can speak to us through supernatural means, we must remember that if He is sovereign over both the natural and the supernatural, then He is free to use both to accomplish His Will.

A Clash of Cultures?...

U.S. Probing Report of 40 Iraqis Killed at Wedding, per FoxNews.
Iraqis interviewed on the videotape said partygoers were firing in the air in a traditional wedding celebration. American troops have sometimes mistaken celebratory gunfire for hostile fire. Such a case occurred in 2002, when Afghan officials said 48 civilians at a wedding party were killed by a U-S airstrike.
When does tradition cross over the line between common sense and stupidity?

Sports...

If Shoeless Joe Jackson was banned from baseball for throwing a World Series, then why the hoopla over Randy Johnson throwing a perfect game? Okay, so I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel...

Alternative Worship...

David Wayne over at Jollyblogger has a post titled, The New York Times > Week in Review > Alt-Worship: Christian Cool and the New Generation Gap, in which he gives his thoughts on both the seeker sensitive and emerging church movements. He brings up some very good points, especially in addressing the aspect that these movements seem to think that Christianity must react to whatever secular culture it finds itself in. I like his following comment:
This is one of the things that bugs me about the seeker sensitive movement and the emerging church movement. Both claimed to be reactions to culture. The seeker sensitive movement reacted toward a perceived insensitivity toward cultural trends and became "tragically up to date," to borrow a phrase from George Grant. The emerging church has realized the bankruptcy of that, and they also think that the rest of the church has it all wrong too. The non-seeker sensitive churches are allegedly caught in the grip of modernity. There is a lot of truth to this, but all the emergent church has done is shucked the modern culture to embrace the postmodern culture. And, these leaders (in all fairness, maybe its only some of these leaders) see their movement as a very temporary thing.
We're sometimes told that Christianity must adapt, or die. I find that laughable. Although cultural demographics may influence our approach, they should never determine it. Our target audience is humanity, not PoMos, seekers, techno-geeks, etc. Ours is not the business of selling a worldview, much less an experience. We should be in the business of proclaiming the Truth - which is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. David closes nicely with,
The seeker sensitive church isn't the answer and neither is the emerging church. In fact, we need to get rid of the "church of what's happenin now" altogether and just have "the church" - the Bride of Christ, following Him, obeying Him, serving Him, undaunted by the changing winds of culture.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Evolutionary morality...

As I've stated before, morality and naturalism don't mix. Now I don't really care if one feels the need to clarify whether it is methodological naturalism, metaphysical naturalism, atheistic naturalism, or whatever naturalism. The point is that any worldview which posits that nature alone is responsible for morality is being logically inconsistent. Touchstone Magazine's Mere Comments has a few posts in this regard that are worth checking out. In THE EVOLUTIONISTS’ FALSE HOPE:, David Mills references an interview with Michael Shermer in the Rocky Mountain News. The exchange with Shermer includes:
Seebach [the interviewer]: At one point you talk about morality as being a property of the species. Shermer: The reason I wrote that chapter was to answer the believers’ claim that without God, without an outside source, there’s no transcendence to morality. They ask, are you saying that it’s just purely a cultural thing? And my answer is no. There is a source of transcendence and it’s evolution; these deep-seated moral sentiments were given to us as members of the species by evolution.
Mills points out, as I have, that any form of transendence must appeal to an authority outside our realm. This is in complete contradiction to any mandate that all aspects of our being were derived from completely natural means. Mills follows up with a quote from C. S. Lewis:
If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning — just as, if there were no light in the universe, and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know that it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
Additional posts by Mills include, They Don't Get it, and The Evolutionist's Morality. Try as they might, evolutionists cannot give any convincing natural reasons that humans should act as moral creatures.

The lights are on...

Student drinks lab chemical on a dare, per CNN.

Monday, May 17, 2004

What do you expect?...

Arrest in alleged Hooters videotaping, per CNN:
A man who worked for the Atlanta-based Hooters restaurant chain, known for its scantily clad waitresses, is accused of secretly videotaping job candidates while they changed into uniforms. ...Aponte is also being sued by five women who said he invaded their privacy and touched some of them while taking photographs of them as they tried on the Hooters uniform of low-cut tank tops and tight shorts.
Let's see, you interview for a job in which you expect your scantily clad body to be ogled, and yet you claim that your privacy was invaded when someone wants a more permanent image artifact of your body? Yes, I realize that the job candidates did not necessarily want their naked bodies to be on display; my point is that the barbarian male mindset takes their willingness to be scantily clad, for the purposes of being seen, and begins to attach such a willigness with the characteristics of a slut. Whether these women are sluts or not is irrelevant - by their actions they have cast their image to the uncouth males frequenting Hooters.

Massachusetts...

Same-sex couples begin marrying in Massachusetts, per CNN.
Same-sex couples began exchanging marriage vows in Massachusetts on Monday, marking the first time a state has granted gays and lesbians the right to marry and making the United States one of at least four countries where homosexuals can legally wed.
The decline of decency.

Iraq, and the continuing war...

Sarin, Mustard Gas Discovered Separately in Iraq, per FoxNews. We'll now start hearing from the conservatives that the WMDs are being found, while the liberals will probably claim that these devices are relics from a WMD program that was out of operation years ago. Partisan politics aside, we've really got to learn to get over our fast-food, PDA planner mentality. Taking down Baghdad turned out to be much easier than anyone had predicted it would be. But taking down the entire Saddam regime has not been. Should anyone really be surprised? Iraqi council replaces slain leader, per CNN:
A senior coalition military official said the bombing had the hallmarks of an attack by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- an al Qaeda associate who has been tied to numerous strikes in Iraq.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Back in the saddle...

after being gone for a few days to California's Central Coast. The city of Santa Maria, California, has been getting journalists from around the world lately because of Jacko's court appearances. You should make it a destination, not for the sensationalism, but for the Santa Maria style barbecue. It's really a very simple process: Take a tri-tip section of beef, season it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then grill it over hot coals of red oak. Lace it with pinquito beans, salsa, and a salad and that's it! If that's too much trouble, then head out towards the farmland town of Guadalupe and have dinner served to you at the Far West Tavern. We had a great time touring Mission Life Day at La Purisima Mission near Lompoc, as well as tidepooling at Montana de Oro State Beach near Morro Bay. All in all, a very restful getaway...

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Privileged Planet, the fallout splats…

I’ve just started reading The Privileged Planet, by Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez. It is quickly turning out to be a good read and rumors to its demise have been greatly exaggerated. The gist of the book is best described by this quote (emphasis in original):
…Measurability refers to those features of the universe as a whole, and especially to our particular location in it – in both space and time – that allow us to detect, observe, discover, and determine the size, age, history, laws, and other properties of the physical universe. It’s what makes scientific discovery possible. Although scientists don’t often discuss it, the degree to which we can “measure” the wider universe – not just our immediate surroundings – is surprising. Most scientists presuppose the measurability of the physical realm: it’s measurable because scientists have found ways to measure it. Read any book on the history of scientific discovery and you’ll find magnificent tales of human ingenuity, persistence, and dumb luck. What you probably won’t see is any discussion of the conditions necessary for such feats, conditions so improbably fine-tuned to allow scientific discoveries that they beg for a better explanation than mere chance. Our argument is subtle, however, and requires a bit of explanation. First, we aren’t arguing that every condition for measurability is uniquely and individually optimized on Earth’s surface. Nor are we saying that it’s always easy to measure and make scientific discoveries. Our claim is that Earth’s conditions allow for a stunning diversity of measurements, from cosmology and galactic astronomy to stellar astrophysics and geophysics; they allow for this rich diversity of measurement much more so than if Earth were ideally suited for, say, just one of these sorts of measurement.
The general criticisms I’ve heard from scientists with regards to this idea have been along the lines of: “how can we claim that we’re in a unique position when we haven’t analyzed other possible worlds?” or “all they’ve done is highlight which features are unique to our planet and ignored those features that are not unique – so why are we privileged?” The first criticism is unusual to hear from scientists in that they, of all people, should understand that the analysis of data is what should drive conclusions. That we can propose that our planet is in a privileged position is not necessarily dependant on whether or not we have analyzed all other possible positions (or even a substantial portion of said positions). In other words, the proposal can be made because of the fact that our knowledge of the world around us has increased to the point that we also can show that such knowledge would not have been attainable from most other locations in the universe. That our location is also needed for advanced life to be possible only compounds the situation. The second criticism is, in my opinion, a much more valid point. I believe that the best answer to this criticism is time. If the privileged planet theory is true, then the dataset with which we observe unique characteristics that allow us to not only exist, but to measure our world, will increase. In other words, the gap between what is necessarily unique to our planet and what is commonplace will widen. Now, to be fair, I've generalized the criticisms I've read regarding The Privileged Planet. Time permitting, I hope to provide a post reviewing both the book and specific claims against it in the near future.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Cotton pickin' lunacy...

A Charlotte based newspaper, Creative Loafing, has recently published an article by one Quinn Cotton titled, Homeschool Horror: Divinely ordained education, taught by martyrs. Here are some choice excerpts:
You know how there are terrorist cells embedded throughout the world? Well, in my neighborhood we have numerous "homeschool" cells humming in the cul-de-sacs. They're almost as scary as the terrorist ones in some ways -- and they definitely have some traits in common with them. ...What's scary is that a lot of the homeschooling faithful are as fueled by a fanatical, religion-based belief in their mission as Islamist terrorists, and seem to be just about as brainwashed. Sometimes I even wonder if they're a manufactured race along the lines of the Stepford wives in Ira Levin's book, but assembled in fundamentalist Christian churches instead of family basements. ...They're not only terrorist-like in their conviction that their calling is divinely ordained, homeschoolers also often have a broad martyr streak. Rather than suicide bombings, though, they commit "suicide book-learning," sacrificing their own lives to teach their kids. ...Beyond a certain age, children and mothers are just not meant to be isolated together. It's unnatural. Keeping the kids at home might have worked back in the Stone Age, but cave women would've at least had each other for company, and I bet they made damn sure the youngsters stayed off in a group together while they grunted gossip and drank their Cro-Magnon coffee. Kids need their teachers to be adults, separate from their mothers. That way they can idolize or despise them apart from a parent figure, and don't have to depend on one person for everything they require. Did a parent of yours try to teach you to drive? How'd that go? 'Nuff said. All young animals must be immersed in a mass of their peers so they can figure out what it means to function as a member of the larger group. Believe me, I'm aware that homeschooling families get their children together, ...but being with maybe a dozen other kids once in a while doesn't do the trick. It takes serious numbers for developing humans to catch on to the nuances of accepted behavior and to have a chance to make enough friends. I just can't see homeschooling providing adequate socialization. ...What's really scary about homeschooling is what it can do to the sanity of a mother deluded into thinking it's her Christian duty. No woman was ever meant to be trapped in a house all day with children old enough to spell "homicide." So if new neighbors move in next door and you notice that the kids never leave for school and mom wears her hair in two braids, be afraid. Be very afraid.
I could pick Cotton apart for her kindergarten level use of logic (e.g., Did a parent of yours try to teach you to drive? How'd that go? 'Nuff said.). But I won't. I could take Cotton to task for her astonishing display of ignorance with the statement, I just can't see homeschooling providing adequate socialization. But I won't. I could point out to Cotton her sheer stupidity in stating, Beyond a certain age, children and mothers are just not meant to be isolated together. It's unnatural. But I won't. What I will do is point out the wickedness of Quinn Cotton's article. The liberal lunacy that Cotton regurgitates in her article should be regarded as blasphemous within a culture that genuflects to its god Tolerance. That she has the audacity to place homeschooling mothers within 1 million light years of the word terrorist is utterly heinous. You know what Quinn? There are many times that those brainwashed homeschool mothers feel like throwing in the towel... it's both physically and emotionally exhausting work to run their household and teach their children. But all it takes is an article like yours to remind them of the reason they choose to homeschool. Let Creative Loafing know what you think of Quinn Cotton's article by contacting them at backtalk@creativeloafing.com

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Two forces, two methodologies...

Video on al Qaeda-linked Web site shows beheading
"For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the U.S. administration to exchange this hostage for some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib, and they refused," a hooded man standing behind the American says in Arabic. "So we tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins, slaughtered in this way."
Ted Kennedy states, on the floor of the Senate,
"Shamefully we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management."
If that were true, Senator Kennedy, then we should expect to hear Donald Rumsfeld announcing that prisoners in Abu Ghraib will soon be released… in coffins after coffins.

The Seedy Side of Design...

They're cunning and manipulative, and will do anything to get what they want.
No, it's not Dembski and Co., nor even Dawkins and Co. It's from a recent Nature episode describing the many ways that flora reproduce. The blurb continues,
We're speaking of the ubiquitous plant life that covers our planet, relentlessly evolving elaborate schemes to disperse its seeds and ensure the continuation of its almost limitless species.
What I found particularly interesting in this episode were the analogies that were used to describe the diverse ways in which flora reproduce. Consider the following (all emphasis added):
Fruit-producing plants rely on the appeal of their fruits for dispersal of the seeds, and have evolved their own unique "marketing strategies" and their own select clientele -- animals as well as humans -- to help the process along. Each time we yield to the temptation to pluck a ripe juicy apple from its branch, we too become pawns in one of nature's carefully devised game plans. ...coconuts, have engineered seeds that can survive thousand-mile voyages at sea. But the plants' master plan for world conquest is no longer a secret. But it didn't take a gardener's green thumb to design this global garden. Such strategies don't surprise botanists. Says one: "If you can think of a way to get a seed to sprout, you can be sure some plant is already doing it."
My favorite, though, is:
At first glance, some seeds' designs make plants seem downright intelligent.
Well, yes, I'll agree that there's an intelligence out there. Wasn't it Dawkins who said that biologists have to keep constantly reminding themselves that even though nature looks designed... it really isn't. Meanwhile, the best analogies we can come up with all point not to a mindless process, but to the process of a mind. My daughter loves to watch the program Nature. Given the trash that's on so much of the tube, it is refreshing to see her take an interest in something educational. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to show her the intricately designed wonders of God's green earth.

Monday, May 10, 2004

TV-Land...

Check Al Mohler's post, Television and Children - Rewiring the Brain? He addresses a study done which not only took a look at what children watch but how the mere watching of TV at a very early age may affect the way the brain develops.
The article, "Early Television Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems in Children" traces the influence of early television exposure to the fact that "the newborn brain continues to develop rapidly through the first few years of life and that considerable plasticity exists during this period." In other words, the actual process of watching television tends to "rewire" the brains of very young children, so that they grow accustomed to visual stimulation and multiple visual exposures. As the researchers determined: "The types and intensity of visual and auditory experiences that children have early in life therefore may have profound influences on brain development."
With the advent of cable, satellite TV, video cassettes, and DVDs, we entered a new era in the world of television. Instead of it being merely a device that receives transmissions through the air at specified times during the day (remember when TV stations went off the air late at night?); it has become a virtual 2-D conditioner, capable of 24/7/365 transmission. What will become of our children's children?

A Touchstone Editor...

Graeme Hunter is one of two new editors for Touchstone. The Touchstone site references an article Hunter wrote titled, Thoughts on Homeschooling. He writes,
...[an] other objection reported by the editors is that homeschooled children are 'socially awkward'. It requires much imagination to make this objection square with my own experience. However I can see how it might be true occasionally, for the simple reason that socially awkward children would be more likely to find school intolerable, and so to be homeschooled, than would the socially well-adjusted. But let me return to speaking from experience. As members of a relatively large homeschooling organization (around 300 families) we take part in a good number of group activities. Public institutions (such as museums, galleries, theatres) that we attend hurry to ask us back. They are amazed to find groups of children who use facilities in the way they were intended, who respect the officers of the institution, who are articulate in their questions and generous in their thanks. If homeschooled children stand out in society, we have not found it to be due to awkwardness.

On the Will of God; the aftermath...

Well I taught the Decision Making and the Will of God class on Sunday and it went very well. The demographics of the class include a lot of mature Christians. I predicted / hoped that this fact would work in my favor since they would be more likely to correlate what I had to say, while I was saying it, with the Word. This seemed to be the case as most of the questions that did arise were questions regarding clarification (vs. questions that attempted to counter my argument). I began by taking them on a thought experiment I first heard from Ken Samples at Reasons to Believe. Essentially, we took a look at the consequences of the idea that nature is all there is. If, as a strict naturalist would posit, we arose from the primordial soup and all the workings of our bodies are simply the result of a purposeless process that did not have us in mind, then even our minds would be the result of that process. I don't have time to go into the thought experiment here, but the conclusion is that if our minds are the product of random events, then we have no reason to trust what our minds are telling us. C. S. Lewis summed it up with,
Materialism gave us a theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid.
With that I briefly described the typical process that Evangelicals use in making decisions, i.e., assuming that God has some individual plan for our lives and that in order to make our decisions we must first uncover, somehow, God's plan. At this point I explained that the premise of the session was that the Bible does not teach that we get personalized guidance in the form of "being led by the Spirit," "having a peace about it," confirmations, open and closed doors, or the laying out of fleece. There were a few gasps at this but I had asked them to be patient and hear me out before they responded with comments or questions. I then took them to the proof-text for "being led by the Spirit," Romans 8:14. Before we jumped into that though I explained to them how literature has meaning and that meaning comes from the "Top - Down," that is, to best understand what a sentence means, we should learn as much about the paragraph, chapter, book, and big idea that encompasses the sentence. We should also learn about the intentions the author had in writing the text. On this little tangent I took them through J. Budziszewski's book series, What We Can't Not Know, Written on the Heart, and The Revenge of Conscience. I chose a proof-text from What We Can't Not Know that read, "Eat your neighbor and covet his mate," explaining that Budziszewski was contrasting the idea that our moral code was revealed from God vs. what it could have been if it simply arose from natural, random acts (hence my using the opening thought experiment). From there we took a look not only at Romans 8:14 but the entire section that it is contained in. I showed them that the text is speaking not of decision making but of righteous living. As the class was barely one hour long I had to rush through the material. I was able to leave them with scriptural references with which they could look up on their own to research to argument I was proposing. Not wanting to leave them hanging, though, I did briefly explain the model that the Bible does teach with regards to decision making - the Wisdom Model. I explained to them that the first aspect to understand about the wisdom model is that God has two wills - His Sovreign Will and His Moral Will. The former is essentially hidden, while the latter is completely revealed (in the Word). In applying the wisdom model we first look to God's moral will to see what He would have us do. In the example of marriage, we can see from God's Word that a Christian should marry: another Christian, of the opposite sex, who is biblically free to marry. These are basic guidelines that God has provided us with. Next in the process would be to apply wisdom to the situation. Wisdom is an essential part of biblical teaching. Personal desires and factors must also enter the equation. With that done the decision is then left... to us. God has granted us the responsibility to make decisions in our life but will not leave us stranded without guidance and wisdom - if we but ask. Finally, I made sure that they understood that encompassing the entire spectrum of the wisdom model is the fact that, as Christians, we understand that God's Sovreign Will rules supreme. No matter what choices we make, nor what circumstances occur in our lives, we rest in the knowledge that things are working out in accordance with His Plan. After the class I was warmly thanked, by many of the class attendees, for the presentation I had given them. I truly believe that they will take the material and apply it to their lives in a manner that will strengthen their Christian maturity.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Tidbits from Neuhaus...

Here are a couple of thoughts from Richard John Neuhaus' While We're At It section of the April issue of First Things.
- Twenty-three priests in the Chicago area sent out an open letter protesting what they said was the use of harsh and insensitive language in Vatican documents on homosexuality. Francis Cardinal George responded by saying that we must indeed be careful about the language we use, and then he added this: “Pastors have to mediate the tension between welcoming people and calling them to change, to repent and convert and live according to Christ’s teaching transmitted by the Church. That tension is often resolved in practice by a pastor’s love for his people. I thank you for loving your people. If, however, you cannot resolve that tension between welcoming people as they are and still calling them to leave their sinfulness and become saints, or if you yourself do not accept the Church’s moral teaching on the moral use of the gift of sexuality, it would be all the more important for us to talk.” There is no report on how many priests have called for an appointment. - Tom and Ann Belser Brown write in the Messenger, a magazine of the Church of the Brethren: “We have had an END WAR license plate on our car since 1985 in Mississippi . When we moved to Indiana in 2001, we transferred that phrase to our new plate. A few months later, we joyfully found out that some good friends in Jackson took the END WAR for their Mississippi car tag. Unfortunately, war continues.” Even after all that?

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Tradition...

Robert Lous Wilken writes, in the April issue of First Things,
Last spring on a trip to Erfurt, the medieval university town in Germany famous for its Augustinian cloister in which Martin Luther was ordained to the priesthood, I learned that only 20 percent of its population today professes adherence to Christianity. In fact, when the topic of religion came up in a conversation with a young woman in a hotel lounge, and I asked her if she was a member of a church, she replied without hesitation: Ich bin Heide— “I am a heathen.” It is hardly surprising to discover pagans in the heart of Western Europe where Christianity once flourished: a steep decline in the number of Christians has been underway for generations, even centuries. What surprised me was the absence of embarrassment in her use of the term “heathen.” She did not say that she no longer went to church or that she was not a believer. For her, Christianity, no doubt the religion of her grandparents if not her parents, was simply not on the horizon. I remembered that two days earlier my train had stopped at Fulda, where St. Boniface, the apostle to the Germans, is buried. Boniface had gone to Germany to convert the heathen...
In recent discussions on how Evangelicals differ in their methodology for worship I've heard the comment that Christianity must be flexible with regards to differing cultures. Now I've typically thought of cultures in terms of, say, Japanese vs. French; but 21st century American Evangelicals seem to think that differing cultures also refers to variances such as mainstream Evangelicals vs. PoMos vs. Hip Hop. In his article titled, The Church as Culture, Wilken says,
there are many Christians in the U.S., but can we still claim to be a Christian society? If one uses any measure other than individual adherence (what people say if asked) or even church attendance, it is undeniable that the influence of Christianity on the life and mores of our society is on the wane. And the decline is likely to continue. Which leads to a question: Can Christian faith—no matter how enthusiastically proclaimed by evangelists, how ably expounded by theologians and philosophers, or how cleverly translated into the patois of the intellectual class by apologists—be sustained for long without the support of a nurturing Christian culture? By culture, I do not mean high culture (Bach’s B-Minor Mass, Caravaggio’s The Calling of St. Matthew); I mean the “total harvest of thinking and feeling,” to use T. S. Eliot’s phrase—the pattern of inherited meanings and sensibilities encoded in rituals, law, language, practices, and stories that can order, inspire, and guide the behavior, thoughts, and affections of a Christian people.
Wilken describes, at length, three aspects of Christianity (he believes) help define it as culture: Art, the calendar, and language.
Material culture and with it art, calendar and with it ritual, grammar and with it language, particularly the language of the Bible—these are only three of many examples (monasticism would be another) that could be brought forth to exemplify the thick texture of Christian culture, the fullness of life in the community that is Christ’s form in the world... ...If Christian culture is to be renewed, habits are more vital than revivals, rituals more edifying than spiritual highs, the creed more penetrating than theological insight, and the celebration of saints’ days more uplifting than the observance of Mother’s Day. There is great wisdom in the maligned phrase ex opere operato, the effect is in the doing. Intention is like a reed blowing in the wind. It is the doing that counts, and if we do something for God, in the doing God does something for us.
Oh that we Christians can see beyond the differences within our secular sub-cultures and build upon the unity of our culture in Christ.

Gay marriage & Totalitarianism...

In the April issue of First Things, Raymond J. de Souza has an article titled, Thinly Disguised Totalitarianism. He writes,
In 2003, the chief appellate court of the province of Ontario unanimously ruled that the common law definition of marriage in force in Canada (“one man and one woman”) was unconstitutional, as it violated the equality guarantees of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (an amendment to the Canadian constitution, somewhat analogous to the U.S. Bill of Rights, but passed only in 1982). The Ontario decision followed similar provincial court decisions in British Columbia and Quebec. While the British Columbia and Quebec decisions struck down the old law, a standard practice in findings of unconstitutionality, the Ontario court went further: it decreed that Ontario’s marriage laws must be immediately rewritten to include homosexual couples. With uncharacteristic alacrity, Toronto City Hall began issuing same-sex marriage licenses that very afternoon: five hours elapsed between the court’s decision and the first gay wedding at City Hall, and Ontario instantly became a magnet for gay couples seeking to “marry.” The decision made international headlines as a major victory for gay activists. But that was only the beginning. The subsequent federal government response and ensuing public debate revealed that religious liberty itself is under attack in Canada. Indeed, the fracas over gay marriage has underscored that a totalitarian impulse has infected the Canadian body politic. “Totalitarian” is, admittedly, a hard word, but I believe it is required in this instance. In response to the Ontario ruling, the federal government of then Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien (supported by his successor, Paul Martin) decided not to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Instead it introduced legislation that would amend the definition of marriage in line with the court directive, with a clause that would specifically exempt clergy from having to solemnize gay unions. Having chosen thus to embrace gay marriage, the federal government then referred the proposed law to the Supreme Court. (Canadian law allows the federal government to ask the Supreme Court for its opinion on proposed legislation.) The government specifically asked the Court whether the proposed clergy exemption was compatible with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In an age where the term tolerance is floated around as being virtually the one and only moral that all must follow, we are now beginning to see the consequences of the misinterpretation of the term. If those who are deemed, by the state, as being intolerant are not tolerated, then we have moved to the condition of being intolerant of those who are intolerant. De Souza continues,
When religious liberty is lost, democracy—even if it maintains the structures and procedures of the democratic state—is lost. So the stakes are very high. That is why John Paul has stressed throughout the twenty-five years of his pontificate that religious liberty is the first liberty. Religious liberty means that there are areas where the state may not go. It means that the state may not coerce consciences. A democracy that loses its respect for religious liberty has lost its respect for limited government. Such a democracy, infected by the totalitarian impulse, may continue to wear the guise of democracy while heading in the opposite direction.
A common secular complaint in the many culture wars currently underway is that religion is attempting to impose its views not only on the general public, but on the state as well. Yet, with the increasing encroachment of the state into the realm of religion, it seems that the shoe is on the other foot.

"So what?" - I'll tell you what...

Oh that posts at the Panda's Thumb were more like the ones I critiqued here or here. At least then we could discuss the various apsects of limb loss as contrasted to template similarities or whether probability boundaries have been crossed or not. But no... we have to muddle through such gems as: Answers in Nemesis Johnson's burning scientific issue Isn't that special? Religiously motivated incredulity Objective Origins: Just Say Noah! To be fair, not all of the contributors at the PT seem to have such a grudge against Christianity; and the contributors certainly have the right to voice their opinions on whatever topics they wish. But is the point of the PT to simply be a watering hole for evolutionists? Or is it meant to foster discussion on evolution and creation? I guess it's the former.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

A lesson in "so what?"...

Over at the Panda's Thumb we see a post that takes Bill Dembski, whom P. Z. Myers suspects is a "crappy theologian," to task for his alleged association with the ministry of one Jaerock Lee and his Manmin Research Center. Jaerock is portrayed as a lunatic faith-healing televangelist who has somehow duped Dembski into supporting him. At Pharyngula, P. Z. states, "Dembski believes Lee Jae-Rock is pulling miracles out of his hat? Are we supposed to trust Dembski when he pontificates on science after this?" What does any of this have to do with whether Intelligent Design is valid or not? I'll tell you what - nothing. Even if it were true that Jaerock was a fraud, and that non-scientist Dembski was duped into supporting him - that would have no bearing whatsoever on whether or not the Intelligent Design scenario has merit. The Panda's Thumb, as of late, has turned into a repository for asinine attacks on the Intelligent Design movement and religion (Christianity, to be specific). Hopefully a sense of stability will soon return to its pages.

Romans 8:28...

When times get tough, Christians often turn to Romans 8:28 for comfort:
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, (NET)
Notice anything odd about that quote though? There's a comma at the end instead of a period. Either the editor is doing a lousy job, or maybe... the sentence isn't finished? Let's say we take a look at not only the entire sentence, but the paragraph it sits in as well. Romans 8:28 is within a paragraph that begins at verse 26 and ends at verse 30. A general analysis of the book of Romans reveals that Chapter 8 is about Sanctification and the Spirit, which is part of a larger unit about Sanctification: Demonstration of God’s Righteousness, which is still part of a larger unit about the Revelation of the Righteousness of God, which is part of the Doctrinal section of the book. Okay, so here's the paragraph in Chapter 8:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
It would seem, then, that the Spirit intercedes for us to work all things together for good because he has predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son. Instead of taking this verse to be a refuge when we don't understand why certain events occur in our lives, shouldn't we take it to mean that we are to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus? Thanks to Greg Koukl's ministry at Stand to Reason for this insight.

Jollyblogger on the Will of God...

David Wayne, over at Jollyblogger, has piggybacked off of my post It is the will of..., with his own Is Finding the Will of God Biblical? It's an excellent read on this topic. He also references an article in Antithesis by Bruce Waltke, author of Finding the Will of God: a pagan notion?. David states,
...I want to suggest that our modern obsession with finding the will of God is evidence of evangelicalism narcissism... I owe my thoughts on the first matter to Henry Krabbendam of Covenant College... ...the idea of finding God's will for your life as an individual is a fairly recent development in the history of Christendom. For most of the church's history God's will was spoken of in terms of His decretive will and His revealed will, particularly in the Ten Commandments. In other words, a discussion of God's will would usually have something to do with the doctrine of God's decrees (or predestination), or with obedience to the Ten Commandments. This was in a day when theology and the church were far more God centered than we are today. This "God-centeredness" has been replaced with a "man-centered" worldview where we are far more focused on ourselves than God. Thus we are far more concerned with whom we are to marry, where to work, and which pair of socks to put on today than we are with obedience to the Ten Commandments, or submission to God's decree.
On Antithesis, Waltke says,
Far too many Christians rely on faulty logic to divine the will of God. Their thinking goes like this:
God has a plan, and therefore He intends that I find it.
That is a non sequitur, a conclusion that cannot logically follow the premise.
Simply because God has a plan does not mean that He necessarily has any intention of sharing it with you.
As a matter of fact the message of Job is in part that the Lord in His sovereignty may allow terrible things to happen to you, and you may never know why.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Oh to have your cake and eat it too...

A while back, in a post titled Evolutionary Decency..., I wrote about the inconsistency that those who hold to a naturalistic paradigm (i.e., evolutionists) have whenever they attempt to explain morality. Essentially, the reasoning is very simple: If all that exists is the natural realm, then no reality exists outside of the natural realm. If no reality beyond the natural realm exists, then nothing abstract, such as morality, can truly exist. Typically there are responses that state the supernatural may exists, but that we have no way of detecting it; or that morality is directly tied to natural selection; and so forth. Breakpoint has a recent post on the impending extinction of the Giant Panda and how evolutionists are attempting to reverse that trend:
Biologists estimate that there are, at most, 1,500 giant pandas living in the wild, all of them in southwestern China. The most common explanation given for the panda’s plight is human encroachment on their habitat. ...The species’ ineptitude at reproduction has forced humans to intervene and essentially to take over the process, breeding and raising the young of a species that can’t do it on its own. In other words, if the giant panda survives, it will only be because human beings made its survival a priority. Human beings will refrain from activities that hurt the panda’s chances of survival and will take active measures, like breeding programs, to perpetuate the species. This is the right thing to do, but it’s not the Darwinian thing. It wouldn’t be happening if human beings were, as Darwinists like Richard Dawkins tell us, “just another animal.”
Roberto Rivera also has an article on Breakpoint, titled Panda Man, in which he states:
For those who take their Darwinism, as Thelonious Monk might’ve put it, straight, no chaser, the logical response to the plight of the Giant Panda is “tough.” Evolution is, if nothing else, unsentimental. It rewards adaptability and punishes, in the medium-to-long term, overspecialization. If your diet and habitat disappear ― and that has happened countless times in Earth’s history ― then you do, too.
As to be expected, these posts have been critiqued by evolutionists in the blogosphere, most notably at Panda's Thumb, Evolutionblog, and Dispatches from the Culture Wars. The arguments you read illustrate the extent to which evolutionists must bend over backwards in order to get around the issue of morality. Consider:
The panda, like every other modern species, resides at the end of a long line of winners in the game of survival. The pandas have been able to survive for a long time with their limited diet and leisurely reproductive rate. The reason they are endangered now is because of human encroachment on their natural habitats. - Evolutionblog Evolution does not posit that humans are "just another animal", it posits that we came to be here by the same process of descent with modification that produced other animals (or plants and fungi and microbes, for that matter). That does not logically lead to the conclusion that we either do or should behave like bison do (evolution is descriptive, not prescriptive). Humans have evolved with capacities for thought - emotion, rational consideration of alternatives, compassionate understanding of another's plight - that are, as far as we know, distinct from other animals. Those capacities are intimately tied to the physical apparatus of the human brain. Colson and Rivera are simply attacking a caricature of evolutionary thought. - Dispatches from the Culture Wars
So we are told that the panda is threatened with extinction because of human encroachment on their natural habitats, and that we humans are not "just another animal" but that we are, somehow, qualitatively different from, as far as we know, all other animals. Now I agree that humans are not just another animal, but the evolutionary process, if it truly is descriptive, contradicts that statement. Evolutionists believe that humans have evolved the capacities for thought, emotion, compassion, etc. - just re-read the quote above. While evolution states that no other animals must follow the same road to morality that humans have, it does not restrict any of them from doing so either. That's a big distinction, because the implication is that if one of the other animals on earth can eventually attain the same qualities humans have, then our so-called distinction from the other animals is erased. There is no getting around this for, as in the quote above, the only starting point an evolutionist can turn to for human morality are the physical apparatus of the human brain - we're stuck in the same, natural world, as all the other animals. We belong to the same diversity of life that sprang forth from the so-called last universal common ancestor. If we do belong to the diversity of life on planet earth, and if our qualities were simply the result of natural reactions then, as C. S. Lewis said, the statement "I ought" would carry the same weight as "I itch." One person's declaration that human encroachment on another species natural habitat was immoral would be just as valid as another person's declaration that we should eat the species to extinction! We would be justified to deem any act of nature as both moral and immoral - or neither. Of course such reasoning is ludicrous. Animals act in a manner distinctly different from humans. Even the evolutionists above understand that human behavior is qualitatively different from animal behavior. The question, which they've failed to answer, is... WHY? Evolutionists state, Humans have evolved with capacities for thought - emotion, rational consideration of alternatives, compassionate understanding of another's plight; but that simply begs the question. I have yet to see an evolutionist, who claims to hold to some form of morality, give any reason why humans should act compassionately - other than - a grand, and stealthy, because.

Blind, and dangerous...

Please check Joe Carter's post The Hero and the Idiot: Ted Rall Insults the Memory of Pat Tillman. In it he critiques the following so-called editorial cartoon and it's author, Ted Rall. I won't say anything on it because Joe, as usual, does an excellent job quite on his own.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Who were these people?...

Per Powerline, this is a picture of an Israeli woman (8 months pregnant) and her four daughters. They were killed in a Gaza terror attack. Per Israel Insider:
An Israeli woman in her eighth month of pregnancy and her four daughters were killed this afternoon when two terrorists opened fire at Israeli cars traveling on the Kissufim-Gush Katif road in the Gaza Strip. The attack occurred when the two gunmen, apparently residents of Dir el-Balah, began firing at Israeli cars on the road. Police said the mother was shot, causing the Hatuel's white Citroen to swerve off the road. The attackers approached the vehicle and shot the mother and her children with "killing shots" at close range.
As point of comparison to the reaction of the Arab Press regarding the mistreatment of POWs in Iraq, Powerline states,
The most popular Palestinian organization, Hamas, claimed credit for the attack, but two other organizations, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah's Popular Resistance Committees, also tried to get credit for the murders. The photo... shows Tali Hatuel, and her four daughters, Hila (11), Hadar (9), Roni (7) and Merav (2). When photos of these victims are as widely disseminated in the Arab press as those of the still-alive-and-well Iraqi captives, and when their murders are denounced with equal fervor, I will be more impressed by "outrage" in the Arab press.

Will he do an encore?...

Here's one thing that I agree with The Purpose Driven Church (aka Saddleback Valley) on. Hat tip: Totem to Temple

Sunday, May 02, 2004

It is the will of...

How do Evangelicals typically view God's will? Our church has been without a senior pastor for about 6 months now. Back in March, after extensive searching, our church board presented to us a candidate for the position. The vote by church membership was overwhelmingly in favor of bringing him on. Plans were laid, and his arrival was expected to occur in June. A great sense of peace seemed to fall upon the church and more than one person commented on how they knew that this was God's will. Well, today we found out that he has backed out of becoming our new pastor. What happened to being so sure that his coming was God's will? Did God change His mind? Do we now run to Romans 8:28 and take comfort in knowing that God has some greater good in mind? Does it mean that what God really wanted was for us to go through this trial in order to strengthen our faith? If so, then we circle back and have to ask, once again, what about our being so sure that this person's coming was part of God's will? It can be so frustrating - trying to figure out what God wants us to do. But that is the core of the problem... we think that we have to find out what God wants us to do when, in reality, that is not what the Bible teaches. Call it providence or call it coincidence, but next Sunday I will be teaching a class on Decision Making and the Will of God. I will be using the guideline developed by Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason. I will be substituting for the regular teacher and all I was able to give him, with regards to my topic of presentation, was the title. Unfortunately, the blurb that ended up being announced for the class said,
Why do we often struggle with knowing God's will for our lives? Life seems like a maze that challenges us to move from the entrance to the exit without getting caught in deadend paths. Inside the maze, we only see walls and turns. God stands above the maze and looks down on our plight. He knows the right path.
Herein lies the crux of the frustration I mentioned above: we think that there is some cosmic blueprint for our lives that God knows, and we have to discover. If only we can learn how to tune in on the hints that God throws our way, then we can avoid getting caught in deadend paths. Yet if we read the Bible we will find that it does not teach that we should expect to get that type of guidance from God. In fact, it teaches that we have been given the responsibility of making our own decisions... through a methodology framed within a Biblical Worldview. Needless to say, I think I will surprise a lot of people next Sunday.

Take your pick...

An insert in our Sunday bulletin at church today had the following:
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. - Philippians 4:6-7 (Message)
Here's the same set of verses per the New English Translation:
Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
A prime example of why not to choose The Message paraphrase.