Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Haunting Images From Mercy Ships

Wired News on Mercy Ships ...

The hospital is located aboard a ship called the Anastasis. It's part of a Christian organization called Mercy Ships, which, since 1978, has been working to bring free medical care to those who have no access to surgical procedures like cleft-lip correction, or cataract and facial tumor removal. In Western countries, these conditions are usually obliterated before posing a threat to the patient's health and appearance. But in developing countries they're often left untreated, causing disability and disfigurement and leading to social ostracism.

Wired News: Haunting Images From Mercy Ships


This Week in Blasphemy

One satirist enters the intelligent design fray, as described by the New York Times in But Is There Intelligent Spaghetti Out There? Quote!

Is the super-intelligent, super-popular god known as the Flying Spaghetti Monster any match for the prophets of intelligent design?

This month, the Kansas State Board of Education gave preliminary approval to allow teaching alternatives to evolution like intelligent design (the theory that a smart being designed the universe). And President Bush and Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee both gave the thumbs up to teaching intelligent design.

Long before that, Bobby Henderson, a 25-year-old with a physics degree from Oregon State University, had a divine vision. An intelligent god, a Flying Spaghetti Monster, he said, "revealed himself to me in a dream."

He posted a sketch on his Web site,, showing an airborne tangle of spaghetti and meatballs with two eyes looming over a mountain, trees and a stick man labeled "midgit." Prayers to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, his site says, end with "ramen," not "amen."

... and ...

In perfect deadpan he wrote that although he agreed that science students should "hear multiple viewpoints" of how the universe came to be, he was worried that they would be hearing only one theory of intelligent design. After all, he noted, there are many such theories, including his own fervent belief that "the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster." He demanded equal time in the classroom and threatened a lawsuit.

Soon he was flooded with e-mail messages. Ninety-five percent of those who wrote to him, he said on his Web site, were "in favor of teaching Flying Spaghetti Monsterism in schools." Five percent suggested that he would be going to hell. Lawyers contacted him inquiring how serious he was about a lawsuit against the Kansas board. His answer: "Very."

... more ...

Two dozen academics have endorsed the pasta god. Three members of the Kansas board who already opposed teaching intelligent design wrote kind letters to Mr. Henderson. Dozens of people have posted their sightings of the deity (along with some hilarious pictures). One woman even wrote in to say that she had "conceived the spirit of our Divine Lord," the Flying Spaghetti Monster, while eating alone at the Olive Garden.

"I heard singing, and tomato sauce rained from the sky, and I saw angel hair pasta flying about with little farfalle wings and playing harps," she wrote. "It was beautiful." The Spaghetti Monster, she went on, impregnated her and told her, "You shall name Him ... Prego ... and He shall bring in a new era of love."

Parody is a lot of fun. And parody begets more parody, especially on the Internet. It's contagious. But has anyone ever converted to a parody religion?

The history books show that parody isn't always the smartest strategy when it comes to persuasion. Remember Galileo? Some recent scholars say that it may not have been his science so much as his satire, "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems," that got everyone steamed up. Under threat of death, Galileo ended up recanting his view that the earth revolves around the sun, and had to wait 350 years for vindication.

And yet the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster flourishes. It even has schisms. A rival faction, based on SPAM (Spaghetti & Pulsar Activating Meatballs), has formed. And there's bickering, Mr. Henderson said in an e-mail message, about whether the god is made of spaghetti or linguini. Those people, he noted, "give me a headache."


How to Rebuild a City?

An astonishing phenomenon -- the drowning of New Orleans -- leads to a mind-boggling question: How to rebuild a city? Some are already considering the challenge.

Reclaiming the Big Easy Means Hard Choices


Most scientific papers are probably wrong

In a Monty Python skit it was once hysterically asserted that most right-thinking people are wrong. Turns out they were right ... at least when it comes to scientists.

Most scientific papers are probably wrong ... quote!

Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true.

John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.

... and ...

But Solomon Snyder, senior editor at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, US, says most working scientists understand the limitations of published research.

"When I read the literature, I'm not reading it to find proof like a textbook. I'm reading to get ideas. So even if something is wrong with the paper, if they have the kernel of a novel idea, that's something to think about," he says.

And this is the same bunch trying to talk me out of believing in God? Turns out a flip of the coin is about as accurate. No thanks.


Lest We Forget, Part X

In Search of a Place to Sleep, and News of Home

More details on the "hundreds of thousands of evacuees from the New Orleans area" ... this from the New York Times ... In Search of a Place to Sleep, and News of Home
Hundreds of thousands of evacuees from the New Orleans area stranded in overcrowded hotels, motels and makeshift shelters and on highways across much of the South underscored a new reality on Tuesday: an extended diaspora of a city's worth of people, one rarely seen in the annals of urban disaster.

As news spread that the devastated, largely emptied and cordoned-off New Orleans area would not be habitable until at least next week, hurricane refugees gathered in hotel lobbies and shelters around television sets beaming images of their waterlogged city and turned to cellphones and laptops, usually in vain, for information about the homes, relatives and neighbors they had left behind.


Hurricane hits just before homosexual event

To be honest, this feels like piling on, but this article was so interesting I just couldn't help but post it.

WorldNetDaily: Hurricane hits just before homosexual event

Hurricane Katrina walloped New Orleans just two days before the annual homosexual "Southern Decadence" festival was to begin in the town, an act being characterized by some as God's work.

Southern Decadence has a history of "filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars," says a statement from the Philadelphia Christian organization Repent America.

This is a live wire, I know, but is this a coincidence? I don't have the foggiest notion. But this verse seemed appropriate.

There were some present at that very time who told him (Jesus) about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”


Helping Victims of Katrina

A list of agencies helping the hurricane victims ... Victims of Hurricane Katrina Need Your Help


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Execution of Homosexuals?

More Doug Wilson ... Execution of Homosexuals? ... quote!

All Christians who believe in the inspiration of Scripture believe that God was just and holy and right to require the death penalty under Moses the way that He did. In other words, no consistent Christian can "apologize" to modernity for the treatment that anyone received under the law of God in the Old Testament, whether that person was an adulterer, homosexual, or necromancer. The nation of Israel was in covenant with God as a holy people, and their holiness code required certain things of them. The standard was strict and high. The Christian church is in that position today, but the Christian church does not have (and ought not to have) the power of the sword. This is why in certain instances the New Testament substitutes excommunication for execution. God's people are still summoned to holiness, and that holiness is still defined by the Bible, and only by the Scriptures. The standard is still high, still grounded in the character of the triune God.

Having said this, we have to consider how such Old Testament laws are to be interpreted and applied today, if at all. After all, the Old Testament is not the Word of God, Emeritus. In recent decades, there was a school of thought among some Christians that such laws were to be applied "straight across." In other words, the death penalty should be applied today for adultery, sodomy, etc. In response to that position, critiquing it, I have argued that things weren't that simple. The Old Testament contains instances of individuals receiving penalties that were far less than what the Mosaic code required. For example, David was guilty of adultery with Bathsheba, and was not executed. Certain kings exiled homosexuals, or banished them from the house of God, which was not the strict penalty apparently required by the Mosaic law. This meant that there was a certain latitude in the law; it could be applied as a case law system where the principles were observed, with adjustments made according to circumstance. This is not relativism; it is how common law works. I was not arguing, as the newspaper represented me as arguing, that there are two (and only two) appropriate things to do with someone convicted of homosexual behavior -- execution or exile. That is not my position. The context of the quotation had to do with my exegetical rejection of the view that execution for homosexuals was mandatory.

The whole situation was made more gloriously complex with the arrival of Christ, and His sacrifice on the cross for sins and sinners of all stripes. The woman caught in adultery was not stoned, and she was not stoned because of how Jesus caught and trapped the Jewish leaders in their own misapplication of the law. In principle, the same scene could have played out in the same way with a homosexual in the center of the ring, surrounded by Pharisees. And had it been, the Pharisee would have departed, and the homosexual would have been told by Christ to "go and sin no more." The former homosexuals in the church at Corinth were urged by the apostle Paul to exult in their forgiveness, and not to volunteer for execution, or kill themselves because they deserved to die. Christ came to save the world, not destroy it. And He came to save the world from its sins, and this would include the sin of homosexual acts. The point of the gospel is to bring salvation and forgiveness to the world, and not death to the world. We don't need to bring death to the world because the sin that pervades the world is "death in transgressions and sins."


Monday, August 29, 2005

Profiles in Tolerance, Part I

Run! Robots!

The 522 has a soft spot for robots. Mankind just can't resist playing God. Haven't these people seen Blade Runner?

Humanoid robot to go on sale can recognize 10,000 words and work as house sitter. Quote!

A child-shaped humanoid robot that can recognize about 10,000 words and work as a house sitter will go on sale in Japan in September.

The "Wakamaru" robot can recognize the faces of up to 10 people and talk to them. When linked to mobile phones, it can also work as a monitor to check situations at home, such as a burglary or someone falling ill, Mitsubishi-Heavy Industries Ltd. said in a statement Monday.

Mitsubishi-Heavy said it would be the first time a robot with communication ability for home use has been sold.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Congregation of Adulterers, Homosexuals and Creeps

Doug Wilson on grace that takes the breath away ... Absolutely Uninterested


Thursday, August 25, 2005

What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

Great post on Between Two Worlds ... What Can Miserable Christians Sing?


Building your Business and a Backyard Deck ... Instead of the Kingdom

Gary DeMar holds forth in WANTED! Men to Build the Kingdom ...
"For the most part Christians have forsaken the belief that God’s Word is the standard for righteousness in the areas of economics, education, politics, and the judicial system. Instead, much of the church has adopted a form of eschatological escapism (“We’re living in the last days; Jesus’ coming is just around the corner, etc.”) and a form of ethical pluralism (the Bible is only one law among many from which to choose).

Ethical pluralism means that all moral views are valid except any moral view that does not believe that all moral views are valid. This means that Christianity, as the Bible conceives of it, is not an acceptable ethical standard on how the world should work. If, as a Christian, you advocate that the Bible has something very fundamental to say about every area of life, then the world is at war with you.

With pluralism you get an “anything goes” ethic. Since most Americans (and most Christians) believe that ethical pluralism is legitimate, they often remain silent in the midst of the storm of moral anarchy that is battering our nation. They have been propagandized into believing that this is the American way. Pastors reinforce this belief.

The failure is the failure of Christian leaders to preach, teach, and exhort that the public arena is a place of ministry and that God’s law has application there. Christians have failed to be advocates of righteousness in areas beyond personal and familial piety. There has been a steady erosion among evangelicals and fundamentalists over the adoption of a comprehensive biblical worldview. This takes risk-taking, adventurous, and inventive men out of the picture. They would help build the kingdom if they only heard messages that said it was their job to do it. Instead, they build their business and a backyard deck. “Our nation was founded on the belief that religious man undergirds and builds society. In the last resort, our civilization is what we think and believe. The externals matter, but they cannot stand if the inner convictions which originally produced them have vanished.”"


WWJA: Who would Jesus assassinate?

A word from Marvin Olasky on the Pat Robertson kerfuffle ... Marvin Olasky: WWJA: Who would Jesus assassinate? Quote!

Liberal reporters since 9-11 have frequently equated conservative Christians with Quran-thumping Muslims, but the differences between the two religions are huge. For example, Islam initially expanded through the slaughter of opponents, but Christianity grew through the martyrdom of believers -- and the apostle Paul taught Christians in Rome, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink."

Early this week, Pat Robertson, on his long-running TV show "The 700 Club," seemed more Muslim than Christian when he suggested that U.S. operatives assassinate Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. Yesterday, he said he was misinterpreted and was suggesting kidnapping, not necessarily assassination, but he already had caused an international furor by using the A-word.

... and ...

God is the God of history. He raises up leaders and strikes them down. The Christian goal is to follow biblical principles, including "just war" ones, and not to create new orders. Christians who are careless bring dishonor to God's name by making many believe there is no difference between the pre-eminent religion of peace and the many religions of violence.

Read the whole thing here.


Lest We Forget, Part IX

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Absurdity of the Fetal Pain Debate

Recent research suggests the unborn may not feel pain in the early stages of development. One group enters the fray with The Absurdity of the Fetal Pain Debate.


God, Calvinism, Political Correctness and the Worship of the State

A denial of Calvinism leads to politically correct thought and the worship of the state as a god? This bold contention is defended ably by Doug Wilson's innocuously titled He Who Says A, Must Say B. Quote!
As soon as Calvinism is denied, divine predestination is denied. And when predestination is denied, it soon occurs to the ranking civil authorities that the role of "predestinator" is vacant. The job of running everyone's life (as God had previously been thought to do) is now vacant. And so the State applies for the job (and not surprisingly, hires itself). The choice is simple -- either God is acknowledged as the one who predestines, or man will attempt to become the one who predestines.

... more ...
What happens next is the tricky part. The State cannot actually deal with the evil, although they have promised to. And they cannot admit that they are not god, and that they shouldn't have promised to do what only God can do. So what they can do is command everybody to shut up and look the other way. Extreme cases of this are found in totalitarian regimes, where they feel like they would "lose face" if they admitted that they just had a major earthquake that killed 100,000 people. This kind of thing flummoxes us. What? Why would any government lose face over something like that? Because they have claimed to be god, and the people have accepted the claim. Therefore, they must confront the problem of evil. Why was there this earthquake? The logic is compelling, and answers are very hard to come by. Much easier to throw a newspaper editor in jail if he reports on the earthquake.

Read the whole thing here.


Today in the One Year Bible

Psalm 21:30: "No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
can avail against the Lord."


Potent Quotables, Part XI

"Do you think yourself wise? Then there's a donkey inside your waistcoat." Charles H. Spurgeon


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Two-Thirds of Evangelicals Doubt Jesus' Words Regarding Salvation Thru Him Alone

More on the Newsweek article about Americans finding their own way with regard to spiritual matters. The study attached to the article claims that Two-Thirds of Evangelicals Doubt Jesus' Words Regarding Salvation Thru Him Alone.

Really? Hmm ...

Having conducted a fair number of research polls through my career, I find the survey question incredibly amateurish.

The question in the poll read: "Can a good person who isn't of your religious faith go to heaven or attain salvation, or not?"

According to the poll results of more than 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older, 68 percent of evangelical Christians believe "good" people of other faiths can also go to heaven. Nationally, 79 percent of those surveyed said the same thing, with an "astounding" 91 percent agreement among Catholics, notes Beliefnet. Beliefnet spokesman Steven Waldman calls the results "pretty amazing."

Amazing indeed. First, what does "good person" mean? This certainly doesn't say anything about attaining salvation through or apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, what does "religious faith" mean? Respondents could have thought this meant any number of things. Sure, someone from another religious faith can attain salvation, providing they repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ. For all we know, the Catholic respondents could have thought they were answering about Protestants and vice versa.

Compare this to how the Barna organization puts their questions together. (See the "Godless Hollywood" item below.) They leave no doubt.

This is not to say that all Christians understand that salvation is through Christ alone or that the American Christian church is doing a good job of teaching the fundamentals, but to say that a majority of evangelicals deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in salvation from that flimsy question is a bit of a stretch.


Godless Hollywood?

Godless Hollywood? Bible Belt? New Research Exploring Faith in America’s Largest Markets Produces Surprises is George Barna's latest survey ... some interesting findings ...

* Nationally, four out of every ten adults is a born again Christian. (Defined in these surveys as people who said they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.)

* Seven percent of the adult population of the U.S. is evangelical. (In addition to meeting the born again criteria, evangelicals also meet seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; contending that they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; stating that Satan exists; maintaining that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; asserting that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; saying that the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.)

* One out of every six residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington are atheist or agnostic – nearly double the national average. Atheists and agnostics are hardest to locate in Louisiana and Missouri.

* People are most likely to believe that they can earn their salvation if they live in Salt Lake City.

* The highest percentage of adults who believe that Jesus Christ sinned during his life on earth is in Des Moines, Iowa.

* Believing that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules it today” is most common in Tulsa. It is least predominant in Boston and San Francisco.

Read the whole thing here.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Lest We Forget, Part VIII

From the Voice of the Martyrs ... an easy method for writing an encouraging letter to someone in prison for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ ...


The God Who Wasn't There

Breaking story! An atheist doesn't believe Jesus existed. In other news, water is wet ... sky is blue.

Documentary Questions the Existence of Jesus.

All sarcasm aside, continue to pray for your favorite atheists. They're not so bad, just in the dark.


Same As It Ever Was: "Spirituality" in America

Newsweek's cover this week is In Search of the Spiritual. Not much new here, to be quite frank. Publishers aren't dumb, they have figured out that "spirituality" sells magazines, and have obliged (note the stories about the historical Jesus every Christmas and Easter). Here's the latest in the long trend of ... "Americans don't like organized religion ... yack yack ... they are seeking their own paths to God ... blah blah ... " How many of these are we going to get?

More interesting was this brief mention (perhaps a dig at Newsweek's arch-rival Time) of the infamous "Is God Dead?" headline. To wit ...
... only a generation ago it appeared from some vantage points, such as midtown Manhattan, that Americans were on their way to turning their backs on God. In sepulchral black and red, the cover of Time magazine dated April 8, 1966—Good Friday—introduced millions of readers to existential anguish with the question Is God Dead? If he was, the likely culprit was science, whose triumph was deemed so complete that "what cannot be known [by scientific methods] seems uninteresting, unreal." Nobody would write such an article now, in an era of round-the-clock televangelism and official presidential displays of Christian piety.

The media's favorite topic is itself. If they reported God was dead, that must have meant people really believed it, right? So, in 1966 did America believe God was dead? I was not yet born (1969! right on!), but somehow I highly doubt it.


Atheism ... a Religion?

A Wisconsin court has ruled that a prisoner was denied his First Amendment rights when he was denied permission to start an atheist study group, says Court Says Atheism is a Religion.

Does this mean they'll pipe down about the separation of church and state?


The Abrahamic Covenant and Israel

The eviction of Jewish settlers from Gaza has dominated the news recently. Of course, it is near impossible to discuss modern Israel in strictly secular or political terms. Is the plight of modern Israel connected to biblical prophecy? Is God still in the act of fulfilling covenant promises to ethnic Israel? Gary DeMar joins the fray in The Abrahamic Covenant: Fulfilled or Postponed? (Part 1).


Friday, August 19, 2005

Different paths to God

More on Europe's spiritual decline, this from the U.K.'s Guardian Unlimited ... Different paths to God. Quote!

Few things are funnier than middle-aged clergymen trying to appeal to young people. This is a serious problem for organised religion, for if it cannot appeal to young people, it will die out. It is also a problem for the rest of us, since the religious styles most attractive to young men are often the most intolerant and aggressive: fundamentalism is a disease of adolescence, and uncertainty. So it is sobering to reflect that the fate of Christianity in Europe this century may well depend on the legacy of two elderly men who could not appear less relevant. One, Brother Roger, the 90-year-old monk who founded the Taizé community, was murdered on Wednesday in his own church, apparently by a mentally ill person. The second, 78-year-old Pope Benedict XVI, has arrived in Cologne for a festival of a million mainly young Catholics from around the world.

This is a common refrain. "Religion must be relevant! It must appeal to the young! It must speak their language!" Not really. To me, the constant urge to change Christ's message to keep up with the latest inane whims of the culture is a blueprint for defeat.

Perhaps now I qualify as an old crank (I'm 36) but appealing to the young is not the church's biggest problem. The Gospel, faithfully delivered, appeals to no one, regardless of age. Without the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, it is all so much foolishness.

That said, the Gospel, faithfully delivered, should never rely on the whims of culture. The need for a Savior is universal and timeless. If you are a human being, you are destined for Hell and in desperate need of a regenerating Savior ... and only one qualifies. More ...
It is easy to see the contrast between the two men as one between top-down and bottom-up religion, or exclusivity and inclusivity. The Pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was the embodiment of orthodoxy; Brother Roger seemed not to care who came to pray with him, nor where they came from. The pilgrims to Taizé came often as individuals; they come to the World Youth Day in groups. But the conflict is not so deep. The two men have a great deal in common. Both believed Christianity is essential to Europe's future. Neither man's style of religion could satisfy everyone. Christianity needs both emotional outreach and intellectual boundaries if it is to survive.

Not really. Christianity is not dependent on us for survival. God always will have his remnant, and no one can snatch them from his hand. The church must deliver the word and sacraments, without giving a rip about what the culture is up to.


The Wife Beaters

I don't know the first thing about this blog ... but this one caught my attention ... this gentleman makes some thought-provoking points ... The Wife Beaters: Evangelicalism and the Culture of Critique.


Potent Quotables, Part X

"By perseverance the snail reached the ark." Charles H. Spurgeon


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Darth Vader: A Presbyterian?

For the "What are they going to blame us for next?" file ... This is from the (I assume) pirated dvd of Revenge of the Sith floating around China. I guess this is what happens when you translate English into Chinese and back again. The theory is this is how they translated "Jedi Council."


Lest We Forget, Part VII

From the Voice of the Martyrs website ... Christian Church Crack Down


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Inside the North Korean Slave State

This long article in the New Yorker Kimworld: Inside the North Korean Slave State is a glimpse at pure wickedness. The Kim regime certainly needs to take its place next to those of Stalin and Hitler on the dustbin of history. A sampling ...
By the time Kim Jong Il, the Dear Leader, took over from his father as the absolute ruler of North Korea, the country was a slave society, where only the most trusted caste of people were allowed to live in sullen obedience in Pyongyang, while vast numbers of potential class enemies were worked to death in mines and hard-labor camps. After Kim Il Sung's death, in 1994, the regime suspended executions for a month, and throughout the following year it committed relatively few killings. Since this was at the height of a famine, largely brought on by disastrous agricultural policies, hundreds of thousands were already dying from hunger. Then word spread that Kim Jong Il wished to “hear the sound of gunshots again.” Starving people were shot for stealing a couple of eggs.

...and ...
The highest-ranking defector from the North was a man named Hwang Jang-yop, Kim Il Sung's chief ideologue... According to Hwang, about a million people starved to death in 1996 alone.

...more ...
The religious cult around the Kims goes further, however; they really are worshipped as divinities, in a peculiarly Korean mixture of native animism and pseudo-Christianity. Martin writes about the Party congress of 1980, when Kim Jong Il, then still the young dauphin, was elected to the five-person presidium of the politburo. The Party newspaper, in a pre-Christmas editorial, offered the Kims as a replacement for the Father and Son in the Holy Trinity. “People of the world, if you are looking for miracles, come to Korea!” it went on. “Christians, do not go to Jerusalem. Come rather to Korea! Do not believe in God. Believe in the great man.” After the son's ascent to the presidium, the newspaper reported, there was “an explosion of our people's joy, looking up at the star of guidance shining together with the benevolent sun.”

What the Kims have done to their country is so appalling, though, that almost anything is better than its continuation. The challenge is to bring Kim down without taking millions with him.


Growing Fond of War

Robert E. Lee once said: "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it."

This article in the Wall Street Journal, Breaking a Taboo, Army Confronts Guilt After Combat, sheds light on the lasting horror of war. A sampling ...
As the officers talked Capt. Moon quietly pulled out a book entitled "Offerings at the Wall," a catalog of mementoes left at the Vietnam Veteran's memorial in Washington. He flipped to a page dominated by a worn photograph of a Vietnamese soldier and his young pigtailed daughter left at the memorial by a U.S. soldier. Then he read aloud the anonymous letter that accompanied it:

"Dear Sir , for 22 years I have carried your picture in my wallet. I was only 18 years old that day we faced one another...Why you didn't take my life I'll never know. You stared at me so long, armed with your AK-47, and yet you did not fire. Forgive me for taking your life. So many times over the years I have stared at your picture and your daughter, I suspect. Each time my heart and guts would burn with the pain of guilt....Forgive me, Sir."

May we never grow too fond of war.


Conservative Compassion

Author Edmund Morris gives a glimpse of what it must be like to be president in ins opinion piece about grieving mother/political activist Cindy Sheehan ... (free reg. required) ... Conservative Compassion ... quote ...
A president has to protect himself from emotional predators, or he'd be sucked dry within a week of taking office.


Is Our Children Learning?

Good article on American Vision today regarding education called "Social and Emotional" Stories for Children.

This really lays out the case that education is not -- indeed, cannot -- be neutral. This article also includes a link to a tome on the decline of Western civilization by noted sociologist Joan Collins (?!?!). Actually, the actress makes several quite compelling points in Britain is Destroying Itself from Within


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Duh Vinci, Part II

From This is London ... a nun protests the film set of the Da Vinci Code ... Nun Upstages Star Hanks
When he walks on to a movie set, he usually gets star treatment.

But as Tom Hanks arrived at Lincoln Cathedral yesterday, he found himself somewhat upstaged.

... and, the best line in the piece, from the Very Reverend Alec Knight ...

'The Da Vinci Code is a load of old tosh. I have been a school chaplain, and these are the sort of things fifthformers try to trip you up with.

'But if people come here because of it then we have to look at what they go away with.'

I can guess what tosh is, but what's a fifthformer? Is it roughly equivalent to an American fifth grader? (Ignorant Yank alert!) Any help?

Re: The Da Vinci Code, a agree with the Very Reverend, even a novice student of the Bible (like myself) can see it's complete tosh.


Blown up in Iraq

From the Banner of Truth site ... spiritual boot camp ... Blown up in Iraq


Helium Balloons Drop the Word of God in North Korea

Also from VOM ...

"Lee Min-bok stared across a narrow inlet at the Korean shoreline, using his compass to gauge the gusting wind's direction. Nodding, the gaunt, soft-spoken missionary then said a prayer with his three assistants and began launching hundreds of helium balloons across the world's most heavily fortified border."

Read more ... Helium Balloons Drop the Word of God in North Korea:


Lest We Forget, Part VII

Monday, August 15, 2005

God vs. Nothing, Part V: A Life with No Purpose

Speaking of the U.K., Guardian Unlimited columnist George Monbiot waxes eloquent and poetic and how wonderful it is to be an atheist in A life with no purpose.
Darwinism implies that the only eternal life we have is in the recycling of our atoms. I find that comforting.

All is not lost in America. When George Bush came out a couple of weeks ago in favour of teaching "intelligent design" - the new manifestation of creationism - the press gave him a tremendous kicking. The Christian Taliban have not yet won.

I hadn't heard the Christian Taliban one in a while. More ...
But they are gaining on us. So far there have been legislative attempts in 13 states to have intelligent design added to the school curriculum. In Kansas, Texas and Philadelphia, it already has a foot in the door. In April a new "museum of earth history" opened in Arkansas, which instructs visitors that "dinosaurs and humans did coexist", and that juvenile dinosaurs, though God forgot to mention it, hitched a ride on Noah's Ark. Similar museums are being built in Texas and Kentucky. Some 45% of Americans, according to a Gallup poll last year, believe that "human beings did not evolve, but instead were created by God ... essentially in their current form about 10,000 years ago".

... More ...
Darwinian evolution tells us that we are incipient compost: assemblages of complex molecules that - for no greater purpose than to secure sources of energy against competing claims - have developed the ability to speculate. After a few score years, the molecules disaggregate and return whence they came. Period.

As a gardener and ecologist, I find this oddly comforting. I like the idea of literal reincarnation: that the molecules of which I am composed will, once I have rotted, be incorporated into other organisms. Bits of me will be pushing through the growing tips of trees, will creep over them as caterpillars, will hunt those caterpillars as birds. When I die, I'd like to be buried in a fashion which ensures that no part of me is wasted. Then I can claim to have been of some use after all.

"Oddly comforting" ... ? Well, it's certainly odd. Seriously, this sounds like so much whistling through the graveyard. More ...
The controversy fascinates me, partly because of its similarity to the dispute about climate change. Like the climate-change deniers, advocates of intelligent design cherry-pick the data that appears to support their case. They ask for evidence, then ignore it when it's presented to them. They invoke a conspiracy to explain the scientific consensus, and are unembarrassed by their own scientific illiteracy. In an article published in the American Chronicle on Friday, the journalist Thomas Dawson asserted that "all of the vertebrate groups, from fish to mammals, appear [in the fossil record] at one time", and that if evolution "were true, there would be animal-life fossils of particular animals without vision and others with varying degrees of eye development ... Such fossils do not exist". (The first fish and the first mammals are in fact separated by some 300m years, and the fossil record has more eyes, in all stages of development, than the CIA)

But it also fascinates me because natural selection is such a barren field for the fundamentalists to till. For 146 years Darwinian evolution has seen off all comers. There is a massive accumulation of evidence - from the fossil record, to genetics, to direct observation - that appears to support it. Were they to concentrate instead on the questions now assailing big bang theory, or on the failure so far to reconcile gravity with quantum physics, or on the stubborn non-appearance of the Higgs boson and the abiding mystery of the phenomenon of mass, the Christian conservatives would be much harder to confront. Why pick on Darwin?

Again, we as Christians need to pray for our atheist friends and neighbors. What comfort is there in science? To put so much faith (and indeed the worship of science is most certainly a pagan religion) is to build your house on shifting sand. Were one to read a science book from the 40s, it would most likely read like a comic book. Scientists and their apologists somehow perceive this as a strength. To them, it seems, being wrong about absolutely everything and having all their beloved theories turned upside down every 100 years or so represents progress. Darwinism will not outlive the next 25 years. Then the science worshipers will move on to something else.


UK - Faith in God declining faster than church visits

More evidence that, within a generation or so, Christianity may be history in the U.K. UK - Faith in God declining faster than church visits

BELIEF in God is declining even faster than church attendance, according to a new study.

Academics argued that contrary to the commonly accepted theory of "believing without belonging" - the idea that religious belief is fairly robust even though congregations are shrinking - all measures of religiousness had fallen.

In fact actual belief had decreased even more than affiliation to a particular religion and participation - attendance at services - between 1991 and 1999.

...and ...

Institutional religion has a "half-life" of one generation, they discovered, meaning that two religious parents have a 50-50 chance of passing on their beliefs.

Two non-religious parents will successfully pass on their lack of faith and one religious parents does half as well as a couple of believers. The report said one factor which might slow the decline in belief is that religious parents have more children than others.

The researchers, who used figures from the British Household Panel and British Social Attitudes surveys, wrote that "believing without belonging" had become the "catchphrase" of much European work on religion in the past decade.

Dr David Voas, who led the team, said although religion in Britain would not die out completely, it would reach "fairly low levels" before very long.

For theories as to why this is so see Christianity Vanquished in Britain?


God vs. Nothing, Part IV

And now for something completely different ... not really, more on evolution in Harvard enters debate on evolution ... quote! ...

Harvard University is planning a scientific study of how life emerged on Earth, thrusting one of America's most prestigious universities into the growing, politically charged debate over an alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Opponents of evolution theory said that Harvard's research project is proof that science has yet to disprove alternative theories, including the idea of "intelligent design," which is popular with America's religious conservatives.

...and ...

"This is not something that began recently or something that began in reaction to what's going on in the larger environment," said Harvard spokesman B.D. Colen. "It's a project that began because scientists are seeking answers to some of the biggest questions ever posed."

But opponents of evolution theory say the project seems to indicate that science has yet to fully prove Darwin's theory.

"This is ... a stunning admission that the current theories do not explain it, and it has not refuted the idea that things are the product of intelligent cause," said John West, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a think tank that backs intelligent design theory.

The Discovery Institute advocates that schools teach scientific criticisms of Darwin's theories.

Ok ... however, to me evolution always seemed somewhat beside the point. The big question isn't how life developed here on earth. The big question is where did all the matter and energy in the universe come from. If I remember correctly, the second law of thermodynamics stated that matter can be neither created or destroyed in a closed system (warning! Liberal arts major attempting scientific thought ... stand back!). And energy is just matter in another form, right? So, fellas at Harvard, where did it all come from? I mean, ALL OF IT! Where did the significant amount of matter and energy originate? Name the scientific theory that covers this. There ain't one. We'll see if the dudes at Harvard solve this one. Until then, you're asking me to leave God for nothing. No thanks.


Thin skin will help robots 'feel'

Haven't these people seen The Terminator? Thin skin will help robots 'feel' ... quote! ...

Japanese researchers have developed a flexible artificial skin that could give robots a humanlike sense of touch.

The team manufactured a type of "skin" capable of sensing pressure and another capable of sensing temperature.

These are supple enough to wrap around robot fingers and relatively cheap to make, the researchers have claimed.


Today in the One Year Bible

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:6-13


Today in the One Year Bible

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered." Proverbs 21:13


It's Blogtastic!

Other voices in the blogosphere ...

De Mar on American Christianity ... Loving "Gentle Jesus"

Doug Wilson and neo-Nazism. There is a saying, if you're feeling flack, you're getting close to the target. Wilson has been getting flack for some time now ... Idaho Statesman Admits their Own Neo-Nazi Ties

I got a chuckle out of this one, and it made me think ... From the Front Lines: The Simpsons and Christian Pluralism

How about this for a headline? Great answer too: "In short, the answer is no."Is Reformed Theology Heresy?


God vs. Nothing, Part III

With conservative Christians calling the shots in Washington, creationism crawling back into the nation's schools and even normally decadent Hollywood hopping onto the spiritual bandwagon, it's a beleaguered time for atheists in America.

So begins Finding My Religion / Julia Sweeney talks about how she became an atheist.

The article/interview chronicles the fall from faith of Julia Sweeney, the one-time Saturday Night Live peformer (remember "It's Pat!"??) and now atheist author. It is always fascinating to me to get a true glimpse into the mind of an atheist. Sayeth Sweeney ...
Well, the most surprising thing overall is that anyone takes it seriously at all. Even if you were, say, Margaret Mead looking at Catholic Christian culture in America and you said all these people believe this thing -- every week they go and hear quotes from this book, and everything in this book is so sacred to these people -- I, as the Margaret Mead character looking at this, would be stupendously shocked that it was so contradictory and so obviously the result of a historic tribe trying to make sense of an unpredictable environment with limited scientific knowledge and a need for culture and cohesion.

She's absolutely right about this. It's utter foolishness and the Bible says so. Quote!

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

But it is not "folly" because it is inherently ridiculous. It is folly because our sin stained minds can't and won't grasp it until quickened by the Holy Spirit. And, of course, God has the last laugh, as it were.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

So, today, pray for your favorite neighborhood atheist.


Potent Quotables, Part IX

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." C.S. Lewis


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Hearts of Darkness: Can BTK be Forgiven?

BTK -- the church elder and serial murderer -- is the subject of this piece ... BTK: Can He Be Forgiven?

Two people who encountered Dennis Rader, the confessed BTK serial killer, see his claim of Christian faith in completely different ways: After Rader's arrest in February, Kristin Casarona, 38, of Topeka, wrote to him "as one person of faith to another." They talked about writing a story about his life, "which would have a Christian message."

Then there's Wichita police Lt. Ken Landwehr, head of the BTK Task Force, who met with reporters in July. His view of Rader?

"He is proud of what he did. He can think he's a Christian all he wants.... He is nothing but a perverted serial killer."

Christian and serial killer?

Most local Christian clergy say that as difficult as it may be for people to accept, Rader can call himself a Christian and can be forgiven if -- and that's an important word -- he repents.

It is a chilling thought that this individual fooled so many people for so long. How well do we really know anyone? As for whether he can be forgiven by God, the answer is yes. In my mind, if he wanted to show that he had really repented he should demand the death penalty. Though from what I understand, his crimes were committed before the state of Kansas instituted the death penalty. No matter, he should say he'd like to be tried in a state where biblical justice could be done to him.

Apart from that I think there is a valuable lesson that Rader can teach Christians. It's the profound danger presented by nursing along our little sins. Certainly, Rader didn't wake up one morning and say, I think I'll bind, torture and kill an innocent family today. It was a process, and it started with his thought life. Instead of dealing with these sins, he nurtured them until they bloomed into action. That is a trap into which anyone can fall. It may not manifest itself in mass murder, by we all have sins whose ultimate expression is death.

As human beings, we all have hearts of darkness. We are all capable, apart from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, of unspeakable cruelty to our fellow humans. We are all in desperate need of not only a Savior, but also of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

John Owen wrote eloquently and accurately about this in his classic The Mortification of Sin. Sayeth Owen:
This is the outcome of harboring your lust -- the hardening of your heart, the searing of your conscience, the blinding of your mind, the dulling of your affections and the decieving of your whole soul.

... and ...
Ask envy what it aims at. Murder and destruction are its natural conclusion.

Likewise, I imagine Owen would say, at what does lust aim? Rape. At what does covetousness aim? Theft. At what does greed aim? Complete idolotry and a turning from God.

Lord, help me to hate sin and be at war with it at all times.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Monks run out of the world's best beer

Is anyone else suddenly very thirsty?? Monks run out of the world's best beer


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The North Korea Genocide Exhibit

From yesterday's NY Times ... lest we forget ... Christian Groups Press Bush About North Korea ... a sampling ...
Tens of thousands of fans of all ages gathered over the weekend for the annual three-day Rock the Desert Christian music festival screamed for hit bands like Mercy Me and Pillar ...

Between the Prayer Tent and an abstinence-promotion booth, however, worshipful revelers also stumbled into a more sobering pavilion, the North Korea Genocide Exhibit.

... and ...
In another exhibition, based on a defector's account of a deadly medical experiment, a bloody mannequin and baby doll leaned against the walls of a mock gas chamber made from a shower stall that at one point was filled with sulfurous yellow gas.

The displays were part of a growing movement by conservative Christian groups to press the White House on human rights in North Korea, much the way they drew attention to the civil war in Sudan and kept pressure on Mr. Bush after his first days in office.

... more ...
Later, the festival screened part of a documentary, "Seoul Train," about North Korean refugees. The protagonist, the Rev. Chun Ki Won, told the audience through a translator a secondhand account of a North Korean Christian whose fingers were cut off by authorities demanding the names of other believers.

It was such accounts of persecution - though in southern Sudan - that first moved the Midland Alliance, once a strictly local group, to take an interest in foreign affairs. Ms. Fikes invited a group of refugees to address the 2002 Rock the Desert festival, where they worked with a Christian group for troubled teenagers to build a copy of a Sudanese village. They burned part of it in a mock raid to demonstrate the refugees' plight.

Soon after, Ms. Fikes, a former schoolteacher, decided to advertise on the alliance letterhead that Midland was Mr. Bush's hometown. She learned that foreign embassies were suddenly quick to respond.

Before long, she was traveling monthly to Washington and entertaining the Sudanese ambassador at her house. In the months leading up to the January peace agreement that ended the civil war there, Ms. Fikes and her group held private talks with both sides.


Of Nazis and Stem-Cells

David Gelernter, in the Wall Street Journal, takes James Dobson to task for comparing stem-cell researchers to Nazis in Dobson's Choice. Sayeth Gerlernter ...
Last week, James Dobson of Focus on the Family proved that he lacks sufficient control to be pitching in the major leagues of public discussion and ought to be sent back to the minors. He compared embryonic stem cell research to Nazi death-camp experiments. I too (and millions of others) oppose broadened federal funding for stem-cell research, but Dr. Dobson has damaged rather than helped this cause. He has made conservatives look bad by suggesting that some are just as incapable of moral distinctions as the Howard Dean left--and just as unable to treat their opponents like human beings and not wicked moral dwarfs.

Dobson has a response to the hubub, though not specifically to this article, on his site here ... quote! ...
He (Dobson) said the original comment -- "Experimentation on the blastocytes, which are fertilized eggs, has a Nazi-esque aura to it" -- was being taken out of context by those who support embryonic stem-cell research.

More from Gerlernter ...
Meanwhile, those who popped up on cue to demand an immediate Dobson apology--such Jewish groups as the Anti-Defamation League, political groups like and many individuals--look silly and childish. Rarely has one wild pitch knocked so many people on the head. Thank you, Dr. Dobson; you can sit down now.

Props to Mr. Gerlernter for calling the apology seekers out. I also like the baseball analogy. To continue it, sometimes a tough pitcher needs to give the opposing hitter some chin music. This, in my view, is all Dobson did. A prophet who calls a spade a spade (mixed metaphor alert!) is not always -- in fact, is almost never -- popular. If creating human beings to experiment on them, and eventually destroy them, isn't immoral, then what is? Though Gerlernter makes some other interesting points ... quote! ...
Dr. Dobson's analogy is grotesque. It's not just that embryos (as he himself noted later) feel no pain when they are destroyed. Not just that they leave no grief-stricken survivors in the sense that full-fledged human beings do, and rip no comparable hole in the community and the universe when they are murdered. Just as important is the gaping difference in the actors' motives. Stem-cell researchers want to help "mankind," defined to exclude embryos. Nazi experimenters wanted to help "mankind," defined to exclude Jews. If the first definition is wrong, it might nonetheless be proposed by morally serious persons. No morally serious person would go anywhere near the second, which epitomizes Nazi evil.

I suppose we could argue about what Dobson meant by "Nazi-esque" (did he really say Nazism and stem cell research were moral equivalents?) ... but I guess we're a bit beyond that. First, is feeling pain a criteria for moral outrage? So, an anesthetized murder victim has no right to complain? Second, they are not mourned by loved ones or society at large. This says far more about the moral bankruptcy of our society than the embryos themselves. Then, stem cell researchers are doing it all to help mankind. Really? You could make a profound case that they are doing it for personal glory. Or greed. Or accolades. Or good, ol' fashioned ego. But, let's even set that aside for a moment. Certainly, there has been plenty of evil undertaken for the "good of mankind." Finally, the point about a "morally serious person" ... as defined by whom? When man creates his own morality the result is things like Nazism, and other things.


Biblical Pool Uncovered in Jerusalem

Biblical Pool Uncovered in Jerusalem
Workers repairing a sewage pipe in the Old City of Jerusalem have discovered the biblical Pool of Siloam, a freshwater reservoir that was a major gathering place for ancient Jews making religious pilgrimages to the city and the reputed site where Jesus cured a man blind from birth, according to the Gospel of John.

... and ...
"Scholars have said that there wasn't a Pool of Siloam and that John was using a religious conceit" to illustrate a point, said New Testament scholar James H. Charlesworth of the Princeton Theological Seminary. "Now we have found the Pool of Siloam … exactly where John said it was."


Lest We Forget, Part VI

From the Voice of the Martyrs blog ... 200 Held In Underground Church Raids


Is the Reformation Over?

This is interesting ... Mark Noll: Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism. quote!

Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School and executive editor of "Christianity Today" writes, “The Reformation is over only in the sense that to some extent it has succeeded. This book examines, with scholarly care and sensitivity, recent evangelical-Roman Catholic developments that lend credence to this possibility. This book will help all of us who are committed to exploring the common heritage, as well as the differences that still remain, between the two largest faith communities in the Christian world.”

However, the Reformation is not truly over until the Catholic Church is reformed.


Pornography and the Desire for Beauty

Great and thought-provoking post on the JollyBlogger ... Pornography and the Desire for Beauty


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Most Adults Feel Accepted by God, but Lack a Biblical Worldview

George Barna's polls are typically quite interesting ... the latest ... Most Adults Feel Accepted by God, but Lack a Biblical Worldview ... a sampling ...
"For several years, The Barna Group has been tracking how many people possess a “biblical worldview.” The organization defines such a life perspective on the basis of several questions about religious beliefs. The definition requires someone to believe that absolute moral truth exists; that the source of moral truth is the Bible; that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches; that eternal spiritual salvation cannot be earned; that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth; that every person has a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others; that Satan is a living force, not just a symbol of evil; and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful maker of the universe who still rules that creation today.

Using that framework, Barna discovered that the percentage of adults holding a biblical worldview has remained minimal and unchanged over the past three years, despite the widespread public debate about moral issues and the efforts of thousands of churches to enhance people’s moral convictions. Currently, only 5% of adults have a biblical worldview. The percentage varies among faith groups. About half of all evangelicals have such a perspective. Overall, 8% of Protestants possess that view, compared to less than one-half of one percent of Catholics."

The Church in America is not doing such a hot job at training folk in the teachings of God's holy scriptures. We need, perhaps, to worry less about our prosperity and personal satisfaction and more about the revealed Word of God.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Let's Have No More Monkey Trials

I'm not obsessed with creationism ... really, I'm not. But the media seems to be dominated by it now and, since this blog is in many ways a reaction items that appear in the popular press ... well, here I go again ... this time it is another secular conservative -- Krauthammer, another guy I like but who misses the boat on this thing in Let's Have No More Monkey Trials. ... quote ...

This conflict between faith and science had mercifully abated over the past four centuries as each grew to permit the other its own independent sphere. What we are witnessing now is a frontier violation by the forces of religion. This new attack claims that because there are gaps in evolution, they therefore must be filled by a divine intelligent designer.

This says it so perfectly, but comes to the wrong conclusion. The Lord Jesus Christ has rule over every dominion. There is no "frontier violation" because the very minds we use, the very logic we employ, the very nature on which we conduct our scientific experiments were given us by the Creator. Granted, there should be no "conflict" between faith and science, in fact, science works best when it is in complete servitude to the Gospel.


Religion and science are best taught separately

In a piece from the Ashville Citizen-Times, Christians are once again invited to a long walk off a short pier when it comes to deciding how and what our youngsters are taught. Religion and science are best taught separately

In a recent Newsweek magazine column, George Will explained the issue eloquently. "The problem with intelligent-design theory," he wrote, "is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable: Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis. Hence it is not a scientific but a creedal tenet - a matter of faith, unsuited to a public school's science curriculum."

I remember reading this at the time, maybe a month or so ago. It's as much hogwash now as it was then. Don't get me wrong, I like George Will, but he's missed it on this one. There is no box large enough to put the Living God in. He saw fit, in His Word, to comment on biology, physics, economics, sociology, psychology, zoology, astronomy, and on and on. He's not restrained by our postmodern notion that faith is for "spiritual" stuff and the "sciences" are for everything else.


Potent Quotables, Part VIII

"Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ." John Calvin


Have People Stopped Believing in Stupid Ideas?

One op-ed author at the New York Times thinks so... (free reg. required) ... The Virtues of Virtue ... quote!

The decline in family violence is part of a whole web of positive, mutually reinforcing social trends. To put it in old-fashioned terms, America is becoming more virtuous. Americans today hurt each other less than they did 13 years ago. They are more likely to resist selfish and shortsighted impulses. They are leading more responsible, more organized lives. A result is an improvement in social order across a range of behaviors.

... and ...
The decline in domestic violence is of a piece with the decline in violent crime over all. Violent crime over all is down by 55 percent since 1993 and violence by teenagers has dropped an astonishing 71 percent, according to the Department of Justice.

... more ...
Teenage pregnancy has declined by 28 percent since its peak in 1990. Teenage births are down significantly and, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortions performed in the country has also been declining since the early 1990's.

I could go on. Teenage suicide is down. Elementary school test scores are rising (a sign than more kids are living in homes conducive to learning). Teenagers are losing their virginity later in life and having fewer sex partners. In short, many of the indicators of social breakdown, which shot upward in the late 1960's and 1970's, and which plateaued at high levels in the 1980's, have been declining since the early 1990's.

... and this fantatic bit here ...
I always thought it would be dramatic to live through a moral revival. Great leaders would emerge. There would be important books, speeches, marches and crusades. We're in the middle of a moral revival now, and there has been very little of that. This revival has been a bottom-up, prosaic, un-self-conscious one, led by normal parents, normal neighbors and normal community activists.

The first thing that has happened is that people have stopped believing in stupid ideas: that the traditional family is obsolete, that drugs are liberating, that it is every adolescent's social duty to be a rebel.

... finally ...
Obviously, we're not living in a utopia, where all social problems have been solved. But these improvements across a whole range of behaviors are too significant to be dismissed. We in the media play up the negative, as we always do. The activist groups emphasize the work still to be done, because they want to keep people mobilized and financing their work.

But the good news is out there. You want to know what a society looks like when it is in the middle of moral self-repair? Look around.


Friday, August 05, 2005

God vs. Nothing, Part II

Another take outlining the fear among evolutionists ... The intelligent design bogeyman ... (See God vs. Nothing, Part I) ... quote!

Our secular popular culture is throwing a fit over President Bush's endorsement of teaching in public schools the controversies surrounding Darwinian theory.

Note that the president did not recommend that the teaching of Darwinism be banned in public schools, merely that the theory of intelligent design (ID) ought to be taught as well. Bush said, "I think part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."

... and ...

Don't academics purport to champion free and open inquiry? What, then, are they so afraid of regarding the innocuous introduction into the classroom of legitimate questions concerning Darwinism?

Their defensiveness toward challenges to their dogma is inexplicable unless you understand their attitude as springing from a worldview steeped in strong, secular predispositions that must be guarded with a blind religious fervor.

Indeed, it appears many Darwinists are guilty of precisely that of which they accuse ID proponents: having a set of preconceived assumptions that taint their scientific objectivity.

... more ...

So is God the real bogeyman for some Darwinists? Is that why they fight to suppress any theory, like ID, they fear might allow God's "foot in the door"?

And, if their science were unassailable, would they so vigorously resist its subjection to academic scrutiny by scientists no longer drinking the Darwin Kool-Aid? It's no secret that scientists who have broken from Darwinian orthodoxy have been ridiculed, suppressed and ostracized by much of the Orwellian scientific establishment.

... and ...

A short column is not the place to debate the merits of ID versus Darwinism, but it is an appropriate venue to offer the humble suggestion that the very essence of science -- the search for causes -- militates in favor of exposing students to modern criticisms of Darwinism. Introducing kids to scientific challenges to Darwinism and to the alternative ID theory would vindicate the scientific method and science itself. Opponents should lighten up, and the public should insist on a fair fight.


Jews and the Cross

From the Canadian Jewish News, an interesting and revealing article called Jews and the Cross: An Unhappy History ... a sampling ...
When I was a child – one brought up in the Jewish Orthodox tradition – it was a staple of my childish, unreflective mind that the cross was a bad thing, and in some ways even a frightening thing. Should a cross be exhibited in my presence, I would automatically turn my eyes away from this baleful item.

As I matured, growing up in a Christian country, I was naturally exposed in both churches and museums to numerous sculptures and paintings depicting Jesus on the cross, so that in time, the cross took on a benign quality for me, as simply the expression of Christian veneration. But I can’t say that I had a true understanding of the meaning of the cross for Christianity or for Jews, nor had I ever given it much thought.

The article then proceeds through a brief overview of the history of the Church and Judaism -- highlighting acts of anti-Semitism done in the name of the cross -- and winds down with this.
I don’t doubt that today’s wearers of the cross are merely making a positive statement about their commitment to Christianity. Nor do I have reason to believe that such adornment has any intended malice. Nevertheless, it would be well for all, Jew and Christian alike, to appreciate that the cross is an expression of the accentuation of the death of Jesus rather than his life, and that this has had – and continues to have – grave consequences for Jews, not the least of which is the current intensification of anti-Semitism that is still buttressed by the accusation of the role of the Jew in Jesus’ crucifixion.

Certainly there have been acts of hateful anti-Semitism throughout history. But anyone -- in history or today -- who has undertaken these acts in the name of the Savior does not have even a basic understanding of the Gospel. To "blame" the Jews for Christ's crucifixion is asinine. If you'd like to find and punish the one responsible for the death of Jesus, you need look no farther than the nearest mirror.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Killing in the Name of ... Part IV

Are anti-life advocates running scared as well? The liberal mag The Nation runs this piece musing that perhaps its time liberals let Roe v. Wade go. Should 'Roe' Go?

This would be a tactical retreat in the mind of this writer. Quote!
With the resignation of Sandra Day O'Connor, more people are asking that question. Democratic Party insiders quietly wonder if abandoning abortion rights would win back white Catholics and evangelicals. A chorus of pundits--among them David Brooks in the New York Times and the Washington Post's Benjamin Wittes writing in The Atlantic--argue that Roe's unforeseen consequences exact too high a price: on democracy, on public discourse, even, paradoxically, on abortion rights.

... and ...
Overturning Roe would definitely energize prochoicers and wake up the young featherheads who think their rights are safe because they have always had them. That's why some staunch prochoicers have "Bring it on!" moments: "Overnight," writes Susan Estrich in a recent syndicated column, "every election, for every state office, would become a referendum not on parental consent or partial birth abortion, but on whether regular old middle-class adult women could get first-trimester abortions. When you think about it that way, you have to ask: What could be better for Democrats?

Beware of depending on "young featherheads". They are the survivors of the abortion holocaust and many of them are pro-life. Bring it on, indeed.


This Week's Sheep and Goats

This week's Sheep and Goats column ... from the San Diego Reader ... Sheep and Goats


Evolutionists Running Scared

More proof that evolutionists are really running scared (See God vs. Nothing, part I) is outlined on the fine site Intelligent Design the Future.

The link to this article in The American Spectator, which lays out the case thusly ...

Darwinists this month are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Scopes trial. But critics of evolution note an irony lost on the Darwinists in the midst of their celebrations, namely, that they now behave exactly like the silencers of science they once reviled.

Desperate to shut down debate that exposes their evolutionary theory as unsustainable conjecture, the Darwinists are using the incantations of an ideology they call science and the power of law to prevent the teaching of any concepts besides random variation and natural selection. While Darwinists still pose as champions of free inquiry, they actively suppress it in the name of their scientific dogmatism.

... and ...

While the evolutionists continue their tired celebrations of the Scopes trial, they glance anxiously over their shoulders. They are running scared, and as the list of scientists and thinkers who dissent from Darwinism grows -- the Discovery Institute lists hundreds of scientists who now regard it as an intellectually bankrupt theory -- the evolutionists will increasingly mirror the intolerance they used to bemoan.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Christianity Vanquished in Britain?

Europe, it seems, is on the verge of becoming a completely apostate culture. Sad ... the UK and all of Europe really was the birthplace of so much profound Christian thought. This article should also make us Americans pray a little harder that this does not happen to us. When Christianity becomes liberalized, it becomes useless.

Christianity Vanquished in Britain? ... quote ...

In many ways, what has happened in the U.K. may be in the future for the U.S., because the two nations have had a similar religious past, according to Christie Davies, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Reading, England, and author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain.

"At the end of the 19th century, there were comparable levels of religiosity in Britain and the United States. The British lived in a culture in which the assumptions of Protestant Christianity were taken for granted," Davies wrote in The New Criterion.

But he said that, generally beginning after World War II, the nation's morality collapsed, and the U.K. saw dramatically worsening trends in illegitimacy, substance abuse, crime and other sorts of behavior that were once considered sinful.

... and ...
The failure of many ministers to defend the faith and responsibly carry out what parishioners expected of the clergy was a theme throughout the survey results.

For example, many respondents complained that their ministers hardly seemed to believe in Christianity themselves. Said one churchgoer: "Often clergy do little to try and convince us that God exists, let alone outline the logical reasons behind our belief in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection."

Ministers also came in for serious criticism when it came to conducting worship services. The report said many churchgoers complained about "shoddy services" and "ministers going through the motions," even to the point of virtually speed-reading through the sermon or preaching it in a voice that was "inaudible" or without any "real conviction or sincerity."

One middle-aged couple said, "We used to go to church expecting very little and came away with nothing. This has now changed to expecting nothing and coming away with even less .... [W]hat we want are services taken with a conviction and a passion for Christ."


S. Korea unveils first dog clone

Attack of the clones! Haven't these people seen Cujo? Wait ... he wasn't a clone, was he? Never mind. S. Korea unveils first dog clone Some highlights ...

Scientists in South Korea have produced the first dog clones, they report in Nature magazine this week.

One of the puppies died soon after birth but the other, an Afghan hound named Snuppy, is still doing well after 16 weeks, the researchers say. Snuppy joins a host of other cloned animals including Dolly the sheep, CC the cat and Ralph the rat.

Snuppy? ... more ...

Snuppy, whose name stands for Seoul National University puppy, was made from a cell taken from the ear of a three-year-old male Afghan hound.

oh, ... more ...

Although many other animals have been successfully cloned, dogs are notoriously difficult: the South Korean team only obtained three pregnancies from more than 1,000 embryo transfers into 123 recipients.

And see, the above paragraph is where the problem is, especially when this process moves to humans, which it will. One thousand embryo "transfers" for one healthy clone? Of course, some people are concerned about the ethics. Quote!

"Canine cloning runs contrary to the Kennel Club's objective 'To promote in every way the general improvement of dogs'," Phil Buckley, spokesman for the Kennel Club told the BBC News website. "Cloning cannot be used to make improvements because the technique simply produces genetic replicas of existing dogs.

"Also, will these cloned dogs end up being used in the laboratory? That opens a whole new can of worms."

Cloned worms?!?!?! In the name of all that is good ... NOOO!!!

Oh, can of worms ... I guess we've crossed a threshold here when the only "ethical concern" comes from a Kennel Club representative when clearly science is preparing to create and destroy human embryos to serve those of us lucky enough to be born. Should we start a Kennel Club for humans?


On Embryonic Stem Cells, Frist Backs A Loser

Another take on why murdering unborn people may not be necessary for stem cell research. ASC (adult stem cells) do not require the destruction of an embryo, ESC (embryonic stem cells) do. On Embryonic Stem Cells, Frist Backs A Loser. ... quote!

You may have noticed no mention herein of the moral baggage that also accompanies ESCs. This is not a failure to realize it exists. It's merely that there's no point discussing it if ESCs have no obvious advantage over their ASC counterparts and anyway we'll be getting ESC without ripping apart embryos.

The case against ESCs is scientific. If the technology has a fraction of the true potential its backers claim, the market will fund it. But if you're an investor who really believes the hype, I've got a space shuttle to sell you.

... more ...

Ironically, the clamor for massively-increased public funding for ESC research is precisely because their practical applications, if any, lie many years in the future while those of ASCs are here and now. The media may go gaga over ESC researchers' pie-in-the-sky claims, but private investors know better. On the other hand, when the government has injected funding into ESC research such as happened with California's Proposition 71, huge fortunes were made or - in the case of Bill Gates - simply expanded.

This isn't to say ASC research NEEDS public funding either. But we've long accepted that deserving medical research should get public dollars. ASC researchers could easily handle far more grant money than they currently receive, without using it to gold-plate the operating instruments. As I've earlier written, prominent Harvard researcher Dr. Denise Faustman may well have found a cure for type 1 diabetes involving ASCs but cannot proceed with testing for lack of money, even as the nation's largest juvenile diabetes organization has refused to fund her but instead lobbies for more ESC research.

... and ...

You may have noticed no mention herein of the moral baggage that also accompanies ESCs. This is not a failure to realize it exists. It's merely that there's no point discussing it if ESCs have no obvious advantage over their ASC counterparts and anyway we'll be getting ESC without ripping apart embryos.

The case against ESCs is scientific. If the technology has a fraction of the true potential its backers claim, the market will fund it. But if you're an investor who really believes the hype, I've got a space shuttle to sell you.


Top cloning experts gather in South Korea for clandestine test

One more reason why Frist's flip-flop on stem cells may not matter. Scientists are gathering in Seoul for "secret experiments." Top cloning experts gather in South Korea for clandestine test I'm not sure, but I think the secret's out ... quote!

The scientists were led by South Korea's Hwang Woo-Suk, Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and the creator of the cloned sheep Dolly, Professor Ian Wilmut of Scotland's Roslin Institute.

They would not say what the experiment would be about, but said it was expected to be over early next week.

Schatten however told journalists it would be a scientific "milestone" and indicated it could be aimed at combining achievements made in cloning and stem cell research to develop ways to treat incurable diseases.


These stem cells carry the identical genes of patients because they are extracted from cloned human embryos produced by combining adult cells from the patients and human eggs from donors, the scientists said.

This means they will not be rejected by the patients' immune systems, they said.

Cloning and discarding human embryos for the service of the living is already happening.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Don't read Bible as science

This article interested me, so much so that I'd like to refute it piece-by-piece. It's called ... Don't read Bible as science Though the author of this piece is a rabbi, I believe his worldview, at least as betrayed by this article, is completely secular in nature.

The first two chapters of the book of Genesis have always captivated me. The poetry, the economy of words, the literary flow of the unfolding of creation characterize, as generations of readers have attested, a beautiful and compelling narrative.

Here we wait for the other shoe to drop. The Scriptures are "beautiful poetry" with "literary flow" BUT ...
It is regretful that politicians, members of school boards and religious conservatives are trying to take a theological account about the goodness of life, the dignity of every human being, the sacredness of rest and turn it into a scientific description of the origins of the universe.

This is a common refrain among secularists. Religion is fine, they say, its sacred and good and ... blah, blah ... but keep it out of education and the public square. In other words, people of faith, know your place. Don't try to mess with the secular training of our nation.
Proposals before legislators across the country question the science of evolution and suggest that creationism or intelligent design be taught in schools as an alternative to the evolutionary theory regarding the origins of life. The Washington Post reported that the Discovery Institute in Seattle is spending more than $1 million a year for research, opinion polls and media promotions to promote intelligent design as a credible scientific theory.

It would seem that secularists would welcome a straight-up fight between evolution and intelligent design. Should be an old-fashioned country whuppin', right? After all, they have all the "data" and "science" and what do we have? Oddly, nothing makes a secularist as nervous as putting these two concepts side-by-side. Reminds me of a saying: the scared dog barks the loudest. (See God vs. Nothing, part I)
The issue has come to the surface most recently within the Catholic Church. While the church has embraced evolutionary theory, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna and confidant of the new Pope Benedict XVI, suggested last month that 'evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense -- an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection ' is not compatible with Catholic faith. The vice president of the Discovery Institute had urged the cardinal to clarify Catholic doctrine on evolution.

There are a variety of ways in which one can reconcile the Genesis narrative with evolution. But attempting to turn the Bible into a science textbook misses the whole point of the creation story.

What would that point be? That the Almight created all things from nothing? Shouldn't that be where all science begins?
There are a number of differing creation accounts in the Bible, two in the first chapter of Genesis, various references in Psalms, the prophetic and wisdom books. They were not written by scientists but by individuals who stood in awe of the universe and sought to discern the meaning of human existence. What we should learn from these narratives is not primarily how the world came into being or what is the origin of life, but rather what is the value of life and what is the meaning of human existence?

Poppycock. Again, this is straight from the secularist playbook. First, the Bible is untrustworthy because it doesn't agree with itself. This is, of course, utter nonsense. As for the "value of life and ... the meaning of human existance" ... this is true enough as far as it goes. But what Genesis teaches is that the eternal God is the source of everything.
Sometimes to read the Bible literally is not to take it seriously enough.

This kills me. Again, this is something secularists say with impunity all the time. Somehow to believe in the Scriptures as the word of God is to do violence to them. Up is down, black is white ...
People of faith need not be troubled by the science of natural selection and the randomness of evolution.

We're not. Most Christians clearly understand the imperfections of scientific theory and, are therefore, not troubled at all by evolution.
They should rather be concerned about the moral selections we make and the compassionate order we bring to life's tragic chance occurrences. Faith should care less about whether we are descended from monkeys and more about whether we act like humans in the image of God.

This is another version of the above -- "mind your beeswax, bible-thumper" -- thinking, but it also betrays a lack of understanding of why we worship God. The fact that God created us is part of what makes Him God. He is the Creator. Do deny him that place is to be in rebellion to what He has revealed about Himself.
Science and religion need not be at odds with each other. Science can expand what we know; religion can help us decide how to use what we know for good and not for harm.

This should read "Science and politically correct, namby pamby religion ..." ("Let's all be nice.") The minute religion actually tries to impact the public discussion, suddenly secularists cry foul.
To read the Genesis account of creation through the lens of the astronomer, physicist and biologist ruins a perfectly wonderful narrative and uses it for purposes for which it was not intended. It teaches bad science and bad religion.

The Scriptures are revealed to us so that we might properly know how to worship our Creator. For what "purposes" apart from that was it intended? The best religion and the best science work hand-in-hand. A man who studies the universe and gives glory to its Creator is part of a noble calling. A man who studies the universe to attempt to disprove the Creator is a dope ... and blind too.
To read the Genesis account, as it was meant to be read, through the lens of faith and poetry, drama and metaphor, is to come to know the value of human life, the goodness of the universe and to stand in awe of the creative process that continues to renew itself.

I'm all for standing in awe. But, of what? "... the creative process that continues to renew itself." ???? Is this to be the object of our worship? A "process"? No thanks.
Albert Einstein taught that 'religion without science is blind; science without religion is lame.' Centuries before, Galileo, whom church authorities sought to silence, provided wisdom for our contemporary debate, when he said, 'The Bible teaches how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.'"

They always have to throw Galileo in there, don't they? Fine. But what use is knowing "how the heavens go" if you are in Hell?