Saturday, April 28, 2012

God's Gonna Cut You Down

I'm culturally impoverished...I had never heard this before!  Johnny Cash singing his "God's Gonna Cut You Down."  Not too many songs out there about the judgment of God--but here is one.  This person also did a nice job with the video.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Philippians 3.18 Picture

I went to lunch today with my 7 year old daughter.  We were drawing with the crayons that came with her children's menu (we were a bit limited with the color selection!).  I've been studying Philippians 3.17ff for my upcoming sermon so I drew a picture of v. 18:
For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ.

Mormonism 101 Resources from Alpha and Omega Ministries

James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries has put together a series of posts that helpfully give one a proper understanding of Mormonism.  For those looking for a good reference for understanding the nature of the Godhead according to Mormonism be sure to check this out.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Preaching and the Perseverance of the Saints

John Piper in his small but profound book The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Baker, 1990) has some moving thoughts about the relationship between the preached word and the perseverance of the saints.
Gravity and earnestness in preaching is appropriate not only (as we have seen) because preaching is God's instrument for the weighty business of saving sinners and reviving his church, but also because it is God's instrument for preserving the saints.  Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:10, "I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory."  Labor on behalf of the elect, therefore, is not icing on the cake of their eternal security.  It is God's appointed means of keeping them secure.  Eternal security is a community project (Heb. 3:12-13) and preaching is part of God's securing power.  He calls effectually by the Word and he keeps effectually by the Word.
We can say that eternal security is certain for the Christian, yet avoid a mechanical view that drains the blood-earnestness right out of the weekly ministry of preaching to the saints. Biblically God uses the earnest application of the means of grace to hold his people secure; one of those means is the preaching of God's Word.  Heaven and hell are at stake every Sunday morning not merely because unbelievers might be present, but also because our people are saved "IF they continue in the faith" (Col. 1:23).  Paul connects the steadfastness of faith with the preaching of the Word of God in the gospel (Rom. 10:17).  (pp. 58-59)
These thoughts take me to another portion of Piper's book:
How utterly dependent we are on the Holy Spirit in the work of preaching!  All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation.  You wake up on Sunday morning and you can smell the smoke of hell on one side and feel the crisp breezes of heaven on the other.  You go to your study and look down at your pitiful manuscript, and you kneel down and cry, "God, this is so weak!  Who do I think I am?  What audacity to think that in three hours my words will be the odor of death to death and the fragrance of life to life (2 Cor. 2:16).  My God, who is sufficient for these things?"  (pp. 37-38) 

J. Gresham Machen on Public Education

I was skimming through J. Gresham Machen's classic and ever-revelant Christianity and Liberalism (1923) and came across these words:
A public-school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race.  But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools.  A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised.  Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective.  Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist.  Such tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.  (pp 13-14)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Climate Change and Biomedical Modification

There is a great article over at First Things entitled "Tiny, Happy People" by C. Ben Mitchell which outlines the proposal by some to engage the whole issue of climate change by genetically modifying people to have lifestyles that promote a better ecosystem.  The article is interacting with the viewpoint of three ethicists who recently published their perspective in Ethics, Policy and the Environment.  Here is sampling from the First Things article:
Here is the argument offered by Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg, and Rebecca Roache. Climate change is the result of human corruption of the environment—so-called anthropogenic causes. Climate change affects food production, access to water, health, and the environment. Since, in their view, millions could suffer from the consequences of climate change something radical must be done. Recycling, tax-incentives, and large-scale manipulation of the environment are, according to the authors, either too negligible or too grand to be effective. Geoengineering, in particular, is disadvantageous because “in many cases, we lack the necessary scientific knowledge to devise and implement geoengineering without significant risk to ourselves and to future generations” (p. 4). So, in one breathtaking leap, the authors argue that we ought to consider “biomedical modification of humans to make them better at mitigating climate change.”

To be fair, they do offer a caveat: “Our central aim [in the paper] is to show that human engineering deserves consideration alongside other solutions in the debate about how to solve the problem of climate change. Also, as we envisage it, human engineering would be a voluntary activity—possibly supported by incentives such as tax breaks or sponsored health care—rather than a coerced, mandatory activity.” 

The suggestion that we ought to modify the human species as a means of mitigating climate change is at once both naive and hubristic. If they think modifying the environment may be difficult, successfully modifying the extraordinarily intricate balance of human homeostasis is a pipedream at best. Here is what they think might be desirable.

First, humans might be altered to be meat aversive. All one would have to do is stimulate the immune system so as to “induce mild intolerance (akin, e.g., to milk intolerance)” to meat. Or, since the “human ecological footprints are partly correlated to our size,” we can just make humans smaller! “Reducing the average US height by 15 cm would mean a mass reduction of 23% for men and 25% for women, with a corresponding reduction of metabolic rate (15%/18%), since less tissue means lower nutrients and energy needs.” One way to produce these tiny people would be through pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, say the authors. Just select the embryos for transfer to a woman’s womb that have the genes for compactness; toss the embryos will tall genes. Smaller humans could also be produced through hormone therapy and reduction of birth-weight. 

Second, the number of humans could be modified through cognitive enhancement. Why cognitive enhancement? Because apparently only stupid people have more than two children per family. “There seems to be a link,” the authors maintain, “between cognition itself and lower birth-rates.” Since two children per family is lower than the replacement rate (of roughly 2.1 per family in industrialized countries), population would decline. 

Third, pharmacological enhancements could increase altruism and empathy. The result: generous and happy people through chemistry. Modifying altruism and empathy “by human engineering could be promising.” Testosterone, by the way, “appears to decrease aspects of empathy,” according to the authors. So, to follow their logic, since testosterone prepares both males and female for reproduction, reducing its levels in every human body would both reduce the number of people on the earth and, at the same time, make them more compliant. 

Why undertake the re-engineering of the human species? Because, say the authors, “human engineering is potentially less risky than geoengineering. Second, human engineering could make behavior and market solutions more likely to succeed.” In other words, we would be far more likely to create tiny, happy people than we would be to modify the environment or create incentives that would encourage environmental stewardship. 
The First Things article goes on to discuss the ethical implications of all this.  Be sure to read this article.

To see the actual article by these three bio-ethicists see here: Human Engineering and Climate Change.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Holy Yoga"--Exercise or Exorcise?

Last night the local CBS affiliate (channel 5 KPHO) ran a story called Christians Debate 'Holy Yoga'.  There were comments by Mark Driscoll in which he stated his concerns about practicing yoga:
It is absolute paganism.  We do not go into ourselves, we go out to Jesus.
Later Driscoll is quoted as saying:
Some of you think, "Well, I'll just go to yoga and say, 'Jesus.'  Well, that is trying to treat the name of Jesus like a magic formula that you sprinkle over the demonic.
The story also quoted Brooke Boon who is the founder of "Holy Yoga" and the author of Holy Yoga (Faith Words, 2007).  She is quoted as saying:
We pray as the Bible tell us to, we speak truth, we listen to Christian music, we are connecting to one another, so there is nothing wrong inherently with the practice of 'Holy Yoga' being a Christian experience.  Either God is sovereign over all things in all directions for all eternity like he says he is, and we believe that or he's not.  And if he is, then includes yoga.
This is a big topic that has been given sound bites for a quick news story.  Thankfully there has been a thorough Christian analysis of yoga and its alleged "Holy" offshoots.  Elliot Miller has been associated with the Christian Research Institute for over 30 years and in 2008 published a three-part series entitled "The Yoga Boom: A Call for Christian Discernment" which appeared in the Christian Research Journal (vol. 31, nos. 2, 3, 4).  The articles are available on-line and should be considered "required" reading for anyone seeking to look at this topic.  Miller's analysis yields a perspective much closer to Driscoll's than the alternative.  Miller specifically engages the claims of Brooke Boon and finds them to be lacking.  Links to the articles are below.

Part 1: Yoga in its original Eastern context

Part 2: Yoga in its contemporary Western context

Part 3: Toward a comprehensive Christian response
Should one want even more information see The Dangers of Yoga website for more materials--including testimonials of those who have come out of yoga background into life in Christ.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Necroethics

From Salvo:

40 Days for Abortion?!

Planned Parenthood is attempting to respond to the 40 Days for Life campaigns.  Here is a post from Life News.

Planned Parenthood


Sets Up 40 Days of


Prayer for Abortion

by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 4/10/12 7:44 PM
 A local Planned Parenthood abortion business in California is copycatting the 40 Days for Lifecampaign, which recently resulted in saving the lives of more than 700 unborn children from abortion. The abortion business has set up its own 40 Days of Prayer for the local abortion center. 
“We trust you to decide about your sexuality, having your children, and planning your family,” says a flier promoting the Humbolt County Clergy for Choice event. “We are religious leaders who value all human life.  We accept that religions differ about when life begins. We are here to help.”
“We believe that human life is holy. That’s why we believe in your right to choose to be a parent or not,” the pro-abortion religious leaders continue. “It can be helpful to talk with friends you trust, with licensed counselors, and with whatever religious person you choose.  Humboldt County Clergy are available to talk with you about the spiritual aspects of choice.  Find out more by calling Six Rivers Planned Parenthood.”
“Humboldt County Clergy for Choice invite you to set aside time with your family and community to support women and reproductive justice for 40 days from March 18th through April 27th,” they say.
The flyer promotes specific prayers for abortion for each day:
* “Day 1: Today we pray for women for whom pregnancy is not good news, that they know they have choices.”
* “Day 34: Today we give thanks for abortion escorts who guide women safely through hostile gauntlets of protestors.”
*”Day 36 Today we pray for the families we’ve chosen, May they know the blessing of choice.”
* “Day 38:  Today we pray for a cloud of gentleness to surround every abortion facility. May everyone feel calm and loving.”
* “Day 40: Today we give thanks and celebrate that abortion is still safe and legal.”
Some of the local “churches” participating in the pro-abortion prayer event include: Temple Beth El in Eureka, Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bayside, St. Francis in Fortuna, Old Town Gazebo in Eureka, and Arcata United Methodist.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

40 Days for Life: Good Friday Vigil 2012

I was honored to speak at the Glendale, AZ 40 Days for Life vigil that was held on Good Friday.  The event took place on the street right next to the local Planned Parenthood facility.  Here is video of my comments.

video

The Tax System Explained in Beer

This comes from Mr. Conservative.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten
comes to $100.
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like
this…
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing
The fifth would pay $1
The sixth would pay $3
The seventh would pay $7
The eighth would pay $12
The ninth would pay $18
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59
So, that’s what they decided to do.
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the
arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. “Since you
are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your
daily beer by $20″. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the
first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what
about the other six men ? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that
everyone would get his fair share?
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that
from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end
up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill
by a h higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the
tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he
suggested that each should now pay.
And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to
drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their
savings.
“I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He
pointed to the tenth man,”but he got $10!”
“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar too.
It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”
“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back, when I
got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get
anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks so the nine sat down
and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they
discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of
them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our
tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will
naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much,
attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In
fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat
friendlier.
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.  –   Professor of Economics.

Voting for Mitt Romney: Wilson vs. Mattson

There is debate in the evangelical community about the wisdom of voting for Mitt Romney for president of the United States.  Douglas Wilson has weighed in with a post over at BLOG & MABLOG as to why he will not be voting for Romney.  Here is a selection from Wilson:
The one saving grace of having to deal with the Obama administration is that he can't help but overreach. His love of soft totalitarianism is apparent to all who know how to read and think at the same time. But I would rather have that than have someone drifting in the same general direction in ways that will rarely if ever be guilty of overreach. If Marx and Lenin were candy apple red, then Obama is a dull brick color, and Romney is Alecia Beth Moore, better known as Pink.
At the same time, despite this, I do not place a great deal of faith in the ability of the American people to rise up as one in response to despotic overreach. After all, Obama socialized medicine in the United States, and the response of the loyal opposition was to nominate Romney. Oh, well. But I do think the odds are still better for a liberty revolt under the overreachers. Under Romney, say the odds would be 3 in a 100, while under Obama they will be 7 in a 100.
Note that my complaint about Romney is not that he has leftist convictions; my complaint is that he has no real convictions and is therefore susceptible to pressure. The pressure that will be applied will be applied by the kind of men who tend to live in the D.C. area, which is rarely a good thing. Winston Churchill once complained about a gentleman that he knew, comparing him to a seat cushion. He said that he always bore the imprint of the last person who had sat on him. It may well be that if Romney is elected, he will get enough conservative pressure to move him in a decent direction. That may well happen, which would mean that I would be wrong about all this. While hoping that might happen, I just don't think it is worth betting on.
 Brian Mattson has responded to Wilson's piece over at his site Dead Reckoning.  Mattson is associated with Andrew Sandlin and the Center for Cultural Leadership.  Here is a selection from Mattson:
First, note very carefully that there is nothing (and I mean NOTHING) principled about this view. Doug likes to cast his political views in principled terms, such as his swipe at the end about American civil religion, but, nevertheless, there is no principle in this piece. Both candidates articulate a vague American civil religion, as did both candidates in 2008. And Doug voted for one of them. So much for that. No, the opinions expressed in this piece are pure pragmatism. Based on the "ends" or "goods" he perceives in the future (damage leading to a "liberty revolt"), he supports what he believes are the best means to achieve that end: Barack Obama rather than Mitt Romney.
And it is those means that are the problematic part. It sounds all fine and dandy in the abstract to wish left-wing economic and moral destruction of our culture in the hopes that people come to their senses. But abstractions are just that: abstractions. What is blithely ignored in Doug's analysis is that his plan involves real suffering. Real economic stagnation and/or collapse. Real houses under water. Real 401(k) accounts depleted. Real babies aborted. Real medical death panels. Real Supreme Court appointments. Real Iranian nukes. Real race and class divisions and conflict. Doug's plan does not involve disembodied, abstract, gnostic "principles," but flesh-and-blood realities. And so let's recast his position as clearly as possible:
Rather than take the chance that Mitt Romney just might move our culture in the right direction (Doug's "count me out"), Doug Wilson would rather have real people really suffer in order to achieve his desired ends. What's a little "creative destruction" of real people and real wealth to achieve a desired political end? Forgive me if this strikes me as extraordinarily glib and misanthropic. It is frankly immoral to wish catastrophe on people in pursuit of one's agenda. That is a progressive, left-wing, "greater good" sentiment. Rather ironic to see it in the mouth of Doug Wilson.
I'm sure more voices will enter the mix regarding this topic.  But for now, Wilson and Mattson's pieces are worth reading and comparing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Imitating Christ

Philippians 2-6-11 is one of those "mountain range" passages.  It reaches majestic heights and even when we have been awhile in the foothills the highest peaks seem ever lofty.  Here is the One--fully man and fully God--in his humiliation and in his exaltation.  The passage has all sorts of Christological implications and yet this is not Paul's main point--as if he thought he needed to express some systematic theological insights from "out of the blue."  The context is on the congregation and its unity for the sake of the gospel.  Philippians 2.5 states, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" and then comes the classic passage of verses 6-11.  Christ is being set forth as a model for congregational living.  Some commentators and theologians grow nervous about this but Gordon Fee has some appropriate comments to ease the nervousness.
That Christ serves for us as a paradigm for Christian life is not, as some fear, a betrayal of Paul's gospel.  On the contrary, it reinforces a significant aspect of his gospel, namely that there is no genuine life in Christ that is not at the same time, by the power of the Holy Spirit, being regularly transformed into the likeness of Christ.  A gospel of grace, which omits obedience, is not Pauline in any sense; obedience, after all, is precisely the point made in the application that follows (v. 12).  To be sure, the indicative must precede the imperative, or all is lost; but it does not eliminate the imperative, or all is likewise lost.   
    Gordon Fee Paul's Letter to the Philippians (NICNT), p. 272.
That last line is utter brilliance!   Holding the indicatives of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus and the imperatives of obedience--holding these in the proper relationship is crucial.  Fee, in one line, nicely captures some of the important relationship between them.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Letter to the Editor on Planned Parenthood and NOW

A local newspaper, The Glendale Star, recently published my "letter to the editor" in their March 29, 2012 edition.  Here's my letter:
"A recent front page article (March 15, 2012) contained a story about those protesting against Congressman Trent Franks’ bill he sponsored regarding fetal pain (H.R. 3803/S. 2103).  Planned Parenthood and National Organization for Women (NOW) were there to protest and, as is typical, engaged in the usual linguistic obfuscation.  One of the NOW representatives is quoted as saying, “Franks should find something better to do than stomp on the women of D.C.”  Another person is quoted as using the language of “wage a war on women.”  These comments betray a lack of insight into the legislation and, perhaps, an intentional misdirection of thinking.  How is it that legislation that seeks to protect human life in the womb is caricatured as “stomping” on women?  Is it really a “war on women” for elected officials to take an interest in human life—human life that is capable of feeling pain?  Even the overly latitudinarian Roe v. Wade acknowledged the state’s interest in life in the womb “for the stage subsequent to viability.”  Furthermore, I thought the mantra in support of abortion rights was, “Safe, legal, and rare.”  Why should there be a problem or protest if politicians seek legislation that helps make late term abortions rare?  The protesting and rhetoric of Planned Parenthood and NOW against common sense, life affirming legislation is an indicator of hypocrisy.  As more light is shone on the reality of human life in the womb the more shrill and extreme do the statements by Planned Parenthood and NOW become in comparison.  The pain that children in the womb can and do experience is seen to be nothing by these organizations.  All that matters, it seems, for these groups is that there be no restrictions whatsoever to stand in the way of sacrificing human life on the altar of whim and convenience."