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7.30.2007    |    Changing Venue
This blog is now published at Wordpress. You will be automatically directed there after a few seconds, or you may click http://johnluke.wordpress.com.

Thanks for dropping by.
7.29.2007    |    "chemical in essence"
"The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems" is the title of a report from the National Research Council, and, as written up in today's WaPo Outlook section, in a lively article by Joel Achenbach, we are told this grim truth about life as we know it:
"It is chemical in essence," the report says of life, a statement that is both bland and mind-boggling. Life, you'd think, would be more than just chemicals interacting. Surely it would require some kind of special juice, energy, force. But no: Vitalism is a theory that died out a long time ago. It's just organic chemistry. It's just reactions involving polymers, covalent bonds, catalysts, solvents, nucleophiles, electrophiles.
This is more than a little sad: it completely ignores the notion that there might be something extra, call it a divine spark, perhaps. Of course, I do not take Mr. Achenbach to task for not delving into how God figures in all of this. That would be inappropriate for an officially atheistic paper. Heck, they even have atheists write the "on faith" sections...

Sorry, couldn't resist. Just that those who write on faith for the Washington Post seem to think that any religion is good, as long as it doesn't entail believing that nasty smiting and damnation one may find in the Bible. But, I digress. Now the article in question doesn't rule God out as the designer of those biological and chemical processes.

But it's where I start. If there are other life forms in the universe, and I'm reasonably sure there are, given its vastness, who do we think might have created them? I'm also reasonably sure that it is God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, acting outside of space and time and for reasons we can not yet understand.

God is the Eternal Chemist, so to speak. That carbon and water are such a nifty building blocks is not an accident. Not by any stretch of the imagination. So, is God content to just be a chemist? Hardly. We have life, as do many, many other organisms. We, meaning homo sapiens sapiens here on Earth, have been granted something special that goes well beyond chemistry and biology: the ability to worship God, to love Him, and, as best we can, to do His will.

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7.27.2007    |    Big Love
Have you seen the HBO original series, "Big Love?" If not, you're missing something. This is likely the show that Mormons, most especially Mormons running for national office, would prefer to disappear down the memory hole.

The show's premise? An ostensibly normal and successful businessman, Bill Henrickson (played superbly by Bill Paxton), attempts to balance his polygamous life with the demands of his community that he at least give lip service to not committing bigamy.

Bill fails at this task, and the dramatic tension among and between his three "sister wives" makes the show worth watching. Not to mention Bill's dealings with a cult-like compound of polygamists headed by a seriously power-mad creature named Roman Grant (played, also superbly, by Harry Dean Stanton).

So, why would this show be the show that Mitt Romney loves to hate? Simple. Because it shows how thin the veneer is between Mormons who sign on, in public, to be monogamous. In private, the sense is, hey, we're Mormons. We can have more than one wife -- it's biblical, you know. As in, the Hebrew prophets had multiple wives, didn't they?

Well, Mormons (or anyone else for that matter) may believe anything they want, but that does not make it so. Or moral. Why one wife, if there is clear evidence that ancient Israelites had multiple wives? Two things.

One, we are not living in the Near East of three thousand years ago. Different time and place; different cultural norms. Two, most important, Genesis, chapter 2. God created a woman, that's a, as in one, woman, Eve, to be Adam's wife:
2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
This is clearly the template for humanity; one man, one woman, with a charge, in Genesis 1:28, to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth."

Is this an oversimplification of God's plan? Perhaps. But God's power is made manifest in the first two chapters of Genesis. It's creation, after all...and I have to assume that if God intended us to have more than one wife, He'd have made some mention of this to Adam.

That Mormons, and Muslims, and others, don't adhere to this basic tenet is no reason to ignore what appears to be God's clear direction to us: one man; one woman. Complementing each other, both needed to fulfill God's plan for us. My close reading of Genesis reveals nothing as to whether God, somehow, believes men should dominate women. Or vice versa.

And, common sense dictates that when a man has more than one wife, they're all going to be short-changed. Treated, in a word, as inferiors. Polygamy is, simply, wrong. It denies the equality of men and women. Not that we are the same. That we are equal in human dignity in the eyes of God.

For mere men to make rules that denigrates the dignity of women is, also, simply wrong. In the case of having more than one wife, since it violates God's first template for our kind, it is also properly called an abomination.

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7.26.2007    |    Pio XII
Pope Pius XIIOne of the most difficult subjects for any Christian, or any Jew for that matter, is the role of the Roman Catholic Church during the Holocaust. After the deed was done, after six million were killed, one may find a full spectrum of belief as to what the Church, and the pope during that time, Pius XII, did, and did not do.

Nothing brings out the apologists for the Church so much as a new, comprehensive study, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945, written by a survivor, Saul Friedlander. Among other things in this work, Pope Pio XII comes in for some rough treatment in the form of truth-telling.

Unfortunately, this ground has been trod before, by some with anti-Catholic agendas. As contrasted with truly objective historians, who seem to be rara avis. So it's difficult for the amateur to know with much certitude when agendas are being spun, as against when the news just simply isn't good.

I'm not a Pius XII basher; for one thing, I can't imagine the stresses this man must have been under as the wartime pope. On the other hand, I do know that Christ's vicar should have, and could have, done much, much more to place the Roman Church on the side of human rights. But did not.

One may turn to Catholic sources to get extraordinary apologia of that for which there is no excuse. A case in point is the lengthy critique of Mr. Friedlander's work at First Things.

Reading this defense of the indefensible, one may learn, yet again, how Pius made speeches that angered the Germans, how he personally was a warm and lovable sort, how he helped save the Jews of Rome. But here's the bottom line: the Church did not put its full weight and majesty against the Germans in their Final Solution.

The Church retained its regal palaces and billions of dollars in property and fine, jeweled vestments. The Church had its heroes; priests who defied the Germans and who died as martyrs. Jesus Christ would have expected no less, than that those who claim to be His intermediaries on Earth act as He did, and sacrifice so that our brothers and sisters might live.

As for what the self-annointed "Christ's Vicar" might have done but did not? Excommunicate all Catholics who participated in the Final Solution. Withdraw any and all papal sanction given to any part of the German or other national Catholic churches whose officials did anything less than join the resistance. Provide all support possible to the Allies, including espionage.

Just a few examples of what the Pope did not do, except in the most limited (and safe from from reprisal by the Germans) fashion. There is one example, in particular, that stands to damn Pope Pius XII by way of contrast: Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer did what any Christian must do: stand up for the Jews, from whom came salvation in the form of Jesus Christ. Pius, put in its most simple terms, did not.

God will deal (has dealt?) with Pope Pius XII, and it is well beyond my reach to claim that I know that he's in hell or in heaven. But know this: As a Jew, I know the Roman Church pretty much sat on its wealth and did not use its very real power to save my people. For this I will be very, very skeptical of claims to the contrary. So far, they ring hollow, sort of like a criminal who pleads "guilty with an explanation."

This is shameful for an organization that claims to be Christ's body in this world.

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7.24.2007    |    narcissism
One of the diseases afflicting the Christian church generally is alive and well in the Roman Church. The target is the hymnal, Glory and Praise, which is raked over the coals in this posting at Mere Comments. Here's the litany of complaint:
-- the neutering of old masculine language about mankind and even God
-- the heedless fouling up of the old poetry, to update a "thou" and a "thee"
-- the seizing of every chance to talk about dancing (not to be found in the New Testament, I suspect, unless it's Salome) and about the motherhood of God"
-- in general, the louche emphasis upon feelings, not repentance, but soft and syrupy feelings
-- the blithe arrogation of God's words to ourselves, speaking in the first person
-- the arrogation of God's grace and majesty to ourselves: "We are the Bread, we are the Body"
-- the celebration of our own wonderfulness, and the decrying of sin -- that is, other people's sins
-- the abandonment of traditional liturgical forms, traditional poetry and song -- all relegated to the status of the "old fashioned," for trotting out, like Grandmama's silver, at certain feasts, and that's it
-- the passing along of counterfeit "folk" music, actually performance music, like "Do You Remember the Kind of September," only not nearly as good
-- the mincing baby-talk in the verses, along with a bogus primitivism, a la the Indians in Hollywood: "You are child of the universe."
Note, especially, that heretical "we are the Bread, we are the Body." As in Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. We are most certainly not "the Bread." Nor are we "the Body." This kind of sloppy thinking, of celebrating sinners who pretend to be The Christ, is sickening.

Yes, there is that of God in each of us; the Inner Light, if one prefers Quaker testimony. And, of course, we are each of us made in God's image. But, brothers and sisters, let us never confuse our sinful selves with He who is without stain.

In the words from the Mere Comments posting, "It's narcissism, all of it."

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7.23.2007    |    Hope for Islam
There is an essay in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section that gives some hope for a better, more tolerant future for Islam. It is "Losing My Jihadism" by Mansour al-Nogaidan, a Saudi native.

The essence of his charge to his co-religionists? Reinterpret the Koran; learn to live in peace with others. From the essay:
Muslims are too rigid in our adherence to old, literal interpretations of the Koran. It's time for many verses -- especially those having to do with relations between Islam and other religions -- to be reinterpreted in favor of a more modern Islam. It's time to accept that God loves the faithful of all religions. It's time for Muslims to question our leaders and their strict teachings, to reach our own understanding of the prophet's words and to call for a bold renewal of our faith as a faith of goodwill, of peace and of light.
The author is looking for an Islamic Martin Luther, which perhaps shows he hasn't truly thought this through. Luther's central theme wasn't that the Roman Catholic Church was theologically wrong, but that it was corrupt. Perhaps a better analogy would be for Islam to seek its own John Calvin, perhaps the single most influential Protestant theologian in history.

In a very few words, the true reformation wasn't merely denying the Pope's authority as the "first among equals" Bishop of Rome. The true reformation was in redefining salvation in terms of sola fide. This is what was radical, and it was based on a thorough reconsideration of Scripture. This is what Islam appears to need.

Regardless, kudos to Mr. al-Nogaidan. He is a brave man, and while his hope for an Islamic reformation may be faint and wan in its chances for success, there is hope. And that's always a good thing.

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7.22.2007    |    a right to be wrong
Rod Dreher has written an essay which should be read by anyone who is offended by Pope Benedict's statement earlier this month (MSNBC story here). That statement reaffirmed ancient Roman Catholic teaching: that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true and complete Christian church.

Dreher's central thesis? It's far better for denominations to make forthright truth claims while still respecting the rights of others, rather than going along with the current "I'm OK, you're OK" pap that passes for ecumenicism. Or, in sound-bite terms, "people have a right to be wrong about God." From his essay:
Good relations among believers must be built, but only on a foundation of honesty. It does not follow that acknowledging theological differences – particularly the exclusive correctness of one church or religion – therefore requires a program enacting political or social superiority. In fact, the Second Vatican Council proclaimed that religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Acknowledging that people have a right to be wrong about God is a moral breakthrough for humanity, an idea that should be spread.
This is both powerful, and a little troubling. If I am wrong about what God expects of me on this earth, am I not in danger of eternal damnation? My gut reaction is, "yes, I am." And therein lies the problems of this two-edged sword.

On the one side, we must accept that human beings have free will, and will choose how, or even if, to worship God (ignoring, for the moment, some elements of Calvinism dealing with God's predestination of who, precisely, among us shall use their free will to choose correctly).

On the other side, we are all sinners, and often use our free will wrongly. What's wrong with a church making exclusive truth claims? Doesn't this help us to decide? It certainly can, and, with Rod Dreher, I respect a man, or a church, that stands up and forthrightly tells us what he or it believes to be true.

With the Catholic Church, however, its triumphalism has to be measured against its past, during which the same claim was made. And during which many, many "heretics" were tortured, punished, and put to death for the alleged sin of disbelief. Sorry, Benedict. We've heard this song before, and I won't dance to it.

Now, I don't believe that Benedict, or most other leaders of the Roman Church would bring back those bad old days. And I can't make any statement about whether a Catholic will be damned for his beliefs. Some things are just beyond a mortal man's reach.

So I won't repeat the error of the Catholic church's triumphalism. Let me just say that my statement to the Pope must be, "thanks for the tip, il papa, but I think I'll just go my own Protestant way."

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7.20.2007    |    "atheistic theology posing as science"
The best man running for president? Got to be Senator Sam Brownback, a man who lives his Christian faith in the public square, without apology.

Part of this has included going into the lion's den of the secular-humanist media and explaining his stance on evolution in an op-ed in the New York Times. Evolution, which, somewhat akin now to global warming, is treated as an article of faith by the secular crowd. Which is why one will see the locution, "belief in evolution."

In Sam Brownback's words:
The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.
The senator is hardly anti-science, and, despite the lack of charity among some in the ranks of secular humanists (e.g. Richard Dawkins), is hardly a knuckle-dragging troglodyte seeking to impose a fundamentalist Christian religion on America.

Sam Brownback concludes his essay on evolution with this:
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
Which illustrates the religion of the unbeliever. Religion, requiring its adherents to swear fealty to its dogmas, posing in the sheep's clothing of logic and science. But which can tolerate no views that may conflict with a God-less, random, universe.

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7.19.2007    |    The glory of God
The object in the photo, taken by the Hubble orbiting telescope, is the Sombrero Galaxy.

This is a rather large object, and it's a bit of a haul from Earth. The basics from the Hubble website:
The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth.
The numbers are staggering. 800 billion suns; light itself takes longer to traverse the Sombrero than ten times the span of years since humans have been able to record their history.

And yet God, the very same God who gave us his son, has also given us untold billions of suns, in a universe that we have only just begun to sense, akin to a bather sticking just a toe in the ocean to test the temperature.

It all attests to the glory that is God; His creation, of which we are honored to be a small part.
7.18.2007    |    Orthodox study "Bible"
I am a big fan of study bibles; they're a necessary complement to anyone who wishes to delve into Scripture. My personal favorite is the Reformation Study Bible, edited by R.C. Sproul. This study bible uses the English Standard Version, which has become my favorite word-for-word translation.

Not that the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, using the NIV thought-for-thought translation and edited by Richard Pratt, is not also worthy. In fact, I'd recommend any serious student to have both, simply to gain the breadth of seeing particular verses in both an accurate word-for-word version (ESV), and in perhaps the best thought-for-thought version (NIV).

Now comes a study bible down the pike that will not darken my bookshelf -- ever. It is the so called Orthodox Study Bible, which was apparently rushed into print, since they seem to have left out some rather important parts of Scripture. Specifically, this study "bible" has only the Psalms and the New Testament.

Where to begin? Let's start with the fact that Jesus' ministry on earth, the incarnation of God, was based on the Hebrew Scriptures. That the creation, the Fall of Man, the entire notion of God's selection of His people and the coming of the Messiah simply can not be understood without the Hebrew Scriptures.

The best interpretation a Protestant can have? These folks were more concerned with publishing quickly than with fidelity to God's word. This appears all too typical of some denominations; a failure to appreciate the Jewish roots of their faith. Roots best expressed in and by Scripture.

All of it. This is not optional, people.

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7.17.2007    |    Conformity
Something that we must keep in mind whenever someone suggests doing something to make our church services more "relevant" or "youth-oriented." Or whatever seems to be the flavor of the month.

It's very simple: there are eternal truths. There is one very large eternal Truth, with a capital "T" -- Jesus Christ is Lord, and he has overcome the world (John 16:33). He has overcome the world, so that we don't have to.

But we must live in the world. While we do, here is some time-tested, nay, eternal advice from Paul in his letter to the church at Rome. Romans 12:2:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The world has many temptations; it's oh so easy to succumb. I have, and do. Just that, now I feel guilty.

Guilt is only a start, brothers and sisters. With God's help, guilt, not useful by itself, can lead to renewal: stopping the sins before they are even born. How to keep on that path towards renewal?

Let's all take the a advice that God gave to Joshua, when Joshua, a mere youth, was instructed to take on the mantle that had been Moses'. Joshua 1-9:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
Remember this whenever you are tempted by the world, or believe yourself too weak to withstand the temptations.

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7.16.2007    |    Necessary and sufficient
"Necessary and sufficient" is the usual standard of proof for an hypothesis. What about the hypothesis that religion is a good thing? Well, this is a little tougher, as any proof depends on faith: belief in things that simply can't be proven.

However, I make the case that the Jewish and Christian religions are, at their core, good. They are better than good. They ennoble us. Here is my statement of necessity and sufficiency for this hypothesis, from Genesis chapter 1:
27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
It doesn't get much better than this: being made in the image of God, who is good, merciful, slow to anger, and, as we know from Scripture, able to forgive for the most heinous of sins.

Exactly what "his own image" might actually mean is the subject of much debate, and has yet to be established with precision. We do know, however, the basics from Scripture. Do we live up to this great and good image? Not so much. Suffice to say that the evidence on the ground is that we humans are notorious for doing evil things to one another.

And this is precisely when we are not in "his own image."

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7.15.2007    |    A little C.S. Lewis
"Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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   |    "immoral teachings"
It is amusing, in a sad sort of way, how committed atheists will trot out every chestnut in the long list of immoral acts done in the name of religion. But, like making a hobo's stew, everything, and I mean everything, gets thrown in the pot without regard to relevance to the task at hand.

Case in point is one of the best of the atheist class, Christopher Hitchens, writing a response to a challenge by Michael Gerson.

Now, Hitchens' laundry list of sins allegedly based on faith:
Those of us who disbelieve in the heavenly dictatorship also reject many of its immoral teachings, which have at different times included the slaughter of other "tribes," the enslavement of the survivors, the mutilation of the genitalia of children, the burning of witches, the condemnation of sexual "deviants" and the eating of certain foods, the opposition to innovations in science and medicine, the mad doctrine of predestination, the deranged accusation against all Jews of the crime of "deicide," the absurdity of "Limbo," the horror of suicide-bombing and jihad, and the ethically dubious notion of vicarious redemption by human sacrifice.
Isn't that cute? "Heavenly dictatorship." Ah, it's so hard to obey those pesky and arbitrary rules. First, the softballs. Islam and it's strictures are, to be blunt, not based on anything God had anything to do with. Totally man-made, and therefore, sinful. Different wording? Allah is not God; he is a twisted murdering phantasm conjured up by a marauding band in the desert.

If, by "mutilation of the genitalia of children" Hitchens means circumcision, well, let's just say that this has been proven to have health benefits. God might have been on to something on this one.

The "mad doctrine of predestination" is an interesting accusation, but just look about and see all the evil in this world. Yes, in theory we may, each of us, no matter how sinful, may be saved by the unearned, free grace of God. But the evidence of predestination, of the apparent fact that God has chosen those few who will be saved, is both predicted and supported by Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14):
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
God, being all powerful, certainly could cause all of us to pass through that small gate on the narrow road to salvation. Therefore, I've concluded that predestination, whereby God has selected who shall be saved, makes perfect sense. Your results may vary, as the commercials say, but for us Calvinist-leaning folks, this works.

As for "limbo" and "deicide" he's spot on. The church qua church is imperfect, and has spun a web of dogmas and doctrines and rules that have little benefit. The church has many sins to atone for, not least of these being pride.

The suppression of scientific inquiry? This is, at the least, a mixed bag. Who does Hitchens think was tending the fires of science and technology for 1500 years? Finally, Hitchens mentions that great "stumbling block:" the "human sacrifice," by which one assumes he means Jesus dying on the cross in expiation of our sins.

This is difficult, but Jesus was God's only son; His incarnation on earth, sent for precisely that purpose. Human sacrifice is not part of Christianity. Never has been, never will be. Firstly, Jesus was fully God, and the sacrifice was God suffering on our behalf on the cross. It was not a "human" sacrifice, and it wasn't done to be a normative part of Christianity.

As for the other things, including dietary, sexual orientation, and the usual list of complaints by libertines that religion is just too confining: this is all in service of obedience to God. I can't explain kashrut in exhaustive detail, but I do know its actual basis: obedience. A lot of libertines have problems with obeying any external authority. The state, their parents, or...God.

Finally, as for "the slaughter of other 'tribes,' the enslavement of the survivors," let's just say that this was merely part of God's historical plan to establish Israel as His kingdom on earth. Once again, such actions have zero relevance to Christianity. We are told, in absolute terms, to love our enemies. Something which those who claim to be Christian violate all the time, of course...

It does come down to what one believes. If one is a believer, then Hitchens thesis is so much gas. If one is not, then it makes perfect sense. In conclusion, I'd like to knock one out of the metaphorical park. Hitchens' "challenge:"
Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.
Standing in for Gerson, here goes, from Matthew 5:
38"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
This is sufficient for me, though I make no claim as to living as Jesus instructs me to do. But that's not the fault of my religion; that's on me, and me alone.

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7.09.2007    |    A step backwards
First, a disclaimer: I love Pope Benedict. As a fellow Christian, and as a learned theologian. But I'm afraid he has taken a giant step backwards for the Roman Church in re-authorizing the Tridentine Mass.

What's wrong with Latin? Nothing, as a language, although it's got far too many verb forms... But why this fixation by so-called traditional Catholics on the Latin Mass? The usual answer, were they truthful, is that it's what they grew up with, or what their parents or grandparents grew up with.

Latin is not a language that Jesus or any of the Apostles or disciples would likely have chosen: that would have been, most likely, Aramaic, with gentiles probably native speakers of Greek.

The Last Supper, which is the prototype for the Mass, would certainly not have been in Latin. So, a traditionalist should insist on Aramaic? Don't hold your breath. My point is that the Latin Mass, like so much else in Catholicism, is man-made, an artificiality.

When I was growing up in the Bronx, the fact that the Mass was totally in Latin hindered my Catholic friends from ever understanding Scripture. The Latin Mass, which I've attended more than a few times, can be beautiful, and moving: if one bothers to study the English translation and meditate on the Scriptural basis for the Mass.

The Roman Church may do as it pleases, of course. I just wish they had not taken what appears to be a step away from spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. As against the "gospel" of a papal hierarchy that issues commands to the faithful.

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7.07.2007    |    Legalism and eternity
Just thinking about a book that probably doesn't get read much by most Christians: Leviticus. This is the "how to" manual for priests, of the tribe of Levi. Details, details; it's all in the details.

Leviticus also, of course, contains much wisdom for how we should organize our societies and what is good in the eyes of the Lord, and what is not good. Or, in the text, an "abomination" unto the Lord. Most of us simply don't bother with Leviticus, and when it comes to morality, we prefer to take it directly from the Gospels or Paul's letters.

But from whence do we think Jesus got his standards? Or, for that matter, Paul? There's only one source; it is the word of God, as given to Moses at Sinai, and in the incarnation of the Word, Jesus Christ. This is what is eternal -- the Word of God: Book and Savior.

True, Jesus simplified matters, telling us that we should not let legalisms deny meeting the second great commandment of loving our neighbor. But in no way shape or form did Jesus excuse us from meeting God's commandments. This raises another problem. One may hear, in many if not most churches, that Leviticus was fine for the ancient Israelites, living in the Near East of 3,500 or so years ago. Those rules just can't apply to our modern, post-Enlightenment society.

True, there's no longer temple worship, and the details of a priest's ephod, or, for that matter, specifications of the ark of the Lord, don't seem to have much relevance for the problems we face today.

What is eternal is the singular precept expressed by Jesus in the first great commandment. From Mark 12:30:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
The eternal nature of this commandment should be self-evident: it was true in the beginning; it was true for the Israelites at the time of Sinai; it is true for us.

From perhaps the greatest preacher of all times, C.H. Spurgeon, some words on this most important commandment:
Our Saviour said, "This is the first and great commandment." It is "the first" commandment—the first for antiquity, for this is older than even the ten commandments of the written law. Before God said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal," this law was one of the commands of his universe; for this was binding upon the angels when man was not created.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be. God is eternal; His Word likewise. What changes is only our limited perception of that word. And what we fail sometimes to acknowledge is that the Lord knows how to communicate with His audience; hence the form may change.

But never the substance.

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7.04.2007    |    Let your words be few
This is always good advice; advice that I sometimes don't heed. From the Preacher, as recorded in Ecclesiastes chapter 5:
1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words.
It's clear what God expects of us; it is a theme that is repeated over and over by the prophets, and by our Lord, who expressed the same concept in Matthew 5:37:
Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.
This isn't just a rule for right living; it is what God expects of us. It is among the lessons we take from Scripture, which our faith must encourage us to take to heart.

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7.01.2007    |    "Allah, Allah"
Ahh, the ever-present battle cry of those who wish us dead. This is what one of the Muslim terrorists was screaming as he was in the SUV that two terrorists attempted to ram into Glasgow airport.

It appears they, and the plotters of the failed car bombs in London, are all Paki Muslims. All of which may lead apologists for terror to sell, like the rancid snake oil it is, the notion that Britain's terror is "home grown."

Much is made, far too much, actually, of whether Muslim terrorists are citizens of the country they attempt to terrorize. Why is their citizenship is a total irrelevancy? For two reasons.

First and most important, what motivates these acts of terrorism is the religious faith of the terrorists. The god of Islam, Allah, is, truly, a god of vengeance and death. It is not very difficult for those who would be terrorists to find justification in their holy book, so it remains an open question as to whether terrorists have "hijacked" Islam. Perhaps it is those who advocate peaceful coexistence who have done so. If so, Godspeed, mates. You've a long battle ahead.

The second reason why it is irrelevant is that these terrorist, citizens or not, have not adapted to the essentials of a free society: freedom of conscience; tolerance of those who are different. What this must mean to those who are citizens is to live in peace among their neighbors, however different those neighbors may be.

In short, if someone is technically a citizen but does not live in peace for the precise reason that the larger society is not Muslim, then one forfeits their citizenship. And should have zero claim to being "homegrown."

This being said, it is useful to know that there is a threat within Britain, and that, largely, it is in the form of former colonials exacting their revenge. It's apparent that Britain is a nest of muddle-headed political correctness, manifested by idiocies like checking in with the the local Muslim councils before carrying out searches.

Muslims, qua Muslims, are the threat. Unless and until the Muslim community actually polices itself, both in the U.K. and elsewhere, we must keep a sharp eye on their centers of sedition, especially mosques and Islamic centers.

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6.29.2007    |    Well, guess we'll throw Jesus out
I'm a Baptist; not the best Baptist, perhaps not even a good Baptist. But I do read my Scripture, and take to heart what I read. And have little regard for those who try to enforce their notions of Christian rectitude on the rest of us.

A case in point is this attempt by the Missouri Baptist Convention to bring back Prohibition. Carrie Nation is tanned, rested, and ready... From Christianity Today, the basics:
Church planters who receive money from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) must now teach alcohol abstinence.
Well, as the saying goes, in nonessential things we must have Christian liberty. I see no such liberty here, and since I've yet to find a place in Scripture that forbids the consumption of alcohol, it's hard to understand what would make my Baptist brethren in Missouri demand abstinence.

The first thing that came to my mind was that Jesus would almost certainly have run afoul of MBC. That wine-guzzling carpenter's son went about imbibing with all manner of low-class peasants and tax collectors. Why, that man even encouraged others to drink by facilitating their imbibing. I'm shocked, I say, shocked. From the Gospel of John, chapter 2:
1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
A little gospel goes a long way, and it appears that certain folks in the MBC may claim to believe in Jesus, but, somehow, don't trust the Gospel message that there is a season for all things. Including wine.

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6.28.2007    |    Rescue me
President Bush, throwing good money after bad, has now pandered to the very people who only wish us to convert or die. In a speech before the Islamic Center in Washington, he promised to, among other things, appoint a superfluous envoy to the Jew- and Christian-hating Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The envoy's purpose? To listen and learn. All about how there's really only a few hard cases in Islam; the vast majority are "moderate" and have had their faith "hijacked" by the hard cases. Except, perhaps, when you have Muslim leaders spew before this group, and remind us exactly what Islam is about: converting, or killing, or otherwise subduing, those who would be free.

Is anyone really believing this nonsense that Bush is putting forth? Survey after survey shows large support for jihad among Muslims; survey after survey shows that even among Muslims who live here in the West in freedom and prosperity, fully one-fourth support suicide bombing against innocents.

Overseas, majorities find nothing wrong with Osama bin Laden's approach to jihad. An envoy to the Islamic group is a waste of airfare and U.S. tax dollars. If all he is going to do is "listen" and "learn," read MEMRI translations of sermons in mosques; read state-sponsored hatred, in the mode of Nazi propaganda (in style and substance), that spews with state support within places that Bush thinks of as being our "friends."

But Mr. Bush plows on, bravely, saying "We must help millions of Muslims as they rescue a proud and historic religion from murderers and beheaders who seek to soil the name of Islam." Newsflash: Muhammad, the Prophet, started out in the desert murdering and beheading. His followers continued in this noble tradition, over the centuries. It seems that today's murderers and beheaders are simply honoring their roots.

Islam can't be rescued from its heritage of violence. It is a religion of violence, or conversion at the point of a sword. One might as well attempt to rescue a circle by calling it a square.

The bottom line: rescue me from those who have such a rosy view of Islam, who willfully ignore over a thousand years of bloody history. Who pretend that Islam is a "religion of peace." We need a leader who doesn't have insidious ties to the Saudis; we need a leader who also will not stand before us an tell us that Islam is not what it patently is: a religion of murderers and beheaders.

There is a religion of peace. It is called Christianity. Our Savior set the standard of loving our enemies; something Islam would do well to emulate. Now.

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6.27.2007    |    Protestants
Cox and Forkum
In the basic meaning of the word, of course. Christian Protestants, although initially protesting the abuses of the Roman Church, are nonetheless the very antithesis of Muslim protestants. Protestants, of the Christian persuasion, have free will and freedom of conscience at the very heart of our faith.

We Baptists (and many others) call this religious liberty, and it is as foreign from Islam as is eating a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

As the Cox and Forkum cartoon illustrates, with deadly accuracy, Islam is only a religion of peace if one simply tiptoes around it, not uttering a single word of criticism. Any criticism; even looking crosseyed at an imam can get you a death fatwa, or so it seems.

Is this all there is to Islam? Are there not reformers, so-called moderates, who simply want to live in peace with their infidel neighbors? It does not appear likely.

Having just seen "Muslims against Jihad," I remain unconvinced that "moderate" Muslims want anything different than their jihadi brothers. The film, banned by PBS as apparently being too critical of Islam, simply reinforced the facts on the ground: Islam is a religion of intolerance, of violence, of jihad.

What I believe is that all Muslims want their faith to become universal, with all of us infidels either converted or submitting to Islam. So-called "moderates" merely differ as to the means by which they think will work.

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6.25.2007    |    Idolatry in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The image shows pilgrims on a trek up to "Apparition Hill" outside Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina. What brings them, and why are they worshipping a statue of Mary?

From a front page article in today's secularist Washington Post, the basics:
People have been coming to this rocky slope since June 24, 1981, when six children said the Virgin Mary appeared to them here. The crowds have grown so rapidly that an estimated 1 million people will visit this year, part of a global surge in spiritual travel.
The WaPo article deals not just with these Catholic pilgrims, but with those of other faiths to other holy sites. Well, color me skeptical.

As Christians, we are to look to Mary as the best example of motherhood, and one of the best examples of taking God at His word, when the societal consequences could have meant her very life. But to make a pilgrimage because some children thought they saw an apparition of Mary? I don't think so.

This is in the same category as worshiping a bone from some saint. To kneel before a statue of Mary, who was a wonderful woman, but not a deity, well, there's a proper name for this: idolatry.

I'm not Catholic-bashing; used to be one, and I still love the Church. But I never, ever, accepted this cheap piety of bowing before a plaster statue. Catholics, including myself, bow before the Real Presence of our Lord in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. That's a manifestation of God's only Son, equally God, before whom every knee shall bow.

But a statue of Mary? No.

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6.24.2007    |    "Have You Prayed for bin Laden Today?"
One Brother Andrew is a piece of work, when he challenges Christians to forgive Muslim terrorists, for the stated reason "We forgive you Muslims because Jesus forgave us." This interesting take on forgiveness may be found at Christianity Today. Andrew appears to be one whose got dhimmitude down to a science. In English we might call this appeasement.

Since Andrew invokes the name of our Savior in his confusion, it is mighty, mighty offensive. His chief offense is ignoring that Jesus, with God from the beginning, is very much part and parcel of the "God of revenge" -- a straw man (straw god?) who never, ever existed in either the Old or New Testaments.

God is God is Jesus is the Holy Spirit: Three in One. God never takes "revenge." He does cause death and destruction to rain on those who deny Him; to further salvation History through Israel. Just ask the Egyptians under Pharaoh or the late citizens of Ai.

God also will judge, and judge harshly, those who reject Him, and who persist in their sins. Likewise Jesus has also promised to return in glory, and, as the creedal statement goes, "judge the living and the dead." And this is where this Andrew fella forgets a basic Gospel lesson: Jesus will, indeed, forgive us, "seventy times seven" if we repent of our sins.

If we repent of our sins; and this is where Muslims who promise death and destruction to the Jews or other "infidels" will fail to achieve God's forgiveness -- if they do not repent of their sin of killing innocents. A little Gospel message to assert the rock solid truth of this? It's the story of the adulterous woman about to be stoned to death. Jesus, of course, forgives the woman, but with one condition: "...and from now on sin no more" (John 8:11).

Andrew, and others who think that it's a one-way street with Jesus and the Father: all soft forgiveness, never mind the sin part. That's just sooo Old Testament...

It's no wonder that one of his terrorist hosts said to him, "Andrew, there will always be a place for Christians like you." Perhaps not where Brother Andrew might like, after he is called before the throne...

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6.23.2007    |    "reparations"
Sean Penn the IdiotarianChristian charity prevents me from writing the adjective that first came to mind when I read the following paragraph from, who else, an Episcopal priest:
My prescription for a way out, I freely admit, is based on policy considerations, not necessarily a moral compass. My sense is that the best -- or rather, the least-damaging -- course would be to initiate a gradual pullout of U.S. forces, to be replaced by an international force. The United States would be morally obligated, in my judgment, to finance these forces as well as to pay reparations to the people of Iraq. (emphasis added)
Now, this is not exactly surprising, had it come from a known Nutroots supporter of Dennis Kucinich (well, we can't rule out that this priest is one such...). But this particular bit of lefty wisdom was featured in the "On Faith" section of the WaPo.

The perspectives displayed at "On Faith" are usually, though not exclusively, from the liberal side of the faith spectrum. This one seems to have been crafted from the Sean Penn School for Idiotarians. The "school" was sent up by Trey Parker and Matt Stone as shown in the graphic; the Hollywood branch is the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.) and one of its underpinnings is that America is the source of all bad things.

The curious notion is that, after expending our blood and treasure to liberate Iraq from a genocidal dictator, we, somehow, owe the Iraqi people "reparations." This is allowing hatred of a failed American policy, if not actual hatred of America, to blind one to some truths.

The first truth is that we are not responsible for over a thousand years on enmity between Sunnis and Shiites, who are now busy as little beavers -- beavers with AK-47s and suicide bombers. The second truth is that we have invested billions of our tax dollars in repairing Iraq, in building roads, schools, hospitals, even mosques. The third truth is that Iraqis are now free to choose their own destiny, or will be after we leave. The fourth truth is that were we to leave today, Iraq would descend into an even bloodier chaos. Many, many more Muslims would die at the hands of their brother Muslims.

If any reparations are owed, it is to those families who have lost loved ones in defending a people, the Iraqis, who can't save themselves. This Episcopal priest is, shall we gently say, an idiot. And that's as gentle as I can be.

Last point: whether or not this priest is an idiot, one must wonder why something he admits is "based on policy considerations, not necessarily a moral compass" appears in the On Faith section. You don't suppose it reflects any bias on the part of the WaPo, do you?

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6.22.2007    |    a "Bonhoeffer moment"
Spirit of '76Jesuits are known as being protean, and conforming, chameleon-like, to whatever the current Roman Church hierarchy seems to expect. Or, of late, the opposite of what the Roman Church expects. Once called the Pope's Shock Troops, now, perhaps, they might be called the Popes Legal Beagles.

Here in the United States, Jesuits may be expected to be on the left side of the political spectrum, still supporting that old and discredited social gospel. The best exemplar is the Democrat's closest approach to having a group of churchmen in their corner: America magazine.

Please don't take this criticism as being too harsh (I believe it to be all-too accurate) or personal. At the personal level, I've known quite a few Jesuits, and remain impressed at the quality of their minds. It's just that they seem to almost always come down against the Church's hierarchy and virtually all the time against what I would call the evangelical point of view.

Now we come to one Jesuit writer in America Magazine who, whether this is his intent or not, likens the United States in the 21st century with...obvious lefty reference coming...Nazi Germany. Ouch; double ouch. That was predictable. It's all those flags, don't you see...

So, the question is whether this Jesuit can co-opt one of my evangelical heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by presuming that America under George Bush requires the brave churchman to stand up and declare "a Bonhoeffer moment." That is, in the abused lefty phrase, "speaking truth to power."

Consider this exposition from an essay titled "Honest Patriotism". In this, the question is asked, with apparent sincerity, as to whether the United States is facing a "Bonhoeffer moment." From the essay:
A second, post-9/11 memory still haunts me. It was May 2004. We were in the lecture hall of Manhattan’s Riverside Church and had just viewed Martin Doblmeier’s superb documentary film on the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A panel of us discussed the question: Are American Christians faced now with a "Bonhoeffer moment"? Does our faith now require us to defend our country’s democracy against its current government? The panel discussed the question pro and con, distinguishing and relating Germany in the thirties and America post-9/11. Then, as the meeting was about to close, a tall elderly man in the audience stood up and said, "I am a survivor of Auschwitz. I do not believe that the United States is yet at a Bonhoeffer moment. I believe that we are at 1932."
Well, apparently being a survivor of Auschwitz doesn't give one any clarity. It's also apparent that the Jesuit writer for America the Magazine does not know much about America the country.

The image in this post, one of my favorites, was displayed prominently in our public school in New York City. It dates from (about) 1880, and it came on the heels of the Centennial Celebration of our nation's independence. In fact, parades, and all sorts of other civic events were marked by the hundreds of yards of patriotic bunting and as many American flags as could be fit into the public square.

Good thing our Jesuit writer wasn't around for the Centennial. Had he complained about the "[f]loods of flags" that then "covered our land," he'd have likely been run out of town. Or worse.

We are not Nazis; we are not Germans. We are not Europeans. We are Americans. We love our flag as a symbol of our liberty, and if some Americans appear to commit idolatry in service of that flag, it isn't because they're about to start rounding up folks and sending them to some Auschwitz. And for those liberals who compare Gitmo to Auschwitz, well, you are either confused, stupid, or evil. Or some combination thereof.

I don't believe the Jesuit is either stupid or confused, and as for evil, the most I would suggest is that some folks simply let their prejudices get the better of their judgment. We are in no kind of "Bonhoeffer moment." It's just that good, old-fashioned American patriotism, of the exact same kind that was seen over a century ago, is hard for some post-modern, post-national folks.

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6.20.2007    |    the righteous and the wicked
Looking for a good, old school confession of faith? Consider the New Hampshire
Baptist Confession of 1833
. It's succinct; it's clear as a bell ringing out on a cold winter's morn.

Here's one of my favorite elements of that confession, and one which all too many well-meaning Christians, and most secular humanists, would gag on: the notion that we are, as Jesus told us, to be divided into sheep and goats, the righteous and the wicked.

From the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833:
We believe that there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked; that such only as through faith are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the Spirit of our God, are truly righteous in his esteem; while all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are in his sight wicked, and under the curse; and this distinction holds among men both in and after death.
Note that well: "a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked." And know well that neither the righteous or the wicked may get their justice here on this earth.

Rest assured, though: His will be done, and the righteous in Christ will be rewarded. Those who deny Christ and persecute His flock will see something a wee bit warmer...

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   |    God works in mysterious ways...or not
Not too long ago I received a well-intentioned email from a friend who is a devout Christian. It was one of those treacly things about how God is always watching over us, in matters small, and great.

The theme of this particular message was about individuals who might have died on 9/11/01 but for happenstance. Here's a sample of the things that prevented a small group of people from being in the wrong place at the wrong time:
...the head of a company survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an auto accident.
You get the gist. Just another day, with its random (or not) intersections of events. But this message concludes with this thought, that these events are not at all random:
Next time your morning seems to be going wrong, the children are slow getting dressed, you can't seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light, don't get mad or frustrated; God is at work watching over you.
Now that's nice work if you can get it: God at work "watching over you." This is a school of belief in some Christian circles. That God is a personal God, a kind of celestial butler, who takes care of your every need and keeps you out of harm's way. I suppose that it's a small leap from Buddy Christ to God the Butler.

This kind of piety makes me sick unto puking. Does anyone truly think that those who did not make their appointed rounds with death, by sheer happenstance, were any more worthy than the 3,000 or so that did die that heinous day? Well, the usual answer by the pious crowd is the unanswerable "God works in mysterious ways."

Look, I happen to believe that God exists, and that he is the alpha and the omega. As for everything in between the beginning and end, it is simply beyond reason to think that those who lived but should have died on 9/11 have some special purpose in God's plan. Or that those who died are, as well, simply filling their assigned roles in that plan. Assuming such a plan exists in the first place.

I believe that God's given us the keys to the place while the big guy is off on some cosmic beach doing his thing. The nine-dollar term for those keys? Free will. Those who died on 9/11 were killed by terrorists that we were unable to detect and stop in time.

It is always on us that anyone dies "before their time" (another holdover from a more pious age) of anything but old age. Crime victim? We, i.e. our society, did not catch the criminal in time. Malnutrition? We did not assure that all have sufficient food. Flood victims? Why do we allow idiots to build homes in flood plains, anyway? And the list is endless...

Those who lived through 9/11 by accident, as it were? Lucky. No cosmic plan. Am I certain? Not quite 100%; it is possible that God selected those whose schedules were disrupted, and who survived. Possible; in the same sense as it is possible that all the oxygen molecules in the room I am in could, through random motion, cluster in one corner while I suffocate to death.

This all gets perilously close to theodicy, an attempt to explain why a loving God allows any and all of these heinous things to happen. I don't have an authoritative answer, all I have is a theory: that God will always hear our prayers, and grant them. Just not in the way we might have thought was best for us.

God knows.

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6.19.2007    |    "unfavorable scrutiny"
SDD — Same S***, Different Day. So it goes on the apparently endless campaign trail. This time it’s Kansas Senator Sam Brownback who’s been sent to detention by the political correctness that has infested both parties.

At issue is something labeled an “attack” on Gov. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith. The basics, from the WaPo story:

An aide to GOP presidential candidate Sam Brownback has been reprimanded for sending e-mail to Iowa Republican leaders in an apparent attempt to draw unfavorable scrutiny to rival Mitt Romney’s Mormonism.

Emma Nemecek, the southeastern Iowa field director for Brownback’s presidential campaign and a former state representative candidate, violated campaign policy when she forwarded the June 6 e-mail from an interest group raising the questions, the Brownback campaign said Sunday.

Hmm, “unfavorable scrutiny.” Wouldn’t want any of that. While there must never be a religious test for public office, there needs to be a full, and public, exposition of what a candidate for president believes.

It is not a question of religious faith, which each of us must be free to choose. Rather, it’s the judgment of the candidate who chooses a particular religion. Before any libertarians start foaming at the mouth, let me ask this: would it be acceptable for a presidential candidate to belong to a religious sect or cult that claims women to be inferior, and who must be killed by their families if they are raped?

This would be any Wahabbi Muslim, by the way. There’s a reason why this sort of “honor killing” makes the news every now and again from Pakistan and other Islamic crudholes. Because it happens. There are other things in various religions that could give an American voter pause, and, rightly so.

So let’s not have any crocodile tears over any “unfavorable scrutiny” of Romney’s Mormonism. They believe some strange things; things that require not just faith, but which deny Christianity’s central notion of God incarnate: Jesus Christ, only begotten son of God, fully human, fully divine, who died for our sins so that we might live in Him.

So what? Nothing, if the beliefs of a candidate don’t involve things like honor killings, or keeping blacks from high church office. Oh, my bad. The Mormons stopped doing that, haven’t they? And polygamy? Depends who you ask. Well, perhaps “Big Love” is just fiction…

Let’s put that shoe in the other foot. If a Southern Baptist runs for high office, it would be legitimate to ask him, do you really believe that women “should be in submission” and “are not permitted to speak [in church]?” Well, there’s a lot of Baptists who believe that since this is Scriptural (1 Corinthians 14:34), that’s the way it has to be. I wouldn’t vote for someone who truly believed and applied this, and I’m a Baptist.

All I claim is that Christians, and Americans of other faiths, or none at all, must never shrink from placing their beliefs in the light. But this has now apparently become an unbearable burden for Mormons to have this harsh light of clarity shed on their candidate.

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6.18.2007    |    "I am both Muslim and Christian"
Got to love the Episcopal Church. Its members run the gamut from orthodox catholic Christians (yes, this would mean something quite different if "orthodox" and "catholic" were capitalized), all the way to those who not only disagree that Scripture is the rock upon which our faith is based, but twist themselves in knots attempting to prove that black is white and night is day.

Case in point is one "Rev." Ann Holmes Redding, who claims to be both a Christian and a Muslim. Here are the basics, from the Seattle Times:
Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.

On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.

She does both, she says, because she's Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she's ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she's also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.
That movement must have been some brain flush. Taking the position of the proverbial man from Mars, one would have to apply simple logic: one can not hold two or more mutually exclusive beliefs. Ah, says that Martian man: perhaps these beliefs are not, actually, in conflict.

Now what I'm about to write is without prejudice. I have my beliefs, but can't condemn Redding for not sharing them. However, as a Christian, I must, repeat must, believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the only begotten Son of God, and was God incarnate. Also on the short but essential list of "must believes" is that Jesus was fully divine, and fully human, and died to put paid to our sins; that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, and that those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior will be saved.

Thousands of years of struggles, including much violence (really Christian...not) has taken place on the details. But these seem to be the basics. Until recently, even the liberal denominations might have agreed. Apparently there are some Piskies who no longer can sign up even to those minimalist creedal-type statements.

Islam does not recognize God incarnate; to them, Jesus was a prophet, and not even the last or most authoritative one. Just a man, in other words. In the simplest of terms, one may not logically be both a Christian and a Muslim, since Muslims can't accept that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God.

Which leads to the conclusion that Redding should not claim any longer to be an Episcopal priest. If she isn't tossed out on her hijab, then all this says is that her bishop, Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner of the Olympia (Washington) Diocese, is just as confused as she is.

Getting back to that man from Mars, the only logical conclusion he might reach is that while Christianity and Islam are incompatible in some core beliefs, Redding, and the Olympia Diocese, are not Christian believers.

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6.17.2007    |    Stoned in Iraq
From George Will's column today, this little report -- which says volumes about what our men and women are fighting for in Iraq:
Last month in Iraq, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), had lunch with three soldiers from his state, one of whom had been working with an Iraqi officer training police cadets. That soldier told Smith that when the cadets learned that the Iraqi officer was a Catholic, they stoned him.

To death.
It is still hazardous to one's health, to say the least, to profess Jesus as Lord in Islamic nations. There are sound policy and geopolitical reasons for leaving Iraq as soon as is practicable -- not the least of which is that nothing that we do seems get the Iraqis to stop killing each other. Not to mention the alliance between al-qaeda in Iraq with the Sunnis.

Shiites killing Sunnis, Sunnis, including foreign Sunnis, killing Shiites and Kurds, both groups targeting Americans and other Coalition troops. The much-vaunted "surge?" If we surge our troops in Baghdad, the jihiadis simply scarper to the countryside -- there to continue their terror and sectarian violence. So, what does a Christian, who is obligated to love his enemies and pray for them, do about Muslims who only wish the Christian to convert or die?

Well, my answer is to give them some tough love. First, by not giving them the opportunity to kill Christians, i.e. by protecting, where we are able to, those Christians who might be in harm's way. Second, by leaving Iraq, so as to not place our Christians in harm's way. Third, by seeking out, and offering visas and funds, to Iraqi Christians who would like to be able to live their lives without fear of Islamic murder and mayhem.

Should we stop Muslims who attempt to kill Christians? Yes, of course. With lethal force if that is what it takes (of course that's what it takes; jihadis will not listen to reason). How does that square with "love lour enemies?"

God's love is different than our concept of love. God will love any jihadi who repents and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For that matter, though I can't speak for the Big Guy, I'm pretty certain God will also love all who decide to live in peace. From Micah 4:
2...For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide for strong nations afar off;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore;
4but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
"But they shall sit every man under vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid." This is what the Lord will love. But it doesn't look as though Muslims will adapt this live-and-let-live philosophy anytime soon.

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6.15.2007    |    The quality of mercy
From the Bard's The Merchant of Venice, when Portia speaks to Shylock in Act IV, Scene I:
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Mercy is one of our Lord's pre-eminent virtues, and, as Shakespeare wrote, His mercy does indeed "droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven." Mercy in a man's heart is a gift from God, and, although God will also judge us using His enduring standards, He will always show us mercy while so doing.

All this is preamble to what has been bothering me about the Scooter Libby prosecution, trial, conviction, and sentencing. And now it looks as though Mr. Libby will be denied his freedom while he appeals; the trial judge just doesn't seem to think that allowing the clearly dangerous felon to remain free (hmm, can't find the HTML sarcasm tags...).

Let's be brutally honest here: Scooter Libby lied under oath; he was prosecuted; he was convicted. He shouldn't be exonerated of guilt because he did what he did in a noble cause, and against some fairly slimy characters (Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame). Fair enough; that there was no underlying crime does not change this. Neither, however, is it justice. And most certainly it is not mercy.

Mr.Libby was prosecuted by an overly-zealous prosecutor who appeared to be out to score political points; he was handed a Draconian sentence by a judge who seems to lack a shred of decency or mercy.

Is Scooter Libby guilty? Yes. As for punishment, he has already suffered financial loss in defending himself against the excesses of the state; he has suffered the embarrassment of conviction and the likelihood of his ever holding high appointed or elected office again. In short, he is now a convicted felon. Enough is enough.

Since the judge lacks mercy, President Bush should commute the sentence. No, not pardon him. Just apply some Christian mercy. Mr. Bush can call it something else; perhaps Shakespearian mercy...

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6.14.2007    |    Ruth Bell Graham
Ruth Bell GrahamRuth Bell Graham, the gracious and Spirit-led wife of Rev. Billy Graham, passed on this afternoon, at the age of 87 (her birthday was June 10th).

My prayers are with her husband, and her five children, who include Franklin Graham -- a lion among evangelicals. The apple, as they say, falls not far from the tree.

R.I.P.

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6.13.2007    |    64 percent
This is the percentage of Muslims who believe that America's goal is to spread Christianity in the Middle East. This datum is cited in a recently-released survey from the University of Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes.

The survey includes several other points about the attitudes of Muslims towards America, including the chilling 27 percent who apparently approve of terrorist attacks on civilians. At 1.4 billion Muslims, that's a neat quarter of a billion who have no moral compass when it comes to us infidels.

As for the 64 percent, would that this were true, that America were, somehow, spreading Christianity in the Middle East. Now, as a conservative American, I know that it would be wrong for our government to evangelize. As a Baptist, I'm especially sensitive to having freedom of conscience in matters of faith, and having no established church.

On the other hand, many of our problems with the Middle East would disappear if the jihadis accepted the peace of knowing Jesus Christ. There would still be problems of poverty and under-development. These would become things that, finally, could be addressed if people would simply accept Jesus as Lord and Savior -- and stopped blaming everyone else for their own problems.

Some might argue that Arabs are too tribal to be Christians, too hung up on group identity at the expense of their faith. Perhaps, but also perhaps a sufficiency of Christianized Arabs would read Galatians 3 and take it to heart:
26For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You are all one in Christ Jesus. It is really that simple.

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6.12.2007    |    Great is Thy Faitfulness
The hymn is one of the all-time favorites, and anyone who isn't move to stand and deliver when it is sung just should avoid church.

Beside being a great hymn, its message, from Lamentations chapter 3, is that our God is a God of renewal. That every day we can start anew, and that God's mercy is not just infinite, but a renewable resource.

From Lamentations:
22It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

24The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

25The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

26It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
The Lord's mercies are new every morning. Think on this, every morning, when you awaken.

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6.11.2007    |    God's judgment to come?
What this video shows is Jay Leno on a tear about the all-Paris Hilton, all the time news feeding frenzy. Now Jay is hardly a member of the Latter-Day Crusaders (that's us evangelicals, just itching to put on that ol' chain mail and sword and create a theocracy just like the Taliban. At least according to many liberalati.) And if he's noticed the absurdity of the media attention on Paris, well, it's surely come to pass that our nation is not doing too well on the culture front.

As for Paris herself, at first I deigned not to notice. But, like a car wreck on the side of the road, complete with bloody corpses, it's awfully hard to look away. And, the more I looked, the more I could pray for her.

Many so-called Christians, including at least one of our deacons yesterday, opined that she deserved no pity; none. And yet, here is a young woman who may play the twit in public, but who apparently has quite the grasp on marketing and, also, a keen sense of business.

Neither of these things should be important to a Christian, but, hey, we've all got to make it in this world before we get to sit beside the throne. Or in some warmer place...

As for Paris, the attention paid to her is a symptom of how shallow our nation's "culture" has become. Also, the fact that we are at war with Islamic jihadis who wish nothing more than to outlaw Christianity and convert or kill us all, should provide some context.

God bless Paris Hilton; may she grow in humility. God bless America, may she resist the siren call of the twit culture. May we all remember that we are here on this earth -- America, Iraq, Russia, Mexico, wherever -- under God's judgment.

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6.10.2007    |    There's been a lot of that
"That" being the all-too oft used phrase, "sins in the service of the Truth." This is the Catholic Church's way of explaining away the Spanish Inquisition. Saying that the Church now condemns such officially-sanctioned terror doesn't quite cut it, but, hey, what are you going to do? Leave the Church?

Well, yes. One of the reasons I left the Church was because of the inability of many of the faithful to admit past errors, and to defend the indefensible. For example, the Spanish Inquisition. Leave it to Jesuits, a Spanish-founded order (a.k.a. "the Pope's Shock Troops"), to apply moral relativism in their flagship magazine, "America."

First, please understand that this is not a bash-everything Jesuit post. I love the order, and was catechized by Jesuits, which isn't the same as being raised in the forest by wolves but which does prepare one intellectually to defend the One True Faith.

What this post is, is an attempt to shed some light on the all-too-human desire to be forgiven for past sins. Unfortunately, to my mind, the Catholic Church, and the Jesuits who originated in Spain, have yet to properly admit their sin and condemn it.

As for the Inquisition, I well remember a Catholic colleague telling me that "it wasn't all that bad." After all, the total numbers of those burned at the stake, and tortured, was quite small as measured against the results of plagues and wars. And then he would trot out the depredations of Protestant monarchs in the 16th and 17th centuries, as if that justified the Inquisition. This is the "you're one too" argument, and it is also being used by the Society of Jesus.

The Jesuits are more refined than my old colleague, but just as blind to the sin of the Inquisition. What is written in the current issue of America is typical of those who need to establish a context, and thereby soften any criticism of the Inquisition:
the Catholic Church today regards as sinful behavior committed "in the service of the Truth"....for decades both civil and church officials, including popes, opposed the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition and attempted to limit the harm it could do.
Yes, the Catholic hierarchy just had its hands tied; what could they have done? This is nonsense on stilts. Perhaps excommunication of any who tortured and killed others in the name of the Prince of Peace? Just asking.

There is no excuse for using torture, for killing, for taking any action that is not based on peaceful persuasion against those who choose to not be Catholic. None. Not now; not in the 15th century.

Those who claim otherwise, or cite the un-Christian notion that different times require different means for defending the Church militant, I say: nonsense. Christ set the standard, for once and for all time. And He would condemn the Inquisition, and those who claimed to be His intermediaries on earth who stood by and watched.

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6.09.2007    |    Total depravity
One of the pillars of Calvinism is the total depravity of man. The Cliff's Notes version of Calvinism is the acronym TULIP, in which the "T" is for total depravity. When I first came upon this expression, I thought of a drooling, knuckle-dragging troglodyte who ate small children after raping elderly women. Not quite.

The cause of the depravity? The very thing that is God's second-greatest gift to us (the greatest being our very being): our free will. The free will that had Adam and Eve chompin' at the forbidden fruits of the Tree of Life, thereby bringing disease, pain, and death to our species.

For a good, and in-depth explanation of total depravity, I recommend John Piper's essay, "What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism." Although there is much, much more, Pastor Piper writes that the essence of man's depravity may be found in Paul's letter to the church at Rome (Romans 3:10-11):
10 "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
In different words, it is our continuing disobedience to God that lies at the dark heart of our depravity.

From the essay, the four salient points about our natural condition:
(1) Our rebellion against God is total.

(2) In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.

(3) Man's inability to submit to God and do good is total.

(4) Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.
It is easy to see how many Romantic Era Protestants fell away from Calvinism. Too harsh; too judgmental on the part of God. Who the hell is He to judge me? Men are naturally good, and may be made perfect through hard work. We don't need any help, thank you Lord.

Or at least, so it might seem from watching how so-called mainline Protestant churches went from preaching fire and brimstone for sinners, to the pretty but vapid "social gospel" of the late 19th century. And the "social gospel" hasn't gone away, but metastasized into denominations that not only accept sin, but glorify it by naming bishops who are unrepentant sinners.

Perhaps this is my lack of Christian charity towards my wayward brothers. But at least I recognize that I am depraved, and need all the help I can get from God. I'm not perfect; far from it. But at least I'm honest about my condition.

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6.08.2007    |    God sends no cross that you cannot bear
In good secular fashion, Paula Zahn of CNN, as part of a panel discussion, asked the Democratic candidates for president who happen to be Catholic a few questions about their faith. Zahn was one of a panel of fakers and race hustlers (Jesse Jackson, who uses the title "reverend" as an excuse to divide us on the basis of skin color). Not surprisingly, the "liberal evangelist" Jim Wallis was also on the panel...

Zahn asked a couple of questions of Sen. Joe Biden, the first being a typical atheist's question: Did you blame God for your loss [of your first wife and daughter in an accident]? I don't know if Zahn is an atheist, but I do know that the typical first question of an atheist to believers is along these lines: blaming God for all bad things.

Sen. Biden earned my respect for his answer: God sends no cross that you cannot bear. This is just so, and whenever we think that we are being put upon by God, it is useful to consider Jesus and His cross. He bore the cross for us, to show us the way to a better life and to let us know that all may be forgiven if we but ask with a sincere heart.

Zahn then asked what amounts to a silly question: When it comes to the 9/11 hijackers, will you ever be capable of forgiving them for what they did? The senator gave a somewhat vague and wordy answer, the essence of which is "I have difficulty on forgiving that [the attacks]."

Forgiveness is never a one-sided thing. Despite the squishy thinking of many liberals, Christianity does not insist on forgiveness without repentance. It does insist that we forgive all sins when those who sin against us repent and ask for forgiveness.

The problem with the question? The 9/11 hijackers may be in hell and unable to repent and thus ask forgiveness. But their co-religionists in al-quaeda as well as a large majority of ordinary Muslims simply do not believe that any sin was committed.

Zahn and others may find this difficult, but God hates sinners who do not repent. Our job, as we attempt to walk in the ways of Jesus while here on earth, is to get evildoers to repent -- not to issue meaningless blanket forgiveness to those who continue to revel in their sin.

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6.07.2007    |    Lapsed Catholic?
To anyone who keeps track of such things, I'd be counted as a lapsed Catholic. A former daily-goer-to-Mass and pray-er-of-the-Rosary Catholic, now a member of a Baptist church.

The point of this post is simple: to state, unequivocally, that if I write anything that is critical of my former church, it is out of love. And if I come across as mean-spirited, that is simply because I am a poor scribe. Not because of any malice in my heart towards the Church of Rome.

Even as a Baptist, I remain a brother to all Catholics. What we share, the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, and Pentecost so far outweighs what separates us that I am tempted to state, we are all Catholic.

Just as we are all Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, name your denomination. Wherever Christ is king, and not just an excuse to socialize in the parish hall after services.

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   |    On immigration
Somebody has fed Anne Coulter some red meat; she's on one of her tears. This time, it's about immigration, and the notion that "current immigration law is intentionally designed to reduce their [whites] percentage in the population." Perhaps she is simplifying cause and effect, but consider this from her column:
In 1960, whites were 90 percent of the country. The Census Bureau recently estimated that whites already account for less than two-thirds of the population and will be a minority by 2050. Other estimates put that day much sooner.
This is factual. Now,two questions arise: what caused and continues to cause it; and can it, or even, should it, be reversed or stopped?

Unfettered immigration from Third World nations, especially Mexico and Central America, is the first obvious cause. The second cause, pace Ann Coulter, is simply the fact that white Americans have a significantly lower birth rate than Hispanic immigrants, especially Mexicans. From Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute:
The dimensions of the Hispanic baby boom are startling. The Hispanic birthrate is twice as high as that of the rest of the American population. That high fertility rate—even more than unbounded levels of immigration—will fuel the rapid Hispanic population boom in the coming decades. By 2050, the Latino population will have tripled, the Census Bureau projects. One in four Americans will be Hispanic by mid-century, twice the current ratio. In states such as California and Texas, Hispanics will be in the clear majority. Nationally, whites will drop from near 70 percent of the total population in 2000 to just half by 2050. Hispanics will account for 46 percent of the nation’s added population over the next two decades, the Pew Hispanic Center reports.
Heather Mac Donald is no Ann Coulter; she's rather, a serious think-tanker, as opposed to Ann, who tanks thinking. No, seriously, I get a huge kick out of Ms. Coulter; I just don't turn to her for policy prescriptions.

But Ann Coulter does make a serious point, if in a flippant manner. From her column:
In Samuel P. Huntington’s book "Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity," he asks: "Would America be the America it is today if in the 17th and 18th centuries it had been settled not by British Protestants but by French, Spanish or Portuguese Catholics? The answer is no. It would not be America; it would be Quebec, Mexico or Brazil."

I don’t want to live in Mexico, Quebec or Brazil.
I have to agree with the underlying thesis: that the United States was founded, and throughout its history has achieved national greatness, precisely because it was founded on a combination of Protestant and Enlightenment values. Values that are sometimes in tension with each other, but both of which prize an individual's freedom of conscience above all else.

We are a nation of individuals, which contributes to our often chaotic politics. And, up until now, we have shared a culture that is based on being part of the Anglosphere. And make no mistake: it is a Protestant culture, one that it linked, as with mighty chains, to those of us who do not need an intermediary between ourselves and God. Except Jesus Christ, of course.

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6.06.2007    |    "a remnant, chosen by grace"
This blog was visited by another evangelical Jewish-born Christian ("Sewing", his blog is The Regrafted Branch). On his blog he references one of my favorite writings from Paul. In Paul's letter to the church in Rome, we are reminded that God has always had plans for the "remnant of Israel."

From Romans 11, The Remnant of Israel:
1I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3"Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." 4But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
By the grace of God, I found Christ over 30 years ago. And once Christ is invited to stay in your heart, he will never wear out his welcome.

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   |    Not a stumbling block
Mitt Romney defended his Mormon faith rather well at last night's gathering of the ten declared Republican candidates for president last night. He was forthright, did not evade the question, and should be respected for the apparent strength of his belief.

But here's where this Christian has to stop and specify: I respect Gov. Romney's strength of belief; I do not agree with or respect his actual belief. I find the Mormon faith to be interesting, and Mormons to be good people. But Mormonism is not Christian. It isn't even clear that it is a monotheistic faith, and there appear to be strong elements of idolatry.

A fairness doctrine kicks in here: so, too, have many Protestants described Roman Catholics ("cult", idolators), and Jews, Muslims, and nonbelievers of all stripes find our theology of the incarnation of Jesus to be strange if not outright idolatrous. But we have the advantage of having truth on our side...(can't find the HTML code for "grin", so, just imagine it to be here...)

We should all tend to that proverbial beam in our eye before we seek to remove the mote from the eyes of Latter Day Saints. In different words, what I would ask is good old American tolerance: to not insist those who believe differently from us to change or renounce their heartfelt belief to gain public office.

In other words, I would vote for Mitt Romney if he is the Republican nominee. Although my preference is Rudy Giuliani, Romney is still head and shoulders above any Democrat now in the race.

What would it take for me to make a candidate's religion a true stumbling block? If a candidate was a believer in a faith whose theology requires the rest of us to convert, or otherwise submit and accept second- or worse class citizenship.

Right now, only Islam among the major faiths comes to mind. Mormons are persistent evangelists, but aren't known for attempting to convert us all at the point of a sword.

[addendum Beliefnet has a comparison between the major elements of Christianity and Mormonism. This is sufficient for me; Mormonism is not a Christian faith to my mind.

Along these lines (departure from Christian belief), Mormons also believe that it wasn't our free will that got us kicked out of the Garden of Eden, rather, it was God's plan from the beginning. And, as a consequence, mankind is not totally depraved, but, rather, according to this summary at Beliefnet,
The Fall was a planned blessing from God, enabling people to experience human bodies, procreate, experience the joy of redemption, and to do good...
This is interesting; "a planned blessing." As for that doing good, well, based on the results to date, I'd vote for "totally depraved" as a more accurate description of our species.]

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6.04.2007    |    Sam Brownback on evolution
Faith and science are compatible, after all. Well, I know this to be true, having been trained in the sciences. That training didn't destroy my faith. In fact, it only made it stronger: what a wonder is our Creator, who gave us brains to figure out His creation.

I'm not a creationist, if that means that I must believe that the world, including human beings who are just like us, were created in six literal 24-hour days as we understand time. But I do believe that man is not an accident; that God created us in His image, although we continue to struggle with what, exactly, "in His image" actually means.

Getting to Senator Sam Brownback, here's what he wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times on the topic:
If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
Sen. Brownback is running for president (who isn't these days?), and, for an evangelical, he's the logical choice. He is a principled disciple of Jesus Christ, and pulls no punches about his beliefs. He's also an articulate defender of the Christian faith as it can be lived in the public square.

It's precisely for these reasons that he's got essentially a zero chance to become president: too Christian; actually believes that unborn children are persons who deserve the protection of law.

I'd vote for him if given the chance.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.