Topic: Christianity

Many thanks to Twitter. You just can't make this stuff up.

Westboro Baptist Church

But hey, what else would you expect from a whackjob cultist and publicity whore on the day that Steve Jobs dies?

The intolerance of progressive atheists

user-pic

Here's an interesting essay explaining a nonbelieving scientist's perspective on religion in general.

Now that Bill Keller, America's Grand Inquisitor, has declared open season on the religious faith of Republicans (but never Democrats), it is high time for a non-believing scientist to express my love and admiration for the great religious traditions.


progressive atheistsReligion is by far the greatest vehicle of civilization. It is how civilized morals and values have been taught from one generation to the next for the last 6,000 years of recorded history, and probably for 100,000 years before that. The reason is that humans are not homo sapiens, the wise hominid; we are homo fidelis, the believer.

Some of greatest gifts in life first appeared in religious garb. If you want proof, consider UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. UNESCO is not a religious bureaucracy. Among its nearly 1,000 World Heritage Sites there are natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef. But when it comes to human-made sites, the great majority are religious monuments, temples, cathedrals, cave paintings, and many holy places. If UNESCO says so, even the New York Times has to believe it.

Strangely enough, there is not a single World Heritage Site dedicated to Karl Marx. The fearsome tombs of Lenin, Mao, and Marx all seem to be missing from the list. I wonder why.

...

Today's crusading atheism is a fanatical cult that desperately needs to make converts, to silence its own inner qualms. Intolerance is progressive, see?

...

The idea of a permanent chasm between science and religion is a myth of the 20th century, peddled mainly by the left. It comes and goes in human history.


I've said for some time now that modern atheists are free riders on America's Judeo-Christian culture and worldview, without which their existence would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. It's nice to see one of the conservative ones acknowledge it.

Good luck with progressive atheists. They exhibit a very convenient amnesia.

Audio: Is the Bible intolerant?

user-pic

I just ran across this at Stand To Reason. At a recent youth conference, Brett Kunkle helps students think through the accusation that the Bible and Bible-believing Christians are intolerant:

Still looking for honesty from the VA

user-pic

Almost a month ago I wrote a post about religious discrimination by the Department of Veterans Affairs against Christian prayer at the Houston National Cemetery. The VA's Press Secretary, Josh Taylor, had the following to say about the controversy back on June 30th:

Invoking the name of God or Jesus is not only allowed, it is common at VA National Cemeteries across the country. However, VA's policy is that VA-sponsored honor guards should not make recitations at committal services unless requested to do so by the deceased's survivor(s).

Today, Taylor doubled down:

Pinocchio"The idea that invoking the name of God or Jesus is banned at VA national cemeteries is blatantly false," said VA Press Secretary Josh Taylor in a written statement to Fox News Radio. "The truth is, VA's policy protects veterans' families' rights to pray however they choose at our national cemeteries."

 

Taylor declined to comment on the pending lawsuit or other ongoing legal proceedings, but did say, "No one should make judgments before all the facts are known."

...

But Taylor said the rules set in place at the cemetery are meant to protect the grieving families.

"Put simply, VA policy puts the wishes of the veteran's family above all else on the day it matters most - the day they pay their final respects to their loved ones," Taylor said. "Out of respect for the families, VA's policy exists to prevent anyone from disrespecting or interfering with a veteran's private committal service."

Shut up.For years Pastor Scott Rainey has participated in a Memorial Day prayer service at the Houston National Cemetery, which is administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Rainey has always prayed in the name of Jesus Christ, which should be no surprise coming from a Christian pastor. After all, Buddhist priests offer Buddhist prayers, Muslim imams offer Muslim prayers, and [insert faith here] clergymen offer [insert faith here] prayers.

As the 2011 Memorial Day prayer service approached, one of the event's organizers invited Rainey to deliver a prayer as usual. But this year the cemetery's director, Chicago native Arleen Ocasio, decided to stick her nose into the prayer service. She asked the organizer to forward Rainey's prayer to her ahead of time for approval. The organizer, being a helpful sort of person, did so.

After reading Rainey's prayer, Ocasio decided that she'd had just about enough of those icky Christians and their explicitly Christian prayers:

Harold Camping's web site on May 21st:

Family Radio web site on May 21, 2011


Harold Camping's web site today:

Family Radio web site on May 23, 2011


I have two words for all followers of any self-proclaimed doomsday prophet: due diligence. Mr. Camping's first official public statement since his spectacular flop should be educational.

televangelists and t.v. preachersSo here we are. It's 6 PM on May 21st, 2011, at the International Date Line. According to Harold Camping's "prophetic" utterances, Jesus should be in the process of snatching away all of His followers in what's known among certain Christians -- and among many bizarre cults -- as The Rapture.

According to Mr. Camping we should be feeling an earthquake of unprecedented intensity right about now, and a wave of mysterious human vanishings should be traveling westward from the mid-Pacific like some kind of rolling blackout.

Hmmm. I don't feel, see, or hear anything. Do you? Maybe my clocks are all fast.

This isn't the first time that a doomsday-preaching "man of faith" has claimed to have secret knowledge from God about the exact timing of the rapture. Do a quick search and you'll find references from the nonviolent but briefly popular Millerites in the mid-1800s, to the truly twisted and violent Branch Davidians in 1993. There's the infamous Aum Shinrikyo cult -- now known as "Aleph" -- which perpetrated Sarin gas attacks in Tokyo in 1995, as well as the tragically deluded Heaven's Gate suicide cult in 1997.

Today, Harold Camping's well-meaning and sincere followers stand ready with fervent faith to meet whichever messiah their leader claims to represent:

The Haddad children of Middletown, Md., have a lot on their minds: school projects, SATs, weekend parties. And parents who believe the earth will begin to self-destruct on Saturday.


The three teenagers have been struggling to make sense of their shifting world, which started changing nearly two years ago when their mother, Abby Haddad Carson, left her job as a nurse to "sound the trumpet" on mission trips with her husband, Robert, handing out tracts. They stopped working on their house and saving for college.

Last weekend, the family traveled to New York, the parents dragging their reluctant children through a Manhattan street fair in a final effort to spread the word.

"My mom has told me directly that I'm not going to get into heaven," Grace Haddad, 16, said. "At first it was really upsetting, but it's what she honestly believes."

So far Camping's followers seem more like the relatively harmless Millerites than any destructive or suicidal cult. At a minimum they're in for disappointment and disillusionment. These people treat the purported end of the world frivolously and without an investor's attitude of due diligence. You see, this isn't the first time Mr. Camping has invited us all to play the Rapture Lotto.


Camping's apparently a decent salesman. He's managed to raise over $100 million from donations to buy billboard space in many major cities and on RVs rolling coast to coast. It's unclear whether the billboards generated the income or vice versa ... or maybe it's both.

While this is all quite funny to most people, to Camping's followers it will be a crushing let-down, one that will likely discourage them from faith in anything again. To Christians this is doubly bad because Camping's foolishness will not only drive his followers away from trust in God, but his claim to be a Christian teacher of great authority will bring disrepute and ridicule upon the entire Christian faith in the eyes of the rest of the world. Non-Christians will look at Harold "I'm-A-Great-Christian-Leader" Camping and his pitiful cult of suckers, and they'll assume that any Christians who aren't deluded fools must be con artists.

Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, predicted that wolves like Harold Camping would sneak into the flock. We Christians are warned in the Bible again and again to be skeptical, to take what anyone preaches and compare it with Scripture, even if it comes from the an Apostle, a "spirit", an angel ... no matter who makes a claim to authority. We are not to be gullible in matters of faith. God plays for keeps, and so should we.

Harold Camping is a fraud, a deceiver, a huckster, a fool, a false prophet, and a liar. His spectacularly awful excuse for "Christianity" should discourage nobody from examining the truth. God has a record of dealing harshly with false prophets, and that's not going to change.

Here's the straight scoop from Jesus on the subject of hucksters like Harold Camping.

Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

user-pic

We all owe an infinite debt, because none of us is righteous. Who can pay? The answer to the question has eternal implications.

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.


Did the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth actually happen?

Did Jesus actually die on the cross?

user-pic

Perhaps William D. Edwards, MD, can shed some light on the question.

Crucifixion

We call today Good Friday because of the infinite good accomplished by Jesus of Nazareth through His physical death on the cross, as proven by His resurrection three days later.

I am eternally grateful that He paid the penalty for my sins once and for all, even though nobody (least of all me) deserves any mercy from God. I thank Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for saving my soul.

There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

Merry Christmas!

user-pic

Nativity in stained glassLuke 2:1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luther's rose in stained glassAnd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

People hate this young lady

user-pic

Watch the video to find out why.

An excellent rebuttal to Hawking's atheism

user-pic

Stephen Hawking's new book "The Grand Design" purports to show that the universe created itself from nothing (more detail here), thus eliminating the necessity for the existence of any divine and omnipotent Creator.

Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.

Unfortunately for Hawking, he instead proves that even brilliant physicists can commit glaring errors in logic.


Science cannot answer every question. Science is fundamentally unsuited to answering philosophical and theological questions, including any explanation for why there's something rather than nothing. You'd have as much luck weighing a chicken with a yardstick.

As Parmenides argued, ex nihilo nihil fit ... if you're really starting with absolutely nothing, then nothing will ever be. There is no created thing which can create itself.


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis were my absolute favorite books to read every summer while growing up, and "The Voyage of The Dawn Treader" is far and away the best book of the series (that's not just my opinion, either). Along with spending time on our family's boat on Lake Erie, I think this book had alot to do with sparking my fascination for the sea and with my decision to make the Coast Guard my first career.

To say I'm looking forward to this movie is like saying sea water is brackish.

Happy Easter!

user-pic

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Why do we call today "Good Friday?"

user-pic

We call today Good Friday because of the infinite good accomplished by Jesus of Nazareth through His physical death on the cross, as proven by His resurrection three days later.

Crucifixion

I am eternally grateful that He paid the penalty for my sins once and for all, even though nobody (least of all me) deserves any mercy from God. I thank Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for saving my soul.

There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

Merry Christmas!

user-pic

Nativity in stained glassLuke 2:1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luther's rose in stained glassAnd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Want a scare? I know it's Halloween, but this is genuinely frightening.

Private investment is falling sharply

Not good. Not good at all.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released third-quarter gross domestic product numbers yesterday, and overall real growth at 3.5 percent was pretty good.

But examining the components of GDP reveals a more disturbing picture. While consumption, exports, and the government sector were up, private investment has fallen through the floor.

...

The third quarter GDP numbers show that the economy is only starting to "recover" because of growing government and expanding consumption, which has been artificially inflated by large government transfers.

Business investment continues to be in a deep recession. Companies are simply not building factories or buying new machines and equipment.

Why not? I suspect that many firms are scared to death of higher taxes, inflation, health care mandates, increased labor regulation, and other profit-killers coming down the road from Washington. That is speculation, but I haven't heard a better explanation of the death of private investment in America.

The freefall began in 2006. What was significant about that year? It marked the beginning of what Bizzyblog proprietor Tom Blumer calls the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy.

I think we were both reading Memeorandum a moment ago.

The murder of Dr. George Tiller was an evil act that saved no lives. Here are ten reasons to oppose the supposed "justifiable homicide" of abortionists, as explained by pro-life Christian David P. Gushee in 1995:

  1. The use of intentional premeditated lethal force by private citizens to defend the innocent from harm is morally unjustifiable.
  2. However one describes the innocent, it is clearly unjustifiable to use lethal force in their defense when such defense could have been achieved through nonlethal means--means which are unambiguously available today through the moral, legal and nonviolent forms of pro-life activities. The absence of nonlethal means, moreover, does not in itself provide sufficient warrant for using lethal force to protect the innocent.
  3. The killing of abortion doctors does not constitute a meaningful defense of unborn life, because the woman seeking the abortion drives the process, not the doctor. Thus if we really seek to prevent abortion, we will lovingly provide the pregnant woman with appropriate support and viable alternatives to abortion.
  4. The use of lethal force is not justifiable as a form of privately initiated capital punishment, as some have claimed.
  5. The killing of abortion doctors is not morally legitimate as an act of civil disobedience.
  6. The use of lethal force cannot be viewed as an act of resistance to a government which has lost its legitimacy by permitting abortion. The U.S. government retains its legitimacy, and Christians should continue to seek redress through the political system.
  7. The transition from nonviolent to violent forms of action for social/legal change is a perilous and almost always morally unjustifiable step, particularly in a functioning democracy.
  8. The resort to violence as a means leads to a morally disastrous shift of ends, the focus of the activist becoming the destruction of wrongdoers rather than the prevention of wrongs.
  9. A social movement's resort to violence tends to escalate rapidly. The strict limits imposed by just war type thinking are supplanted by crusade-like approaches leading to ever more indiscriminate violence.
  10. The resort to violence is indisputably hurting the cause of the pro-life movement.

Read the whole article for a more in-depth treatment.

On the murder of George Tiller

user-pic

In response to today's murder of abortionist George Tiller, I'll quote (with my complete approval) the abortion violence statement put forth by the long-time pro-life advocates at Stand To Reason:

It's always wrong to take a human life without proper justification. Abortion is such a wrong because it takes the life of a valuable, innocent, human being without good reason. Therefore, it is morally obligatory for civilized people to campaign vigorously against such a wrong and use appropriate means to end it.


In opposing this evil, one is justified in using only the degree of force necessary to stop any harm that it is within his power to prevent. Therefore, one is never justified in using lethal force when other measures are available.

Since there are no imaginable circumstances in which lethal force is the only means available to end the harm of abortion, then lethal means are never justified.

Killing abortionists is, therefore, also an example of taking human life without proper justification. To do so would be to violate the basic principle of life that pro-lifers are committed to defending.

Therefore, Stand to Reason does not condone violence to end the harm of abortion and does not knowingly associate with those who do.

I hope the murderer is brought to justice swiftly.

Jesus' physical death

user-pic

Good Friday's on April 10th. Consider what Jesus of Nazareth experienced during His fatal crucifixion, and marvel at the enormity of His sacrifice.

Merry Christmas!

user-pic
Nativity in stained glass
Luke 2:1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luther's rose in stained glassAnd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Remember Jeremiah Wright? This is the man who Barack Obama chose to be his mentor, chose to be his friend, chose to conduct his marriage, chose to baptize his daughters, chose to guide him in his faith, chose to support financially, chose to listen to for 20+ years ...

... and only when it became politically expedient did Obama distance himself. Obama hopes you'll swallow the lie that he was surprised and shocked at Jeremiah Wright's hateful anti-American beliefs, and that you'll believe him when he says he doesn't share Jeremiah Wright's views.

Don't you believe it. Even Jeremiah Wright knows better.

BILL MOYERS: Here is a man who came to see you 20 years ago. Wanted to know about the neighborhood. Barack Obama was a skeptic when it came to religion. He sought you out because he knew you knew about the community. You led him to the faith.


You performed his wedding ceremony. You baptized his two children. You were, for 20 years, his spiritual counsel. He has said that. And, yet, he, in that speech at Philadelphia, had to say some hard things about you. How did those words...how did it go down with you when you heard Barack Obama say those things?

REVEREND WRIGHT:
It went down very simply. He's a politician, I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. But they're two different worlds.

I do what I do. He does what politicians do. So that what happened in Philadelphia where he had to respond to the sound bytes, he responded as a politician.

The emphasis is mine, but the plain message is Wright's: Obama only abandoned him to keep his political career alive.

And when Obama protests any mention of Jeremiah Wright, just remember that Obama himself declared it "fair game."

A message for my Catholic friends

user-pic

Some things are more important than others. Please remember that when you vote.

When will an interviewer or a reporter ask Barack Obama whether he believes in Black Liberation Theology? It's definitely not orthodox Christianity.

Imagine that I'm a leading Republican candidate for President, and I've been a member of the Westboro Baptist Church for 20 years, and donated tens of thousands of dollars to the ministry. I've also called the Reverend Fred Phelps my friend and spiritual mentor for years. Furthermore, he presided over my marriage and baptized my two daughters.

Now when embarrassing video clips of Fred Phelps' sermons surface during my campaign, I start distancing myself from the specific offensive statements in the specific videos. I also play down my association with Phelps by likening him to a crazy uncle and claiming "Gosh, he never said stuff like that when I was in the pews; the few times I attended it was all about Jesus and love and faith and family."

My supporters claim the media cherry-picked quotes to serve their own agenda, that people are afraid of me, and that my accusers don't understand the "context" of the rhetoric used in churches that focus primarily on homosexuals.

Would anybody believe a single word I said? Of course not. They'd all call B.S.

So why in the world do the Obamassiah's followers expect me to swallow his line of bull?

--

Update: Spin, baby, spin.

Barack Obama's core beliefs

user-pic

Are you ready for an eye-opening look at the kind of racist bilge that's taught by the church that Obama chose to support and attend for the last twenty years? Make sure you're sitting down first, because this is black liberation theology in its unvarnished ugliness.

10/01/2008 Update: There's much more to learn about Barack Obama's beliefs here.

Whoopsie:

Contrary to Senator Barack Obama's claim that he never heard his pastor Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. preach hatred of America, Obama was in the pews last July 22 when the minister blamed the "white arrogance" of America's Caucasian majority for the world's suffering, especially the oppression of blacks.

...

In fact, Obama was present in the South Side Chicago church on July 22 last year when Jim Davis, a freelance correspondent for Newsmax, attended services along with Obama. [See: "Obama's Church: Cauldron of Division."]

How many of these sermons did Obama attend? More importantly, if he lied about his supposed ignorance of Wright's hateful rhetoric, why should we believe Obama when he "condemns" those sermons?

More analysis at Hot Air.

From Barack Obama's initial stab at damage control over his anti-American racist pastor, Jeremiah Wright:

Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.

Pray tell, what is the Gospel that forms the basis of Obama's life and beliefs? Not being one to stick to what's actually in the Bible, Pastor Wright apparently teaches another gospel:

Concerning his pastor, Obama said last week that Wright "has said some things that are considered controversial because he's considered that part of his social gospel."

When Obama says "social gospel" he means Black Liberation Theology (as Pastor Wright confirmed on March 1st, 2007). Does Obama share his pastor's belief in the Marxist principles of Kawaida? A candidate's worldview is fair game for detailed examination; Americans deserve to have enough information to make an educated decision in the voting booth. It would be nice to know if this potential President is a devotee of a kooky anti-American pseudo-religion, or whether he'll base his decisions on something resembling actual Christianity. Heck, I'd prefer a pro-American atheist as President to Jeremiah Wright's brand of wild eyed nutcase.

So far, there hasn't been much in the way of a coherent explanation from the Obamassiah.

Greg Alterton examines Mike Huckabee's "vote-for-me-because-I'm-a-Christian" strategy at Race42008.com:

Despite what Huckabee has suggested, I don’t think we evangelicals are welcomed in the party as long as we keep our place. I think we’re welcomed in the party as long as we add something of substance to the conservative foundation of the Republican Party, and as long as we approach politics pragmatically, maturely, and are determined to be part of a diverse coalition aimed at winning elections, which is required for political success and the advancement of our principles in the politics and policies of the nation.


...

A number of years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of students from a number of private Christian high schools who had come to Sacramento for a week-long Model Legislature. I was asked to talk about the role of Christians in politics and government. What I told them is that the role of Christians in government is the same as the role of Christians who are lawyers, teachers, doctors, engineers, or greeters at WalMart – to reflect the fruit of the Spirit and the character of Christ; to treat people with respect and deference; to conduct oneself with civility, honesty, and integrity; to approach one’s profession with the spirit and attitude of a servant; to bless one’s enemies and not curse them. If Christians do that, they will have a far greater impact for good in this country, and for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, than they will in pushing any particular political agenda.

My observation is that many of my socially conservative brethren, particularly those who love being pandered to by candidates for the presidency, have lost sight of this.

One reason for my frequent criticism of Huckabee's positions is that I'm a committed evangelical Christian and a serious conservative. If people like me don't criticize Huckabee, his supporters could very easily misinterpret all criticism from non-evangelicals as nothing more than thinly-veiled bias against evangelicals.

Merry Christmas!

user-pic
Luke 2:1-20

Nativity in stained glassIn those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luther's rose in stained glassAnd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Nativity scenes return to state parks

user-pic

Governor Strickland got this one right. Bravo. He has my unqualified praise.

Secular conservatives' circular firing squad

user-pic

Dave at NixGuy.com tipped me to a timely post by Erick Erickson at RedState.

The gist of it is a lament over secular conservatives' increasingly harsh criticism of Mike Huckabee apparently for his faith rather than for his muddled thinking on policy matters. Some quotes:

You know the most damnably aggravating thing about this campaign season for me? I continue to feel compelled to defend Mike Huckabee and I'm still convinced he'd hurt the party were he the nominee. And as I continue to defend Huckabee, some have decided I'm an anti-Mormon bigot, some have decided I must be a Huckabee supporter, and some have decided I've just lost my mind.


Here I go again defending the guy who I have no intention of voting for.

...

I tend to think it is this class of people ["Metropolitan Conservatives"] who should let the rest of us go after Huckabee. They should go silent. The more they speak in their condescending manner toward those who are, in reality, the bulk of the GOP base, the more they give away the game that they want us in the party -- they just wish we'd all shut the hell up and take orders instead.

...

The New York-Washington Corridor of Conservative Intelligentsia™ bristles at the idea that a back water social conservative from Arkansas has excited the base in a way the others haven't. We were, after all, suppose to go for Romney or Rudy. They told us so.

I don't want to defend Mike Huckabee. He's not my candidate. I don't yet see any major reasons to trust him on fiscal issues (though he did say he wants to kill the corporate income tax). But it's a sad day in the conservative movement when the conservative intelligentsia has sustained harsher words for a socially conservative Governor than a serial adulterer who has said this year that the government should provide assistance to poor women wanting abortions.

There are attacks to be made on Huckabee. But I think most of those who are making them are only helping Huckabee because the snideness of their tone overshadows the accuracy of their attacks.

Erick's post captures my own misgivings. Since I'm one of those "Jesus freaks from flyover country", I bristle at the condescension from our supposed betters among metropolitan conservatives.

Shooting yourself in the footHuck's not my choice by any stretch, but he's a fellow Christian. In a sense, when the upper-crusters dump on him for his beliefs, they're dumping on me too. Now I expect to catch flak from the secular leftists, but it's harder to take from fellow Republicans.


We socially conservative Christians tend to be fiscally conservative too, and we're foreign policy hawks more often than not. We're not anti-science; we see the universe as an amazing creation that runs under scientific principles put in place by a rational God. We simply refuse to ignore the evidence of God's work out of some misguided and mechanistic worldview that rigs the philosophical debate against the possibility of the supernatural. The secular conservatives disagree, which is fine. I can tolerate that, in the truly classical sense of the term.

But let's be blunt: there are a lot more of us conservative "Jesus freaks" than there are metropolitan secular conservatives. If they persist in flinging poo at their own allies, we'll politely take the hint and leave them to their lonely fits of pique atop their ivory towers. Of course, they'll have no luck with advancing our shared values of smaller government and a strong national defense. Ronald Reagan understood this. Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney seem to get it. But for some reason far too many Rudy McRomney backers have either forgotten that lesson or perhaps never learned it to begin with.

We conservative Christians have much more in common with secular conservatives than we do with any other major group. We don't make a habit of insisting that they become exactly like us, and we've dutifully pulled our share of the load since the 1980s. We can tolerate a lot of quiet disdain and open disagreement, but thumping on a prominent Christian simply because he's a Christian is beyond the pale.

If they've got two brain cells between them, the leaders of secular conservatism ought to re-evaluate who their natural allies are, and refrain from unnecessarily antagonizing them.

Sheesh. And they call us narrow-minded?

Mormonism, Christianity, and bigotry

user-pic

Since Hugh Hewitt's gotten into the habit of calling people "bigots" when they raise objections to Mitt Romney's religious beliefs, and since Governor Romney will soon deliver a speech about his Mormon faith and its relevance to his candidacy, it's time to look a little more closely at Mormonism, Christianity, and how they relate to presidential politics.

Mitt RomneyPlenty can be said about Mormons. They tend to be friendly, hard-working, honest, sober, thrifty, and kind. You'd be hard pressed to find better neighbors. Most Mormons I've met do a better job of living an upright life than I do.

What can't be said about Mormonism, unfortunately, is that it is essentially a Christian belief system. It's not. The two faiths overlap to some extent, but they differ on far too many essential points to mistake either one for a variety of the other.

Take a moment to read a side-by-side comparison of Christianity and Mormonism.

With so many mutually exclusive doctrines to differentiate the two faiths, Mormonism cannot logically be a form of Christianity. Christianity might be correct. Mormonism might be correct. Maybe they're both wrong. But let's not have any more silly claims that "Mormons are Christians." That claim ranks right up there with "squares are circles."

I'm a theologically conservative Christian, and I'm convinced that Mormonism is a cult, albeit a non-violent one. That said, I still trust Mitt Romney to faithfully and effectively serve as President if he wins the election. I have more confidence in him than I do in Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister whose theology closely parallels my own. I don't for one nanosecond extend any such trust to my (allegedly) Christian co-believer Hillary Clinton or any of her fellow Democratic candidates.

Examining a presidential candidate's core beliefs makes good sense. At the same time, we must exercise caution lest we Christians find ourselves in the hot seat:

If Romney is targeted for his Mormon theology, you can bet Christian candidates will become the regular victims of such interrogation. This is where theology and politics should not mix. Christianity, as we all know, is being pushed from the public square by secularists. Prominent voices claim Christianity actually poisons the political process (Hitchens, Harris, Sullivan) and more intimate examination of Christian candidate's theology will only marginalize them.


If Christians don't object strongly to the way this Mormon is treated now, we'll find next time around the political climate has changed. And next time there won't be a cultist in the race; Christians will be on the theology hot seat. Defending the Mormon now means defending the ligitimacy of Christian candidates to run in the future without a theological examination.

Hugh Hewitt means well when he defends Mitt Romney. I share the same outlook. All I ask is that Hugh cool it down a bit. In his zeal to prevent secularists from shoving both Mormons and Christians out of politics, he's attacking friendly forces by slapping the "bigot" label on any Christian who voices honest doubts about Romney's Mormonism and its influence on his thinking.

Save the ammo for the real opposition, Hugh.

Have you ever wondered why there's something, rather than nothing?

Happy Unspecified Holiday(s)

user-pic

Maybe they're talking about RamaHanuKwanzMas.

Doug Powell and the Blasphemy Challenge

user-pic

Ex-atheist Doug Powell challenges the illogical irrationality of atheism:

In case you're wondering what the Blasphemy Challenge is:

Are the Gospels historically reliable?

user-pic

Do you doubt the Bible's claims? I know I have reservations from time to time, and I've been conservative evangelical Christian since 1996. Case in point: any thinking person will entertain doubts about the historical reliability of the Gospels.

  • Are there contradictions in the Gospels?
  • Do the four Gospels have any support from archaeology?
  • Does John share any or many similarities with the other three?
  • Do they cohere together in a unified storyline?
  • Is the Gospel of John so far different from the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that John has little or no historical value?
  • How do theology and history interact in the four Gospels?
  • Can we trust them if they have a strong point of view and seek to persuade their readers or listeners?
  • What is the so-called Q "gospel"?
  • If it existed, what is its theology?
  • Are the Gospels based on eyewitness testimony?
  • If so, aren't eyewitnesses notoriously unreliable?
  • How is eyewitness testimony disclosed, if it is, in the four Gospels?
  • Are the eyewitnesses whose traditions that feed into the written Gospels anonymous or named?
  • What is the role of the Twelve in securing the traditions about Jesus?
  • What is a tradition?
  • Were the traditions passed on orally or literarily (in writing)?
  • Are there cultural analogies that show how they were transmitted?
  • Most importantly, are the four Gospels historically reliable?
  • Can we trust them, historically speaking, in addition to their theology?

Good questions, certainly. James Arlandson tackles them in turn and promises to keep going, courtesy of The American Thinker.

Moral relativism self-destructs

user-pic

More from Greg Koukl here.

Hat tip: Prudent Musings

Merry Christmas!

user-pic
Luke 2:1-20

Nativity in stained glassIn those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luther's rose in stained glassAnd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Secular fundamentalism, exposed

user-pic

Over on NRO, Patrick Lee & Robert George review Lee Silver's new book on bioethics and dismantle his arguments against "religious fundamentalists" who supposedly wrap their religious objectives in scientific rhetoric.

A sample:

Silver says that the claim that human embryos are human beings at an early stage of development is "hidden theology." This could mean two different things. First, as this claim is presented in the book, Silver asserts that we actually hold our position on the status of the human embryo on theological grounds. We are, he suggests, hiding this fact, manufacturing arguments that sound scientific, but are in reality merely a cover for our real, theological, and indeed, "fundamentalist" grounds.


To describe such a claim as an ad hominem argument is to exaggerate its standing. It is nothing more than ad hominem abuse. Silver knows that we are Catholics, and so he uses that fact to suggest that our real ground for believing that human embryos are human beings is Catholic doctrine. But here he has things exactly backwards. Our ground for believing that human embryos are human beings is the indisputable scientific fact that each human embryo is a complex, living, individual member of the human species. Although our claim does not rest on the authority of the Catholic Church, or any other religious body or tradition, we find the Church's teaching against human embryo-killing credible precisely because it -- unlike Silver's contrary teaching -- is in line with the embryological facts. If "fundamentalism" consists in obstinately clinging to a moral, religious, or political view in defiance of empirically demonstrable findings of science that falsify its premises, we are not the fundamentalists in this debate. It is Lee Silver himself who has fallen into a form of fundamentalism.

The biological fact that human embryos are human beings in the earliest stages of their natural development is, to say the least, inconvenient for Professor Silver. So he commits the very offense of which he accuses us and others who oppose his agenda. He hides his ideology under a veneer of science. But the veneer is easily pulled off and the truth exposed. Just examine any of the major embryology texts now in use in American medicine. What you will find is the teaching that a new human individual exists from the earliest embryonic stage forward. That individual is a complete, though, of course, developmentally immature, member of the human species, whose life -- whether it lasts for nine minutes, nine days, nine years, or nine decades -- is a human life.

Read the whole review.

You don't need to refer to any religious or scriptural authority to make a solid case that the unborn are people too.

Hat tip: LTI Blog

Now that two American physicists have won this year's Nobel Prize for proving that the Big Bang happened, the next logical question is "why is there something, rather than nothing?"

Why, indeed:

Why does something exist instead of nothing? Leibniz answered this question by arguing that something exists rather than nothing because a necessary being exists which carries within itself its reason for existence and is the sufficient reason for the existence of all contingent being.

...

Does Leibniz's argument therefore leave us in a rational impasse, or might there not be some further resources available for untangling the riddle of the existence of the world? It seems to me that there are. It will be remembered that an essential property of a necessary being is eternality. If then it could be made plausible that the universe began to exist and is not therefore eternal, one would to that extent at least have shown the superiority of theism as a rational world view.

Now there is one form of the cosmological argument, much neglected today but of great historical importance, that aims precisely at the demonstration that the universe had a beginning in time. Originating in the efforts of Christian theologians to refute the Greek doctrine of the eternity of matter, this argument was developed into sophisticated formulations by medieval Islamic and Jewish theologians, who in turn passed it back to the Latin West. The argument thus has a broad inter- sectarian appeal, having been defended by Muslims, Jews, and Christians both Catholic and Protestant.

The article I've just quoted is a defense of the kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God.

I just stumbled across an amusingly accurate description of the theological silliness in many a liberal Christian church, courtesy of an atheist named Brian Flemming:

Liberal Christianity, despite being non-hateful and on many issues even ethical, is hopelessly incoherent, however. Liberal Christianity says a perfect God wrote a perfect book--but he made mistakes. Or, alternately, liberal Christianity says the book is an extremely flawed and even disgusting work written by men--but special attention should still be paid to it. Liberal Christianity says religion shouldn't stand in the way of science--but a dead man did really rise from the dead. Probably. Or, at least, it's not unreasonable to believe that he did (or that he turned water into wine and walked on water). Liberal Christianity says the love of Jesus is the only way to Heaven--but if some people don't believe that, it's fine to let their deluded souls go off to Hell without even trying to stop them. Or maybe Heaven and Hell don't exist at all--but it's still very, very important to praise this figure called "God." For some reason.


Liberal Christianity wants to drink the Kool-Aid but pretend there's no cyanide in it. And nothing pisses off liberal Christians more than having the incoherence of their beliefs laid bare.

Rev. Joseph Phelps, a liberal Christian (who does, by the way, believe Jesus actually rose from the dead and is capable of saying so in as casual a manner as this parenthetical), dealt with my critique of his brand of Christianity in the easiest--and most empty--manner: by accusing me of being a "fundamentalist" atheist. I'm getting so tired of this line that I usually just ignore it, hoping the audience will simply see through it. But sometime I suppose I'll have to come up with a pithy way of explaining that a person who believes that 1 plus 1 equals 2 is not embracing "fundamentalist" math. He's simply rejected 1 + 1 = 3 as flawed.

Although Flemming finds little use for conservative Christians (we "fundies" believe crazy things, he says), he's certainly on target in these paragraphs.

Hat tip: Brutally Honest

Here's what's happening in the back-and-forth over the origins of morality, as fought between me and my conservative atheist colleague at Porkopolis. This post will stay at the top of the blog as long as the debate continues.

Recently I asked Porkopolis about the nature of morality:

When I first asked my question and used the word "ought", I meant it in its mandatory sense. Perhaps I should re-word my question. How about:
 
"Why must I behave morally, if there's
no transcendent moral Lawgiver?"

Porkopolis' latest response:

'Must' implies a mandate (as in 'mandatory') and is a concept that would be inconsistent with the free will that is a precondition for moral choices. Even a 'transcendent moral Lawgiver', if it existed, would find a morality resulting from mandates/coercion to be diluted relative to a morality that comes from free will.

As noted above, there is no guarantee that an individual will act morally once provided with the rational argument for the Golden Rule; just as there's no guarantee for morality once an individual is given the faith-based 'transcendent Lawgiver' argument.

I'm not talking about a lack of free will at all. I know that we have free will and that there's no guarantee that anyone will behave well. As Greg Koukl puts it: "The nature of a moral law is that it can be disobeyed by creatures with moral free will. If it couldn't be disobeyed, it wouldn't qualify as a moral law."

What I am talking about is a transcendent moral Lawgiver who sets out objective moral standards and expects us to freely obey them, or else suffer some kind of penalty. Without a transcendent Lawgiver, how does it make any sense to say that anything I do is morally "wrong" or "evil"?

Unless I'm mistaken, when Porkopolis thinks about "moral behavior" he's thinking of "behavior that imparts evolutionary advantages to me and my species." In other words, I think he's looking at it as a system of incentives, not as a transcendent moral Lawgiver's objective standards that carry penalties for willful disobedience.

My latest request for clarification about the possibility of meaningful atheistic morals has gotten a response from Porkopolis:

The 'challenge' was to provide evidence independent of a "transcendent Lawgiver" for "Why ought I be moral tomorrow/ Why I ought to be moral at all"; and the challenge was addressed directly with evidence.

The response was not "ought to because I ought to". Instead it was a reasoned argument for 'ought to' (Brain Shaving's original wording) because scientific evidence is revealing that the moral way (the Golden Rule way) is the strategy that maximizes everyone's outcomes.

It's an argument that doesn't resort to an unprovable, faith-based belief in a "transcendent Lawgiver". Instead it's an argument that appeals to rationality and reasoning. Furthermore, as will be reasoned in a moment, it's an argument that is in keeping with our 'selfish' nature.

Maybe I misunderstood. It wouldn't be the first time. We'll soon see, eh?

"Why I ought to be moral at all", by definition, implies a decision point and a search for a rational argument.

It's the very 'moment of truth' that rational/reasoning humans are capable of. It's as if the mind is going through a decision tree and saying, "Now, I can easily see the immediate reward of a selfish action...but what's the case/argument for a non-selfish (moral) action...why even bother when the case for immediate 'reward' is self evident."

I'm with you so far. This is the key question, alright.

We 'bother', because rationality and reasoning is an integral part of our genetic makeup...an inherited trait that has made us successful, at least up to this point in evolutionary time.

Our ability to reason and rationalize complements our other inherited traits; like acting in a 'selfish'/self-preservation mode. It's not a question of whether humans are rational or 'selfish'...humans are both.

There is no guarantee that an individual will act morally once provided with the rational argument, just as there's no guarantee for morality once an individual is given the faith-based 'transcendent Lawgiver' argument. But the rational argument does have an added benefit. It goes as follows:

If indeed individuals have a predisposition to act in selfish ways to maximize the viability of their offsprings, then it can be argued that it is a 'selfish' act to work towards creating an environment (society) that will maximize the outcomes for future offsprings. Applying the Golden Rule is ultimately a 'selifish' act. This type of reasoning has been put forth by Richard Dawkins and his research into the 'Selfish Gene'.

The argument for those that recognize their 'selfishness' and seek to reconcile moral actions with selfish actions is: Don't be shortsighted in your selfishness. By all means, recognize it and take it to the next level on behalf of all the generations that follow you...apply the Golden Rule and maximize their potential survival and the propagation of your genes.

That still doesn't answer my question, and I think it's my fault for being unclear in my wording. You're offering appealing enticements to behave morally, but you haven't yet offered anything along the lines of "You must behave morally because ..." What I take your explanation to mean is something like "You would be wise to be moral because ..." or "It's in your long-term interest to be moral because ..."

When I first asked my question and used the word "ought", I meant it in its mandatory sense. Perhaps I should re-word my question. How about:

"Why must I behave morally, if there's
no transcendent moral Lawgiver?"

Hopefully that's a little clearer.

Here's some additional food for thought: The scientific research referred to in 'Generous Players: game theory explores the Golden Rule's place in biology' provides evidence that outcomes are maximized by the Golden Rule strategy even when rationality and reasoning is not factored in at all:

Amoeba toon

...It's not that a paramecium, say, mulls over possible strategies. "You don't need to assume that the players of a game are rational and are bent on out-thinking each other," says Karl Sigmund, a game theorist at the University of Vienna in Austria. "They just have to follow their inbuilt programs."

What's needed is for strategies to be predetermined by an organism's genes and inherited from one generation to the next. Then, if one strategy outperforms the others, the individuals using that strategy will tend to have more offspring, who will also follow the superior strategy. After many generations, the weaker strategies will have been weeded out, and the players will be using the strategies that rational thinkers would have come up with...

So, applying the Golden Rule is not only supported using rationality, but it is a superior strategy even when it is implemented by organism that don't poses human levels of reasoning.

This is a straightforward theory that plausibly explains the evolutionary advantages of certain behaviors, but it is only descriptive and not prescriptive. It doesn't explain why a human being must obey a given moral rule, only that he'd be wise to do so, and that such past behavior has conferred benefits.

Convert to Islam or die

user-pic

Examining the recent release of two Fox News journalists forced at gunpoint to convert to Islam, Andrew G. Bostom writes about Islam's history of forced conversions:

Given this enduring (and ignoble) historical legacy, it remains to be seen whether contemporary Muslim religious authorities—particularly those within Palestinian society, and affiliated with Hamas or Fatah—will condemn publicly the forced conversions of the kidnapped Fox reporters. Moreover, will they be joined by a chorus of authoritative voices representing the entire Muslim clerical hierarchy—Sunni and Shi’ite alike—from Mecca and Cairo, Qom and Najaf, to the Muslim advocacy groups in the West (such as CAIR in the United States, and the Muslim Council of Britain in England)—unanimous in their condemnation of this hideous practice, and formalized by a fatwa stating as much? Will such Muslim authorities at least recognize the acute predicament of Centanni and Wiig by issuing a fatwa stating that their “conversion”, being under duress, was not bona fide, condemning in advance any Muslim who might now attack these journalists for “apostasy” from Islam?

What should be gleaned from this harrowing Gazan spectacle of non-Muslim journalists being kidnapped, imprisoned for nearly two weeks, and coerced at gunpoint into converting to Islam, while condemning their own societies? We must avoid indulging fantasies (such as those already expressed by the kidnapped Fox reporters upon their release) triggered by understandable Stockholm Syndrome reactions, or learned, fearful dhimmitude. Unsettling realities of the historical continuum of forced conversion to Islam must be discussed. The living Islamic fanaticism of the past cannot be allowed to poison the present (and future), unchallenged by Muslims themselves.

I'm not holding my breath.

LaShawn Barber asks "Christians, what would you do if some maniac held a gun to your head and asked you to deny Christ or die? Would you deny the Savior?" I hope that if I'm ever in that situation, I'll have the courage to die for my Savior. [Update: something like this would be good.]

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin

If there is no God, then why be moral?

user-pic

I challenged my fellow conservative blogger over at Porkopolis to answer why I ought to be moral at all, if God really doesn't exist and there are no such things as objective moral standards. He replies:

With regards to: "There is one question that can never be answered by any evolutionary assessment of ethics. The question is this: Why ought I be moral tomorrow?"

We ought to be 'moral' (treat others as we want to be treated) because it maximizes the outcomes (ala Game Theory) for all individuals involved as noted in the study referred to at: Generous players: game theory explores the Golden Rule's place in biology.

Naughty!  Naughty!That sounds persuasive at first, but it actually misses the point. Porkopolis assumes that I ought to care about maximizing the outcomes for all individuals. That's begging the question. He's saying that I ought to be moral because I ought to care about everybody else. I ought to because I ought to, apparently.

What's with this "ought" talk he's offering? Why should I care? Let everybody else care about humanity. I want to be selfish and mooch a free ride on everybody else's concern for me.

In fact, if his understanding of morality is true then I'm being rational by being selfish. I can do whatever I want to advance my own desires, and nobody has a right to claim that what I'm doing is "wrong" because the concept of "wrongness" is nonsense. I get to exploit a loophole in the "rules" that people like Porkopolis refuse to use.

I doubt that my colleague likes that arrangement, so again I ask the question: if there are no objective moral standards imposed by a transcendent Lawgiver, then why ought I behave in a "moral" way at all?

I look forward to his reply.

Update: Porkopolis' reply, and my rebuttal.

In a previous post I suggested that my atheistic colleague at Porkopolis consider the Kalam Cosmological Argument for the existence of God. Before I tackle his reply, it would be wise for me to outline what the argument is.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
2. The universe began to exist.
2.1 Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite.
2.11 An actual infinite cannot exist.
2.12 An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
2.13 Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
2.2 Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition.
2.21 A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
2.22 The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
2.23 Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

Ta-da! I'll post a reply to Porkopolis' objection soon.

Humanity should move beyond religion?

user-pic

Porkopolis makes some overly broad generalizations about religion in general:

Considering that
  • Religion is a man-made institution [Before arguing this point, first take on in your mind a belief in a 'God' you currently don't believe in - like Amun, Akua, Centeotl, Zeus or The Flying Spaghetti Monster and make your best argument against that entity. Then use that same argument against any belief in 'God' you may have];
  • Logic leads us to the Golden Rule without having to resort to religious doctrine;
  • Religion is used to justify acts of inhumanity;

Humanity should move beyond religion.

Let's not be so quick to sing the praises of cold-eyed, godless evolutionary worldviews.

Some religious zealots have killed lots of people, and Islamic fascists certainly max out the crapulence meter in that department. However, religious murderers are mere pikers compared to the paragons of atheistic society: the communists and secular socialists. Militant atheists Mao Tse-Tung, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il, and Adolf Hitler all hated believers (especially Christians). In the Twentieth Century alone, they and their governments racked up a body count somewhere in the range of 100 million to 120 million people.

And what about the claim that morality can be explained as an evolutionary survival strategy? Sorry, that doesn't explain morality at all, as Greg Koukl illustrates:

There is one question that can never be answered by any evolutionary assessment of ethics. The question is this: Why ought I be moral tomorrow?

...

The evolutionary answer might be that when we're selfish, we hurt the group. That answer, though, presumes another moral value: We ought to be concerned about the welfare of the group. Why should that concern us? Answer: If the group doesn't survive, then the species doesn't survive. But why should I care about the survival of the species?

Here's the problem. All of these responses meant to explain morality ultimately depend on some prior moral notion to hold them together. It's going to be hard to explain, on an evolutionary view of things why I should not be selfish, or steal, or rape, or even kill tomorrow without smuggling morality into the answer.

...

Evolution may be an explanation for the existence of conduct we choose to call moral, but it gives no explanation why I should obey any moral rules in the future. If one countered that we have a moral obligation to evolve, then the game would be up, because if we have moral obligations prior to evolution, then evolution itself can't be their source.

There's no way anybody can tell me "you ought to _________" ... that is, if there's no such thing as objective moral standards imposed by a transcendent moral Lawgiver.

P.S. -- Before my pork-busting colleague cries "foul!" at the mention of God, I would encourage him to consider the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Why can't Episcopals play chess?

user-pic

Is Andrew Sullivan a Christian?

user-pic

Joe Carter calls Andrew Sullivan his brother in Christ. But Tim Challies thinks it's safe to assume that Sullivan's no Christian. I lean toward Challies' view, but I'm terribly reluctant to disagree when someone professes to be a Christian. We'll see.

Sullivanism rejected again

user-pic

Joe Carter parodies an Andrew Sullivan essay on "Christianism" ... and simultaneously defangs the gay rights zealot:

So let me suggest that we take back the word conservative while giving this type of wishy-washy posturing a new adjective: Sullivanism. Sullivanism, in this view, is simply a faith. Sullivanism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between a conservative and a Sullivanist echoes the distinction we make between consistent and inconsistent. Conservatives are those who consistently follow a conservative political philosophy. Sullivanists are those who call themselves conservatives yet rarely embrace conservative policies, always do so inconsistently, and believe that all issues must be subordinated to the uber-issue of same-sex marriage.

...

That's what I dissent from, and I dissent from it as a conservative Christian. I dissent from the intolerance of sincere, personal faith. I dissent most strongly from the attempt to argue that one British man represents Christianity and that millions of Americans who do not agree with his views are all "Christianists." I dissent from having both my faith and political outlook co-opted and wielded by a man whose politics I do not share and whose intolerance I abhor. The words conservative and Christian are not the sole property of Andrew Sullivan. It's time the quiet majority of believers took the terms back.

Will St. Andrew of The Aggrieved Essay respond?

The greatest commandment

user-pic

Vox at a voice from eden noticed a theological switcheroo in one of Andrew Sullivan's posts on "Christianism":

Sullivan writes: "The first rule for a Christian should be, to my mind, humility in the face of God. That does not square with absolute certainty about God's politics or the willingness to force others to share the same interpretation of Christ's message as you do."

Well, no. The first rule for a Christian is to love -- the ONE commandment Jesus gave his followers. Moving and acting in the political realm, in whatever manner the Spirit moves one, should be seen as a way of expressing Christian love. All other motivations for taking part in the political life in our society are secondary to this.

Absolutely correct! I'm disappointed in myself for not seeing it right there in front of me:

Matthew 22:36-40 (New Living Translation)

36"Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?" 37Jesus replied, " 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."

Maybe Andrew Sullivan's creating an à la carte version of Christianity for himself. He wouldn't be the first.

Gregory Borse noticed Andrew Sullivan's logical inconsistency, too:

Sullivan's historical illiteracy

user-pic

A quote from Andrew Sullivan:

But history shows that Christianity, when pressed, will murder and burn and torture countless people to enforce orthodoxy. We live in kinder, gentler times, and Christianity experienced a Reformation, a Counter-Reformation and even the Second Vatican Council in ways that Islam sadly has not. And so regular Muslims are far closer to Islamists than many Christians are to Christianists.

Daniel Larison's reply:

Non-moral morality

Andrew Sullivan's second fiskable quote:

My belief in this boundary for political debate is not based on morality as such. It's based on a political judgment. That judgment is that in a society where so many people differ on so many vital, irresolvable issues - especially the meaning of life, the fate of our souls, the morality of sex, the salience of gender, the true beginning and end of life - we should keep the law as neutral as possible, so it does not become oppressive of people's freedom to decide for themselves what is true or untrue, right or wrong. This requires certain virtues - the ability to tolerate immorality in one's neighbors, moderation, restraint, openness to debate.

This statement refutes itself.

Read that again, and this time notice the use of moral terms like "should" and "virtues." Sullivan disclaims any moral basis for his recommendations, but before the paragraph ends he can't help but slip back into moral language. If moral arguments on these issues are truly out-of-bounds, why should anyone take Sullivan's recommendations seriously? By definition, the opposite viewpoint would be equally moral.

So why the use of "should" and "virtues"? Here's why. Sullivan can't honestly remain neutral and also hold any views at all. Neutrality isn't possible.

Andrew's making moral claims of his own, but he won't come right out and say so. He labels his advocacy as amoral "political judgment" to conceal his own moral judgments. Why? I suspect he worries that in an argument acknowledging the existence of moral standards, his own beliefs will be found wanting. In a situation like that, it's much easier to disparage your opponents and sling epithets at them than it is to admit that you're mistaken. Then, after writing your views into law (either by legislation or by lawsuit), you can unleash the raw power of the government against your opponents ... while comforting yourself with rationalizations about your own "neutrality."

Non-neutral "neutrality"

Here's the first quote that needs a good fisking:

My issue with Christianism is not "intolerance." In a free society, I'm quite happy to live among people who are intolerant of me, who decide not to associate with me, and generally disapprove of me, for whatever reason they decide. My point is that such intolerance not be enforced by the civil law; and that the civil law be restricted to reflect non-sectarian moral arguments that can be assessed and debated by Christian and non-Christian, Jew or Muslim, Mormon or atheist alike. If we can achieve a broad moral consensus, good. If we cannot, especially over divisive religious disagreements, then neutrality is the better option. And neutrality exists. A law that allows legal abortion or gay marriage as well as adoption and straight marriage is neutral with respect to its citizens' choices. It is not biased in favor of any one of them. If you have a moral objection, persuade and proselytize, don't legislate.

Sullivan's neutrality is anything but. Sullivan thinks that there are three choices available to civil government in a debate over moral issues: promote the behavior in question, prohibit it, or allow it without comment (the supposedly "neutral" option). But the "neutral" choice is actually a mild variety of promotion. A debate over what's right and what's wrong has only two choices by definition. To allow something is to say "it's not wrong", and that's identical to saying "it's right."

Sullivan's neutrality is misleading on another ground too. He says he wants civil government's neutrality when he actually wants promotion. He wants the availability of abortion or gay marriage to be protected by civil government, not simply allowed. If any coalition of like-minded citizens decides to oppose what Sullivan wants, then he expects civil government to step in and force those people out of his way. That is not neutrality. That is outright promotion.

Where government is concerned, moral neutrality is a myth. Sullivan uses "neutrality" as a weapon to demonize and demoralize conservative Christians for holding views that he doesn't like, while exempting his own views from criticism. Talk about selective application!

--

Update: Melinda at Stand To Reason accurately identifies Sullivan's tactic:

Sullivan is trying to disqualify some arguments from the political realm by labeling them extreme and religious. Look, everyone has a worldview that has consequences for political positions they hold. We don't exclude some citizens by labeling them and disquaifying them. We all get to bring our views, the whole variety of them, to the public square, express our opinions, agree and disagree, argue and dispute, and vote. The non-establishment Constitutional clause was one-way, meant to keep the government out of religion, not Christians out of politics.

I'm going to remember that remark about the one-way clause! Very nice!

Andrew Sullivan is trying to defend his recent accusations against "Christianists" (his term, which sounds an awful lot like "Islamists"), but a recent post on Time Magazine's site illustrates his inability to hide his disdain for conservative Christians behind repeated professions of "neutrality."

The preliminaries

I have two key points to raise before I attack Andrew Sullivan's neutrality, and he'd be wise to answer them if he wants to be taken seriously by anyone other than the radical left and those who oppose all religious expression.

First, let me point out that Sullivan hasn't identified who these "Christianists" are, other than one man* whose nationwide influence Sullivan fails to demonstrate. What is a "Christianist", exactly? Does it depend on the fervency of one's Christian faith? Or is it a belief that faith-based morals should inform one's policy preferences? Sullivan doesn't say ... and the mind is left to imagine a vast seething horde of secretive "Christianists" lurking in the shadows. Please, Andrew, more details.

Second, which current civil laws are enforcements of "Christianist" religious beliefs? Sullivan doesn't say. We can guess, but there's not much point in doing his work for him; let him make a full accusation so we can identify who the accused really are. Veiled insinuations won't cut it. The universal legal prohibition of murder finds its root in religious beliefs. So do the prohibitions of theft, rape, pedophilia and fraud. Would these laws fall under the "Christianist" umbrella and therefore be invalid?

If it's unacceptable to base laws on morals conveyed by any divine law-giver, then I wonder what basis Sullivan uses for his non-sectarian "moral" arguments? Why should I take him seriously if there's no divine sanction to back it up? All I have to do is find enough people to agree with me, and we can enforce our own non-sectarian argument over Andrew's. What recourse would he have then? None ... if he's intellectually honest.

* Correction: Besides David Barton, Sullivan also labels Ramesh Ponnuru, Hugh Hewitt, Robert P. George, Senator Rick Santorum, and Eric Cohen (who's Jewish) as "Christianists." However, my point remains. What, exactly, marks a person as a "Christianist", other than opposition to Andrew Sullivan's agenda?

UPDATE: Mel Gibson's a Christianist too, now.

Andrew Sullivan has a problem with "Christianism", but his description leaves me wondering just what exactly one of these strange beasts is:

Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.

Calm down, Sully. Breathe.

Who are the leaders of this dastardly conspiracy? What beliefs must one check off to be safe from their nefarious designs on power? More to the point, am I a "Christianist" in Sullivan's book because I oppose gay marriage?

What utter tripe. No wonder Sullivan declined to defend his hit piece on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. Andrew, here are two good definitions: Islamism and Christianity.

Faith and politics, all in a handy chart

user-pic

Click on it.

Credit: Bill Marsh / NY Times

Hat tip: He Lives, via NixGuy.com

Take a look at some amazing maps that track religion in America, county-by-county.

Happy Easter!

user-pic
Empty tomb

The tomb lies empty! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter, everybody!

If you've ever wondered what physically happened to Jesus during his crucifixion, you need only read "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ", which first appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1986.

As for whether Jesus actually rose from the dead, here's a brief outline explaining why it makes sense to believe that He did.

Afghan interest in Christianity rises

user-pic

CNS News reports a surge of interest in Christianity by ordinary Afghans, thanks to the brave stand against death by Abdul Rahman. Our faith has an amazing way of spreading even faster under persecution than it does in normal circumstances. Of course, that's all God's doing.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Merry Christmas!

user-pic
Nativity in stained glass
Luke 2:1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luther's rose in stained glassAnd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Pope objects to Groningen Protocol

user-pic

Wes Roth just e-mailed me to let me know that Pope John Paul II made an appeal to end the Groningen Protocol:

The Pope has urged doctors and authorities in the Netherlands to think again about their increasingly far-reaching decisions on euthanasia.

He issued his appeal as it emerged that a group of senior Dutch doctors had formally reported themselves for killing 22 terminally ill newborn babies. Their admissions were intended to force the authorities to agree to regulate the practice.

Pope John Paul II said on Saturday: "I urge the authorities and medical personnel and all those who exercise an educative role to weigh the gravity of these questions."

...

The Pope expressed his objections while receiving the new Dutch ambassador to the Vatican, Monique Frank.

He said: "For several years Dutch society, marked by the phenomenon of secularisation, has set in motion a legislative policy concerning the beginning and the end of human life.

"The Holy See has not failed to lay out its clear position and to invite Catholics in the Netherlands always to bear witness to the most absolute respect of the human person, from conception to natural death."

I'm glad he's speaking out. But for all the effect he'll have on today's Dutch, the Pope may as well shout into the wind.

I've commented on the Groningen Protocol before (here, here, and here). I'll be gone most of tonight so I'll be blogless, but my initial observation is straightforward: what more do we expect from a radically secular society? A callous disregard for human life flows predictably from a worldview that denies the existence of objective moral standards, much less any obligation to obey them.

Do the Dutch see the well-worn path they've started on? They don't ... and this road bends ever downwards. It's doubly disappointing to see this banal form of evil sprouting in a place that once was a center of Calvinist thought and reformation. For once, the often over-used Nazi comparison applies.

We in America would be wise not to keep following the Dutch.

Is China the threat we assume it to be?

user-pic

Australian optimist Arthur Chrenkoff looks northward toward China and reads the tea leaves to see if future conflict with America is really a foregone conclusion. Chrenkoff gathers disparate threads from the news that demonstrate China's ambition to control East and Central Asia (military buildups, diplomatic overtures, business deals), but then throws in an interesting wild card I hadn't thought much about recently: the rise of Christianity in Chinese culture, especially among that society's elites.

Fascinating stuff.

But I wonder ... whatever happened to China's secretive Assassin's Mace program? It sure has dropped from sight in the news, but that doesn't mean a doggone thing. Anybody have any news about it?

One other wild card comes to mind: capitalism (see Dinocrat's related post). If free market economics continue to make inroads into Chinese society, can China long remain a communist nation? If it does become some sort of democracy or republic, then it would be much less likely to clash militarily with America. After all, democracies don't attack each other.

Definitely something to ponder.

--

UPDATE: More China blogging from Why are all the good names gone ...

From Reuters, we have "U.S. Warns Iran Over Missiles, Punishes Chinese Firms." Since the release of Seymour Hersh's article on Monday, MSM sources have turned an increasingly sharp eye toward anything involving Iranian friction with the U.S.

Oddly, no official announcement of the sanctions was made, leading me to wonder if this is because the United States has no desire to highlight disagreements with China over Iran. Considering U.S. efforts to highlight Iran's intransigence, I would have otherwise expected this to receive more play from the administration:

...

The most indepth coverage was provided in the Times. I found the end of the article to be the most informative. China is a high-growth country with ever-expanding energy needs. Considering the fact that U.S. interest in the Middle East stems largely from a desire to meet its own energy needs, our position on the "moral high ground" regarding the spread of WMD is based primarily on the same sort of realistic calculations China has made in seeking to secure its own national interests:

...

The article suggests that Chinese nonproliferation efforts are taken more as an economic step (to avoid U.S. sanctions) than out of genuine concern for the spread of WMD and delivery system technology:

...

Talk of China and its expanding role in regions such as the Middle East reminds me of the recently waged debate within the EU regarding an end to the current arms embargo levied on China.

I've discussed the idea of political realism outweighing the notion of "shared values" here and here. Steps by some members of the EU (most specifically France) to court China as a strategic balancing point to U.S. influence serve as a reminder that national interests often take precedence over shared values.

Interesting Iranian/French angle. It can be maddening, trying to keep everyone's hidden agendas straight in one's mind.

Want to get really complex? Throw into the mix Colin Powell's recent statements revising America's stance on the "One China" policy, which appear to leave Taiwan twisting in the wind (presumably in exchange for an as-yet-unmentioned something from China). I wonder what Condi Rice will have to say about this (if anything)?

UPDATE 2: Finally! The shipping lane map I've been hoping for! Great find by Little Red Blog, along with more good analysis on the EU-China arms connection.

UPDATE 3: This post has merged at high speed into today's Beltway Traffic Jam.

Vox Apologia I

user-pic

Vox Apologia I is up, with ten posts on what apologetics means to today's Christian church.

Apologetics? What's that?

user-pic

Every Thought Captive and RazorsKiss.net are sponsoring a Christian blog symposium called Vox Apologia 1. The topic is "What does apologetics mean to today's Christian church?" I can't resist this one.

First, a definition. In rough terms I'd define "apologetics" as "defending the faith", although others give fuller definitions based on the Greek root word apologia, which means "a verbal defense, a speech in defense."1 Christian apologetics is a branch of Christian theology seeking to provide a rational defense of the truth of the Christian faith. When you engage in apologetics, you give an answer to tough questions about subjects like the existence of God, the Bible's reliability as a historical document, Jesus' resurrection, the simultaneous existence of evil and a good all-powerful God, and the like. That covers the definition well enough for our purposes here.

Since I don't hop from church to church, I can only speak for my impression of my congregation, which is part of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Here's what I fear "apologetics" means to my congregation:

[insert chirping cricket sound here]

That sounds a bit harsh, so let me dial it back a little. If I conducted a survey of my congregation and got replies from a signifant chunk of the ~2,000 official members, I'm confident that over 90% would not know what the term "apologetics" means, nor would they know much about the subject.

It's not that way because they wouldn't be interested if they were given an opportunity to learn. Any blame lies with the 10% of us (myself included) who do know something about apologetics ... and I also blame the inherent handicap we face in a society that tends not to read books, pay attention to anything but a TV screen, and have any spare time to speak of.

Odds are, your church's library has several books by apologists like C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul, G.K. Chesterton, Saint Augustine, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Francis Beckwith, or Ravi Zacharias ... or at least "pop apologetics" books by Lee Strobel, Paul E. Little, Josh McDowell, Hank Hanegraaf, or Phillip E. Johnson.

But if your church is like mine, those books probably have a good coating of dust on them. The most popular books are most likely the ones with the least theological meat in 'em, from authors like Tim Lahaye, Rick Warren, and Max Lucado. Don't get me wrong; these authors are fine Christian men who write well, and their books inspire many people to live better Christian lives.

What their books don't do is teach you to know what you believe, why you believe it, how it differs from what cults and other religions believe, and how the Christian faith makes more sense than any competing worldview out there. That is apologetics. And it's a field that absentminded amateur apologists like me need to get workin' on, so we can educate our fellow believers and offer the world better reasons to become a Christian than "it feels good and helps me cope."

So right now, I think the church has barely a clue about apologetics. I'm hopeful that some years down the road, it'll mean a lot more to the average believer ... who will be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for their hope, with gentleness and respect.

--

Note:

1) The word "apologia" occurs in the original Greek New Testament in the following passages: Acts 22:1 & 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16; and 1 Peter 3:15.

Don't sweat Newdow's anti-Pledge lawsuit

user-pic

A sharp fellow Christian conservative, Derek at Weapon of Mass Distraction, notes the news of atheist Michael Newdow's renewed attack on the Pledge of Allegiance after his previous lawsuit went down in flames. Derek betrays some uncharacteristic pessimism about our side's chances this time around:

Religion and politics

user-pic

Yesterday I pointed out the correlation between deeply-held Christian belief, knowledge of current events, and antipathy to Islam. Today, Power Line notes a similar connection between religious belief and voting patterns:

This year's election made clear what political leaders have known for some time -- religious belief and degree of religious commitment are closely associated with how people vote. Thus, the extent to which people hold, and are serious about, religious beliefs has a direct bearing on who will hold political power and what our policies will be across the spectrum of key foreign policy and domestic issues. Put another way, the fact that so many Americans believe in God and take religious teachings so seriously is a major reason why our politics and policies are not like those of Europe, where religion has been marginalized.

This is another "duh" moment for most everybody from the center to the right in American politics, but I'm betting that the guys at Power Line felt obligated to point out what ought to be obvious, since otherwise intelligent folks like Jeff Jarvis and Jesse Taylor still just don't seem to get it.

Hugh Hewitt tackles Jarvis' essay on the supposedly exaggerated battles over Christmas in America:

It is too easy to say "everything is fine," and "chill." The place of faith in America is a crucial topic that deserves every bit of attention it receives, even when a particular battle seems overblown when measured against the persecution of the house church in China.

Every time an elitist condemns a person of faith as a "theocrat," or a scientist rejects an argument against embryonic stem cell research as a "fundamentalists' position," the effort to expel faith from the public square advances, and not via debate, but via the sneer. Jeff Jarvis may not care a bit because such steps don't result in bloodshed or any sort of violence. But most public policy disputes don't, and the absence of physical injury doesn't make them any less worthy of debate or attention. Jarvis' jeremiad against focus on conflicts between the sectarian and the secular is itself an attempt to demote issues of faith in the culture to second-class conflicts, beneath the attention of "serious" thinkers -- a back lot drama played out by hayseeds and snake handlers. How convenient, and how wrong.

Read the whole thing.

For more examples of the War on Christmas, keep checking in with Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin, and David Limbaugh.

As knowledge grows, understanding grows

user-pic

In a survey published on Friday, Cornell University called 715 Americans on the phone and asked them their attitudes toward Muslims. Some of the respondents indicated a willingness to impose certain restrictions on Muslims in America, but even more respondents opposed any restrictions on civil rights at all.

In all, about 44 percent said they believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans.

Conversely, 48 percent of respondents nationally said they do not believe that civil liberties for Muslim Americans should be restricted.

When you see headlines in the next few days bemoaning the news that "nearly half" of Americans favor "curtailing the civil rights of Muslims", try to remember that even more Americans do not favor any restrictions at all. By a 4% margin. In a poll with a margin of error of 3.6%. Got that?

The survey also examined the relation of religiosity to perceptions of Islam and Islamic countries among Christian respondents. Sixty-five percent of self-described highly religious people queried said they view Islam as encouraging violence more than other religions do; in comparison, 42 percent of the respondents who said they were not highly religious saw Islam as encouraging violence. In addition, highly religious respondents also were more likely to describe Islamic countries as violent (64 percent), fanatical (61 percent) and dangerous (64 percent). Fewer of the respondents who said they were not highly religious described Islamic countries as violent (49 percent), fanatical (46 percent) and dangerous (44 percent). But 80 percent of all respondents said they see Islamic countries as being oppressive toward women.

This isn't surprising. I'd bet a pile of cash that if you do a survey of people who seriously practice Religion A, and ask them about their perceptions of serious believers in Religion B, there's going to be a marked difference in perception as compared to the general non-religious population. By definition, serious believers think that they've found the truth. It's no shock that they'd have misgivings about serious believers in a different religion, especially if the two groups make mutually exclusive claims about topics essential to one or both belief systems.

[James Shanahan, Cornell associate professor of communication and a principal investigator in the study] notes: "Most Americans understand that balancing political freedoms with security can sometimes be difficult. Nevertheless, while a majority of Americans support civil liberties even in these difficult times, and while more discussion about civil liberties is always warranted, our findings highlight that personal religiosity as well as exposure to news media are two important correlates of support for restrictions. We need to explore why these two very important channels of discourse may nurture fear rather than understanding."

Duh.

If you're convinced that Jesus is the unique Son of God, if you think Muhammad was no prophet, and if you pay attention to news reports of beheadings and suicide bombings carried out by self-professed followers of Muhammad, you're probably going to feel some trepidation about Islam. Plus there's that whole 9/11 thing, which probably matters to an American or two.

Next week, Cornell will report on the inexplicable correlation between committed belief in Judaism, knowledge of 20th Century history, and fear of fascism.

--

More coverage:
Jihad Watch
Little Green Footballs

They weren't homeless

user-pic

Power Line reprints an e-mail dialogue between Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman and a reader named David, arguing over Coleman's recent column that claimed Mary and Joseph were homeless when Jesus was born. Coleman's responses get progressively wackier as David makes his point.

Now poor Coleman needs a new example to drive his "homelessness crisis" meme.

A "Holiday Tree" no longer

user-pic

Eric Hogue brings glad tidings: California has an official Christmas tree again, not Gray Davis' "Holiday Tree." Way to go, Guvnah Ahnold!

Pray for New Orleans

user-pic

If Hurricane Ivan hits New Orleans, it could be a catastrophe. Please offer your prayers to God for the safety of the people along the Gulf Coast, and especially for the folks in New Orleans.

Tactics for opposing gay "marriage"

user-pic

If you're not a Christian, you might find this post mildly interesting, but it probably won't tickle your gray cells much. Most of you Christians out there trying to argue against gay "marriage" need to understand my point and adjust your approach.

Dr. Dobson over at Focus On The Family has posted excerpts from his book "Marriage Under Fire", offering his eleven arguments in opposition to gay "marriage":

  1. The legalization of homosexual marriage will quickly destroy the traditional family.
  2. Children will suffer most.
  3. Public schools in every state will embrace homosexuality.
  4. Adoption laws will be instantly obsolete.
  5. Foster-care programs will be impacted dramatically.
  6. The health care system will stagger and perhaps collapse.
  7. Social Security will be severely stressed.
  8. Religious freedom will almost certainly be jeopardized.
  9. Other nations are watching our march toward homosexual marriage and will follow our lead.
  10. The gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed.
  11. The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become "as it was in the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:37).

Venn diagramI think Greg Koukl over at Stand To Reason does a much better job of persuading undecided people who don't tackle this issue from an evangelical Christian worldview. In Dobson's defense, his audience is almost exclusively evangelical Christians like me, and his excerpted essay aims to get us off our lazy butts and do something about the problem.

Think of it this way. There are plenty of arguments you could use to oppose gay "marriage", signified by the inside of the light brown circle. Some of them have foundations in a Christian worldview (the darker circle). The wise advocate for traditional marriage will select the right intellectual ammunition for each target. You might be convinced that our Christian arguments give you more than enough to get the job done, but non-Christians respond to that approach like a tank responds to a pistol bullet.

Yes, I know we're right. But tactically speaking, your sincere beliefs don't mean anything to someone who doesn't recognize the authority of the Bible. How receptive are you when you hear a muslim arguing that Islam must be the one true faith, because the miraculous beauty and structure of the Quran shows that it couldn't possibly be otherwise? Their source of authority is illegitimate in your worldview. And just like them, you're trying to knock out a tank with a handgun.

If you don't want to be a gooey blob in somebody's tank treads, pick up an intellectual anti-tank missile. Use arguments that stand some chance of getting past the non-Christian's armor. I've highlighted five of Dobson's eleven points that have some promise. Not all of them are potential winning shots, but at least they can do some good.

Try using what you find here:

Tactics

Arguments

Commentary on news

I'll keep adding bullets as I find more good material.

Rev. Kerry's Commandments

user-pic

Hugh Hewitt just played a clip of the right Reverend John Kerry speaking to the Anti-Defamation League today. Rev. Kerry complimented the ADL on its "self-asked" (?) faithfulness to "one of the Commandments as we know: love your neighbor." Uh, no. That one got handed down a bit later in history by Somebody who the ADL probably doesn't put much stock in.

Any bets on whether Rev. Kerry's clarification will mention Leviticus?

--

UPDATE: Misquote? What misquote?

UPDATE 2: Did I call it with the Leviticus tactic or what? :)

I need advice from somebody who's a better Christian than I'm turning out to be.

Somebody tell me how I'm supposed to muster the willpower to love my enemies when they ambush and murder a pregnant woman traveling with her children.

Pray for Matt Maupin

user-pic

Now that Rantisi has assumed room temperature, I wouldn't be surprised if the Iraqi kidnappers' offer of a prisoner swap for Pfc. Matt Maupin will be violently retracted in the manner of Daniel Pearl or Fabrizio Quattrocchi. I hope it won't happen, but I expect it will.

Pray for Matt's safe return.

--

UPDATE: Looks like Jesse Jackson's getting involved.

UPDATE 2: In light of Nick Berg's awful murder, pray with renewed fervor for Matt.

UPDATE 3: Now we learn that Paul Johnson has been murdered in the same way. Keep praying for Matt's rescue or escape!

UPDATE 4: Al Jazeera is broadcasting a tape that appears to show that Matt has been killed by his captors.

Christ is Risen!

user-pic

He is risen, indeed! Happy Easter, everybody!

And now for something ... completely different. Here's a silly church leader's response to the BBC's plan to televise an abortion:

The Catholic Church condemned the programme. A spokesman for the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Birmingham, said: "Any film that shows an abortion is abhorrent to Catholics."

Abhorrent, yes ... but is it factually accurate? That's what matters.

Graphic images cut through the overwhelming background noise of our busy, visually-oriented pop-culture world. There's a reason that the local news channels lead their broadcasts with fires and car crashes: we're wired to notice things like that. It's proven beyond doubt that a similar approach works for the pro-life movement. Why else would abortion advocates recoil and complain so bitterly about our photographs of bloody fetuses?

I take it the good archbishop wants to keep Catholics blissfully unaware of the horrors happening daily in British abortion clinics, rather than risking any harm to their tender feelings. He must think his flock are literal sheep.

Jesus gets a fair shake from ABC?

user-pic

Robert Louis Wilkin caught my attention on yesterday's OpinionJournal with his article "The ABC of Holy Week." Mixed in with his observations about ABC's new documentary "Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness", this caught me by surprise:

Some of the most thoughtful observations come from Jewish scholars -- e.g., on the question of Jesus' appearances to his disciples after his death. We cannot know exactly what happened, says one, but clearly something did happen, and it was this that gave birth to Christianity. [Emphasis added]

Amazing. No dismissive scoffing at half-baked Apostolic conspiracies to hoodwink gullible believers? The shockwaves from Mel Gibson's "Passion of The Christ" continue to reverberate. Maybe I'll give this thing a chance and watch it, Peter Jennings notwithstanding.

Thus Sayeth The Leftie Loon

user-pic

First Howard Dean "found" religion when he campaigned down south. Now John F-ing Kerry, lapsed Catholic, slithers into a black Baptist congregation to put one over on the little people. Does anybody actually think this guy believes a word he's quoting?

"The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Kerry said. "When we look at what is happening in America today, were are the works of compassion?"

...

Kerry told worshippers in the largely black congregation that the country's leadership has served the privileged while ignoring people across America who live in neighborhoods like theirs.

Hey, Reverend Kerry! Go take a look at Matthew 7:15-23. You might want to keep that passage in mind.

RSS   Twitter
 




 
SOB Alliance posts
Web Analytics