TODAY: It’s election eve in America–things to consider. The race to 270, the consequences of elections, the power of the presidency, moral issues on the…
TODAY: It’s election eve in America–things to consider. The race to 270, the consequences of elections, the power of the presidency, moral issues on the…
Americans will soon head for the voting precincts as the 2012 election is at hand. Already, millions of our fellow citizens have voted through early…
TODAY: Human nature revealed by a storm, ill-timed climate arguments, U.S. birthrate at all-time low, 40% of all U.S. babies born to single mothers, ex-gay men decry enemies of “reparative therapy,” marriage on the ballot and a pressing question — Were evangelicals once pro-abortion? I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.
Hurricane Sandy is now just a weakened storm headed northward through Canada, but there is horrible devastation in its wake. It is now clear that the state of New Jersey bore the brunt of the massive storm. Ocean-front communities along the Jersey shore were largely dismantled. Photographs after the storm reveal missing boardwalks, submerged roller-coasters, windowless hotels, and broken homes. Insurance analysts now estimate that total losses may exceed $50 billion — making Sandy the most costly storm after Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew.
In the aftermath of a devastating storm, a basic fact of human nature is revealed. Even in the midst of storm and tragedy, humans reveal themselves to be amazingly resilient. Within hours of the blasting winds and flooding rains, New Yorkers were already on the streets, clearing debris and salvaging what they could. God made us with an amazing capacity to respond to danger and loss with courage and determination. These will be desperately needed in days ahead.
Watch for this — You can count on a barrage of ill-timed arguments about climate change in the wake of a big storm. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo lost no time declaring that Hurricane Sandy was an omen of things to come, due to climate change. They may or may not be right. But this is not the time for either side in the climate wars to manipulate the issue.
Writing in The New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof said that Sandy now forced the issue: “Isn’t it time to talk not only about weather, but also about climate?” Even is this is the time for that talk, it is not due to Sandy. Kristof admits as much when he carefully (and rightly) notes that no one weather event is evidence of climate change. He cites William Solecki of the New York City Panel on Climate Change who admitted as much, but then stated: “But [Sandy] is illustrative of the conditions and events and scenarios that we expect with climate change.” That is a clear admission of intellectual opportunism. That kind of opportunism, we should note, can happen on either side of of the intellectual divide.
One problem with this kind of weather argument is our lack of historical awareness. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado reminds us that Hurricane Sandy is not unprecedented in any sense. He then explains that in just two years (1954-1955) the Northeast and the Atlantic coast were assaulted by three deadly and devastating hurricanes (Carol, Hazel, and Diane). Each of these storms was twice as destructive as Sandy.
Furthermore, we are now in what Pielke calls a “hurricane drought.” The last category 3 storm to hit the U.S. was Wilma in 2005. The period since then, he reminds us, “is the longest such span in more than a century.”
Ominous news was released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. birth rate is now the lowest of the nation’s history. Only 3,953,593 babies were born in the U.S. in 2011, indicating the lowest birthrate ever reported for the nation. Add to this the fact that more than 40% of these babies were born to unmarried mothers.
These statistics point to a massive and potentially irreversible demographic trend, and that trend points to an even more dangerous moral shift.
In another development, “ex-gay” men who are upset at the denunciations of reparative therapy were given voice in The New York Times. The paper and its reporter, Erik Eckholm, deserve credit for this fairness.
In the article, men who were sexually attracted to other men, but considered this attraction sinful, spoke of the help they had received from reparative therapy — therapies designed to correct same-sex sexual attraction. This comes after California became the first state to criminalize the use of such therapies with adolescents. As one of the men stated: “If I’d known about these therapies as a teen I could have avoided a lot of depression, self-hatred, and suicidal thoughts.”
The psychological and psychiatric associations may condemn the idea that sexual orientation can be changed, but the New Testament insists that nothing is beyond the power of the Gospel.
As Paul writes:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)
Note the past tense — “such were some of you.” This is a vital biblical teaching.
Writing at CNN.com, a young medical student and author accuses evangelicals of a politically-driven change of heart on the question of abortion. He argues that evangelicals were one “pro-choice,” but changed their position in order to make common cause with Roman Catholics and the emerging New Religious Right. Instead of operating on pro-life conviction, Jonathan Dudley argues that American evangelicals were conned by “a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old.”
Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today responded to Dudley:
“A careful reading of our history suggests not that evangelical convictions are the result of a “well-organized political initiatve,” but that these initiatives grew out of our increasingly wide spread and deeply held moral convictions and deepening awareness of the number of lives being cast away (over a million a year since 1976). To be sure, once the evangelical anti-abortion movement got started, politics reinforced ethics, and vice versa. But as one embedded in the movement for nearly half a century–and one who has been often troubled by the ham-fisted anti-abortion politics of the Religious Right—there is no doubt that the ground of anti-abortion politics is moral conviction and a bloody historical reality.”
I discuss the issue and affirm that Dudley is at least partly right. Many evangelicals did hold to embarrassingly liberal positions on the abortion issue (including, I must admit, the Southern Baptist Convention). He is wrong, however, when he argues that the reason for the shift on abortion was political. Galli sets that record straight.
In Maine, Minnesota, Washington State, and Maryland, same-sex marriage is on the ballot. In an editorial, The New York Times decries the fact that same-sex marriage is on the ballot at all. “The freedom to marry is a fundamental right that should not have to be won or defended at the ballot box,” the paper argued. The problem with that statement is the fact that, in a democracy, every political or legal question is eventually a ballot question. Most issues are not decided by a direct citizen vote, but that vote does determine the eventual shape of the government. This is necessarily so if the government is truly “by the people.”
Similarly, the paper asserts that “ballot initiatives are a bad way to write or rewrite laws of any kind.” That is a truly unfortunate statement. Ballot initiatives are always clumsy, but the editors of The New York Times claim that citizen initiatives are the wrong way to go for “laws of any kind.” This is a dramatic overstatement, and it represents an undiluted and dangerous form of elitism
I discuss all these and more in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. Listen here. http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/11/02/the-briefing-11-02-12/ Links to all articles cited are also provided.
TODAY: The human dimension of Hurricane Sandy, leadership lessons from Sandy, young millennials turn into economic conservatives, the French government decides to pay for all abortions, churches accommodate to short attention spans, and yet another (very strange) Halloween challenge. I discuss all these in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.
Hurricane Sandy is now just a tropical depression moving into Canada, but the storm left a wake of devastation that includes over 50 deaths. Reporter James Barron of The New York Times revealed that the victims included 11 and 13-year-old boys who were killed in their home when a 90-foot tree crashed into the house. An off-duty police officer who helped a family get to safety drowned when he went to check the basement for others who needed rescue. Story after story will unfold with tragedy and grief.
Hurricane Sandy will join those storms that now reside in the nation’s memory of tragedy. Such storms become part of our life story, part of our family saga, and a communal memory that links generations in a shared experience of disaster and its aftermath.
The statistics of Hurricane Sandy are shocking — winds of 129 miles per hour clocked in New Hampshire, for example. Americans have learned a new vocabulary in the wake of the storm, including the word “dewatering,” which now is very much on the minds of those in the flooded region.
Many lessons will be learned in days and months ahead, but the importance of leadership is already very much in view. The good news is that most leaders across the political spectrum have led well, helping citizens to understand the scale of the danger and then to take responsible action. President Obama (a Democrat) joined New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (a Republican) in mobilizing resources. Mayors like Newark’s Cory Booker (a Democrat) and New York City’s Michael Bloomberg (a Republican turned Independent) demonstrated why mayors still matter.
In other news, Martha Irvine of the Associated Press reports that those young Americans known as the millennial generation are turning increasingly conservative when it comes to economic policy. The reason seems simple enough — as these young Americans move into adulthood and face economic reality, this changes their worldview. They are looking for jobs and hoping to marry, have children, buy houses, and enjoy the fruit of their labor. The worldview implications for Christians are many, but one salient fact is that worldview often shifts with age and with the assumption of new responsibilities. This report adds new data to that evidence.
Other evidence of the importance of worldview comes from France, where the government is expected to approve full and direct government funding of all abortions and to make contraceptives totally free for teenagers 15-18. This highly secularized nation will now not only make abortion on demand fully legal – it will pay for all abortions, in full. The radical secularization of France explains how such a policy could come into place with widespread public support.
Lois K. Solomon and James D. Davis of the Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) report that many churches are offering shortened worship services designed to attract attendance from a generation marked by a short attention span. The Rev. Chip Stokes of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach said: “We are increasingly aware of the time pressures on families, and they have been telling us that the traditional service is too long for them. We recognize that things are changing and we have to be more adaptive without losing our core.”
The article raises significant questions about the plausibility of conforming worship services to the tastes or attention spans of those too busy to attend a regular service. Christian worship requires an attention span, and churches that market to taste are likely to find that they gain little and lose much. The article also makes clear that when services are cut, the sermon suffers the greatest cut. Some churches have dispensed with the sermon altogether. For Evangelicals, preaching stands at the very center of biblical worship.
Finally, The Wall Street Journal reported that parents in Churchill, Manitoba in Canada had to warn their children of danger in bone-chilling detail last night. They were not kidding. The danger in that Arctic community is that the little trick-or-treaters would become what the locals call “bear bait.” Polar bears make their way through the area this time of year, eating in preparation for the long winter. The kids out last night were to be protected with helicopter cover, armed sentries, and bear traps loaded with seal meat.
The question that seems obvious to my mind is this — Why send kids out with the danger that they could become “bear bait?”
I discuss all these in today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview. Listen here. Links to all articles cites are also provided.
TODAY: Hurricane Sandy turns deadly, a moral crisis for The New York Times, a failed argument for medical marijuana, and the United Nations calls for…
TODAY: Hurricane Sandy slams into the Northeastern Atlantic coastline, Halloween turns grisly for children, some churches push “Souls to the Polls,” and Thomas Friedman tries…
TODAY: Lessons from the weather and the “adultification” of Halloween. Two huge issues frame our thoughts this Monday — Hurricane Sandy and the celebration of Halloween. Both issues will reverberate throughout the week. I discuss both on today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.
First, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the Northeast coast of the United States, forecasters indicate the likelihood of severe damage and the danger of large-scale human casualties. The scale of preparations is evident in the fact that U.S. airlines have already canceled over 5,000 flights in light of the storm. There will be no commercial air traffic throughout much of the region at least through Tuesday. In New York City, mass transit systems are shutting down, even as Amtrak is canceling trains along the Atlantic corridor.
Over 50 million Americans live in the region most likely to be tormented by the storm, which is now 800 miles in diameter and has sustained winds of at least 75 miles per hour. Forecasters predict that the slow moving storm will collide with another system approaching from the West, prompting memories of the infamous “perfect storm” of 1991.
From a Christian worldview perspective, the finitude of human beings is never more apparent. Even with advanced technologies of prediction and forecasting, humans can do nothing to prevent the storm from hitting land. We cannot even mitigate its winds and rain.
But, what we can do is learn from the past and take advantage of the warnings these technologies allow. So, why are so many defying the warnings? Once again, human nature is at work. We often feel a false sense of security as we are surrounded by the familiar, but this can be fatal. Political leaders have learned from past mistakes and have been working hard to convince citizens to heed the warnings.
The rest of us can only pray that the storm will not bring the destruction and deadly consequences many now predict.
Second, I take another look at Halloween, turning first to reports that the holiday has been “adultified.” Though most of us remember trick-or-treating as kids in suburbia, today’s celebration of Halloween is decidedly adult. Halloween now ranks second in terms of holiday consumer spending — behind only Christmas.
As Bruce Horivitz of USA Today reports, Americans will spend $8 billion this Halloween, and most of that spending will be for adult entertainment and celebration. As Horovitz reports:
“A decade ago, fewer than three in 10 costumes purchased for Halloween at Halloweenexpress.com were for adults. Now, it’s more than six in 10. It should be no surprise that consumers will spend an average of $123 this Halloween, more than twice the average $53 that they spent on it a year ago, reports American Express Saving & Spending Tracker.”
Why? He suggests that Halloween has been transformed into an adult holiday because it lacks the obligations of other major celebrations:
“In the midst of this adult takeover, Halloween has emerged as the No. 2 holiday in consumer spending for decorations, after Christmas. Maybe it’s because Halloween is about friends, not family. Or perhaps it’s because there are really no gifts to purchase, no religious rituals to observe and rarely any red-eye plane rides involved.”
But the celebration has changed in character, too. With adult participation has come “adult” themes. The holiday is highly sexualized, with the most popular costumes for women related to sexual themes.
And it’s not just women. One mother has referred to Halloween as “sexualize our daughters season.” Deborah J. Tolman, writing at the Huffington Post, puts the matter frankly:
“In a perverse appropriation of “girl power,” mini versions of sexy women will be winding their way through the streets of America this Halloween. They’ll have bought their French maid outfits, pink pussycat heels, and midriff-baring Bad Girl University sweaters online or at a big box store near you.”
“That Halloween has gone from scary to sexy in recent years is a reflection of a profound and problematic societal issue: the sexualization of girls. Such portrayals of young girls are so familiar to us and to girls themselves that it seems normal, harmless, and simply the way that girls are nowadays. In fact, it passes as liberation — just look at all the power girls have now: the power to shop, to look cute, to be “sassy.”
But, even after warning parents of these development, she dangerously lets them off the hook. Consider these words:
“But for various reasons, we as parents have not said “no” to the retailers, because too often in this ever more consumer-driven society, we do not say “no” to our children. We’re afraid of what can happen when our children don’t conform or we resist too much, like the six year-old kicked off her cheerleading team in Michigan because her parents protested a sexualized cheer.”
Well, parents who care about “what can happen” when parenting meets peer pressure are putting their children in grave danger.
Finally, deal with some of the historical and theological issues related to Halloween and the embrace of the “dark side.”
On that issue, you can read my full column, “Christianity and the Dark Side–What About Halloween?,” reposted here.
All these are discussed in today’s edition of The Briefing. Listen here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/10/29/the-briefing-10-29-12/ Links to all articles cited are also provided.
Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would “witness a gigantic conflict of spirits.” His prediction…
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TODAY: Also on the ballot in November, the legalization of marijuana (Oregon, Washington, Colorado) and the expansion of gambling (Maryland). The precedent is set for a radical expansion of presidential power after the election. The new face of infidelity — women are committing adultery at rates formerly known only to men. I discuss all these on today’s edition of The Briefing: A Daily Analysis of News and Events from a Christian Worldview.
The legalization of marijuana has been controversial for some time, but the issue is front and center as voters in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado go to the polls November 6. In California, The New York Times reports that an estimated 500 to 1,000 “medical marijuana” dispensaries exist, largely outside government control. Prescriptions for medical marijuana can be obtained on Santa Monica beach, and no one believes that all the healthy young customers of the marijuana dispensaries are actually cancer patients. In Colorado, the shape of the future of marijuana as a retail consumer product is taking shape. As TIME reports, this is an ominous future, with companies poised to exploit a profit motive to get people hooked on marijuana — including teenagers, whose use is now at a 30-year high.
In Maryland, voters will be asked to expand legalized gambling. But, as Keith Harriston of The Washington Post argues, this will put the most vulnerable at greatest risk and puts the government in the posture of predator against its own people.
I then discuss coverage in Newsweek and New York Magazine about President Obama’s expanded use of executive orders to get around Congress. These articles raise very serious constitutional issues, especially about the separation and balance of powers intended by the founders as a firewall against executive tyranny. As Jonthan Chait of New York Magazine argues, this sets the 2012 election in a new and important light. The President who sits in the Oval Office in this new presidential term — whether Obama or Romney — will be tempted to use this executive power on an unprecedented scale.
Finally, I discuss a very revealing article by Peggy Drexler in The Wall Street Journal. Drexler reports that women are now committing adultery at rates formerly associated only with men. This strange form of gender equality is tragic news for all, and Drexler argues that it results from a growing normalization of adultery in the media, the fact that so many women are now involved in business contexts and travel, and the rise of social media. “The New Face of Adultery” puts a very old sin in a sad new light.
All these are discussed on today’s edition of The Briefing. Listen here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/10/25/the-briefing-10-25-12/ You will also find links to the articles cited.
In today’s edition of The Briefing I talk about the issue of abortion in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, with a particular reference to a controversy surrounding comments made by Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Rep. Ryan affirmed the personhood of every human being from conception until natural death. In response, MSNBC host Chris Matthews argued that Ryan’s view — held by millions of pro-life Americans — is “almost like Sharia,” a reference to Islamic law.
What Matthews failed to acknowledge is that the law absolutely requires a definition of human personhood, explicit or implied. That definition will be determined on some basis and will ascribe human personhood at some point along the continuum of human development. The pro-life position is that full human dignity must be recognized at conception or some human beings — indeed millions of human beings — will have that dignity and right to life denied.
I also discuss a recent Gallup Poll indicating that the total percentage of GLBT Americans (those who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered) is 3.4% — not the 10-25% often assumed or claimed by many Americans.
I then turn to discuss the finding that American boys are now entering puberty earlier than in previous generations. This points to an increasing distance between male puberty and the age of marriage. The delay of marriage and the extension of adolescence becomes an even more pressing challenge.
Finally, I talk about a recent story out of California in which a group promoting the practice of yoga has put over $500,000 behind an effort to teach yoga to children in the public schools of one community. A group of parents is rightly concerned that there is no way to remove Hinduism from yoga, despite the claims of the school district.
The Briefing is a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview. You can listen here.
Links to articles I discuss in the program can be found here.
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More than twenty years ago, theologian J. I. Packer recounted what he called a “Thirty Years’ War” over the inerrancy of the Bible. He traced his involvement in this war in its American context back to a conference held in Wenham, Massachusetts in 1966, when he confronted some professors from evangelical institutions who “now declined to affirm the full truth of Scripture.” That was nearly fifty years ago, and the war over the truthfulness of the Bible is still not over — not by a long shot.
With current challenges to the inerrancy of Scripture in view, I convened a panel of theologians to revisit the question. In one sense, the challenges to inerrancy are more direct than ever, with figures associated with some evangelical institutions calling for a straightforward repudiation of the doctrine. Other assaults are more subtle, but all of these challenges demand our close attention.
The panel was convened on Thursday, September 27, 2012, in Alumni Chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The video of the panel can be viewed by clicking here.
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Joel Osteen was back on CNN this week, appearing Thursday morning on “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien.” Osteen’s new book, I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life, recently hit the nation’s bookstores.
Osteen’s positive thinking theology was on full display in the interview, as in the book. O’Brien asked if he really believes that speaking declarations out loud can make them come true. Osteen assured her that he does, promising that speaking positive words can bring positive results and warning that speaking negativity will bring negative results. “I don’t think there’s anything magic about it, but those words go out and come right back in and affect your own self-image.”
In the book itself, Osteen asserts, “You’ve got to send your words out in the direction you want your life to go.” The theme of his book is simple: “With our words we can either bless our futures or we can curse our futures.”
The most enthusiastic response to Osteen’s message came from Deepak Chopra, the New Age self-help guru, who was also on the CNN program. He affirmed Osteen’s message and added, “I’ve believed forever that there’s no mental event that doesn’t have a brain representation, that every thought actually generates molecules.”
The two self-help experts then elaborated on their ideas, with Osteen urging “activating faith,” because “faith is what causes God to work.” Later, he even spoke of “speaking to the seeds of greatness that God’s placed in all of us.”
The appearance of Osteen and Chopra together was a priceless demonstration of the fact that the New Thought positive thinking philosophy that drives them both can be grafted onto either Christianity or Eastern religion. In the end, it all sounds the same. Chopra’s New Age spirituality and Osteen’s updated version of the word-faith movement end up as the same message, only with different trappings.
O’Brien then shifted the topic to homosexuality, as would be expected. As she said to Osteen, “Almost every time we have a pastor on, it’s a conversation we have.”
She then said, “When you say homosexuality is a sin and there’s a bunch of people who clearly are gay in your church. You’re calling them sinners. I mean, that’s the opposite of uplifting, I would think.”
She established the perfect platform for Osteen to respond with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he did not. “Well, Soledad, I don’t necessarily focus on that. I only talk about that in interviews,” he said.
So this pastor only talks about sin on television interviews, and then only when forced to do so. He then attempted to broaden the talk of sin to being critical and even “being negative.”
Osteen tried to explain that he tries to avoid such issues intentionally. “I think part of my, if you want to call it success, I’ve stayed in my lane and my lane is listing people’s spirits and there are issues that good, Bible-believing people see on both sides of the fence.”
So, “good, Bible-believing people” are found on both sides of the fence when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, Osteen said. His intention is clearly to straddle that fence.
He affirmed previously that homosexuality is “not God’s best” for humanity. Even then, the words had to be put into his mouth by others, including a major homosexual activist also on the program.
Pressed again by O’Brien, Osteen repeated: “First of all, in my services, I don’t cover all those issues that we talk about here.” Later, he responded to another question by stating: “And I don’t understand all those issues and so, you know, I try to stick to the issues that I do understand. I know this: I am for everybody. I’m not for pushing people down.”
Viewers of CNN saw a display of confusion, evasion, and equivocation coming from one presented as a Christian pastor. What they were really seeing is the total theological bankruptcy of the word of faith movement and the gospel of positive thinking. Osteen cannot, or at least will not, speak even the simplest word of biblical conviction. He states his intention to stay in his “lane” of glib affirmation.
Affirmation is important, and humans crave it. But affirmation as a sinner is the worst possible form of pastoral malpractice. Christianity is based on the truth that sinners need a Savior, not merely a coach or a therapist.
Joel Osteen’s appearance on CNN Thursday revealed little that is new. It was Osteen as always — evasive and confused, but constantly smiling. This is now his calculated and well-practiced approach. He offered no word of the gospel, and no reference to Jesus Christ, but he was introduced as “one of the most recognizable faces of Christianity in America today.”
There, for all to see, was Joel Osteen … staying in his lane.
I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/
Transcript, “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien,” Air date Thursday, September 20, 2012. transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1209/20/sp.01.html
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