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August 28, 2005
Hurricane Katrina is now a Category Five storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, threatening to bring massive destruction to a region ranging from Alabama to Louisiana. We need to pray for those in the path of this dangerous storm.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.
Psalm 46:1-7, English Standard Version
HURRICANE LINKS: National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Weather Channel, CNN Weather, Fox News Weather, The Times-Picayune [New Orleans], North American Mission Board Disaster Relief [SBC], New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Google News on Hurricane Katrina.
August 28, 2005
The Association of Christian Schools International and Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, CA have filed suit against the University of California, charging the giant state university system with discriminating against high schools that teach creationism and other Christian beliefs.
According to Saturday’s edition of The Los Angeles Times: Under a policy implemented with little fanfare a year ago, UC admissions authorities have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin’s theory of evolution, the suit says.Other courses rejected by UC officials include “Christianity’s Influence in American History,” “Christianity and Morality in American Literature” and “Special Providence: American Government.”The 10-campus UC system requires applicants to complete a variety of courses, including science, mathematics, history, literature and the arts. But in letters to Calvary Chapel, university officials said some of the school’s Christian-oriented courses were too narrow to be acceptable.According to the lawsuit, UC’s board of admissions also advised the school that it would not approve biology and science courses that relied primarily on textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books, two Christian publishers.
Instead, the board instructed the schools to “submit for UC approval a secular science curriculum with a text and course outline that addresses course content/knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community.”
This would represent an unprecedented form of discrimination against Christian schools, Christian parents, Christian churches, and Christian students. The university system would be within its rights to require a measurable knowledge of material in various disciplines, so long as it is required of all students. But it has no right to dictate a secular perspective for a school’s curriculum. This is a lawsuit that demands a close watch. Its implications reach far beyond California.
LINKS TO SUE OVER: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, San Diego Union Tribune, Long Beach Press Telegram.
August 27, 2005
Chen Guangcheng is blind, but the 34-year-old activist is taking on the Chinese government’s “one child only” policy. This man sees what others cannot or will not — the true horror of the Chinese government’s anti-human policy. He is organizging Chinese peasants in a brave effort to mount a legal challenge to the government’s policy.
August 27, 2005
Beliefnet.com has published an exchange on the exclusivity of the Gospel. Bill Haley, pastor of the Coracle Community in Washington, D.C., argues for an inclusivist position. His argument follows the framework common to almost all inclusivist positions — expressing a vague hope rather than a careful biblical argument.
Take a look at this paragraph: For me, I hold out hope that heaven will be inhabited by those whom my theology won’t easily allow in. While I do believe that it is the forgiving blood of Jesus that is the ticket, I wonder if one has to conscientiously know that it is Jesus’ blood that saves them in order for them to be saved. I wonder about the figures in the Old Testament whom I would expect to see in heaven who, while they certainly didn’t know the name of Jesus, are saved by him. I wonder about how God has been effectually revealed to those of many tongues, tribes, and nations in miraculous ways that don’t require a human messenger. I wonder about verses like 1Timothy 4:11 that speak of the living God, “who is the savior of all people, and especially those who believe.” I assume he meant 1 Timothy 4:10 rather than 4:11. In any event, Paul is not suggesting anything like a universal salvation. Furthermore, the question about Old Testament saints is conclusively answered in Hebrews chapter 11. They were saved through faith in Christ — just like the saints who came after them. They consciously trusted God to be faithful to His promises.
Michael Youssef, pastor of The Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, GA and speaker for Leading the Way, argues for the orthodox position that conscious faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. We are saved only by the grace of God, and salvation is possible because Christ died on the cross to pay the price for your sins and for mine. And praise God He did!, affirms Youssef. Further: While our society continues to evolve, we must remember that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) He does not change. He alone is the way to God the Father, to heaven, to salvation. And nothing we can do or dream up will ever change that. Youssef offers a helpful framework for evaluating today’s various “spiritualities” as well.
August 26, 2005
The protection of religious liberty remains a central concern in Iraq, even as the Iraqis struggle toward a constitutional system. Christianity Today features an important interview with Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House. She makes a very powerful argument:
Our State Department bureaucracy, most of our policy makers in Congress, and those in the media are intellectually unprepared for understanding why the denial of individual religious freedom for Muslims is so subversive to democracy. They describe Saudi Arabia’s system simply as rigid and puritanical. We need to understand extreme Islamic law better because it is our main ideological challenge today.
August 26, 2005
Here is evidence of cultural disaster: Russians, whose lives are shorter and poorer than they were under communism, have more abortions than births to avoid the costs of raising children, Bloomberg.com reported Tuesday quoting the country’s highest-ranking obstetrician. About 1.6 million women had an abortion last year, a fifth of them under the age of 18, and about 1.5 million gave birth, said Vladimir Kulakov, vice president of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. “Many more” abortions weren’t reported. [See Moscow News]
In 1991, the International Herald Tribune reported: “An entrenched ‘abortion culture’ in Russia and Eastern Europe has outlived the collapse of communism by more than a decade.” More from the article: The most startling statistics come from Russia, where abortion is used more than anywhere else in Europe — measured both in absolute terms and per capita. According to the World Health Organization, Russian women in 1990 registered 1,971 abortions for every 1,000 live births — or roughly two abortions for every childbirth. A decade later, the ratio stubbornly remains at 1,696 abortions per 1,000 births.
August 26, 2005
The controversy sparked by the Journal of the American Medical Association receives more attention today. JAMA published an article that reported on research claiming that fetuses feel no pain until at least the 29th week of gestation. [See article below] The journal failed to inform readers that two of the researchers were deeply involved in abortion — one directing an abortion clinic and the other serving as an attorney for NARAL.
The journal’s defenders argue that the ties to the abortion industry have no bearing on the article or the research. The Chicago Tribune is out with an important article on the issue today. Here’s my favorite paragraph from the article: “Dr. Philip Darney, chief of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at San Francisco General Hospital, defended that decision, saying in a statement: “The research team does not believe that being an abortion provider is a conflict of interest.” This statement is incredible. Does anyone really expect the authors to admit their bias?
More: The San Francisco researchers “must have known there would be criticism from the right-to-life people,” said Dr. Arnold Relman, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. “In a situation as contentious as this, it seems more disclosure should be the rule rather than less.” Dr. Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School, is also a former editor of the New England Journal. “Suppose it were the other way,” she said. “Suppose there were an article that said that [fetuses] do feel pain and it was written by people who were involved in the right-to-life movement. Would I want to know that? I think I would.”
August 26, 2005
Jeffrey Jue, Assistant Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, has written a thoughtful analysis of the Emergent church movement. “What’s Emerging in the Church?” is published at reformation21, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.
His aim: The purpose of this article is not to provide a comprehensive critique of the Emergent Church. Instead I would like to give a somewhat narrowly focused evaluation from the perspective of a historian and then offer some suggestions from church history to help address some of the concerns expressed by Emergent leaders. At first it may seem misplaced to invoke a primarily retrospective discipline while commenting on an extremely prospective movement. Moreover some readers might be anticipating a predictable traditionalist critique that eschews anything progressive. After all the Emergent Church, like all postmodern thinkers, is attempting to move beyond the past and discard the shackles of modernity. While many within this movement prefer to engage current issues or anticipate future challenges, the motivation for insisting upon a “new Christianity” is deeply historical.
More: What’s emerging in the church? According to many Emergent leaders, something old and new. But without accurately understanding the old, the new lacks the rigor and depth which can only be achieved through years of testing and refinement. Meeting the challenges of our contemporary culture is not an easy task. We must have the humility to admit that we cannot meet this challenge alone. Thankfully we are not historically isolated. We have a rich history of theological reflections and writings from which to draw from.
August 26, 2005
An undisclosed conflict of interest related to abortion is fueling controversy at the Journal of the American Medical Association. Here is the lead from an article in today’s edition of The New York Times: “Two of five authors of an article published in a medical journal on Wednesday saying that fetuses probably cannot feel pain before the 29th week of pregnancy did not tell the journal that they had abortion-related activities that might be seen as a conflict of interest, the journal’s editor said Wednesday.”
Specifically: “One author, Susan J. Lee, a medical student, is also a lawyer who for eight months from 1999 to 2000 worked in the legal department at NARAL, an abortion rights group. Another author, Dr. Eleanor A. Drey, performs abortions and is medical director of an abortion clinic.”
Dr. Catherine D. DeAngelis, editor of the journal, claimed that she had been unaware of the authors’ activities. Nevertheless, she defended the journal, asserting that outside experts had reviewed the article.
Amazingly, the two authors cited in the article claimed that the conflict of interest had not even occurred to them. The paper reported: “In interviews yesterday, Dr. Drey and Ms. Lee said they did not regard their work as a conflict of interest and so it had not occurred to them to report it to the journal editors.”
In other words, we are supposed to believe that an article claiming that fetuses do not feel pain before the 29th week of pregnancy have no hidden agenda, even though one of the authors runs an abortion clinic and another is a former lawyer for NARAL? This goes beyond a run-of-the-mill credibility crisis. After all, this is the official journal published by the American Medical Association.
The study, published this week in JAMA, is itself an exercise in the perverse reframing of an issue. Rather than accepting the grave moral question of abortion, the authors intend to argue that, since the fetus supposedly does not feel pain, we should not be concerned about administering anethesia as the fetus is killed. Such is the perverse logic of the Culture of Death. Just look at comments from Dr. Drey published in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times: Dr. Eleanor A. Drey, one of Dr. Rosen’s co-authors, said that as an obstetrician who sometimes performs abortions, she would find it troubling to be compelled to bring up the subject of fetal pain with her patients. “I would be forced to drag them through potentially a lot of misinformation,” she said. “Our systematic review has shown it’s extremely unlikely that pain exists at a point when abortions are done. I’m going to have to talk about something I know will cause the patient distress, something that by our best assessment of the scientific data is not relevant.”
LINKS PAINFUL TO READ: “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence,” Susan J. Lee, JD; Henry J. Peter Ralston, MD; Eleanor A. Drey, MD, EdM; John Colin Partridge, MD, MPH; Mark A. Rosen, MD, Journal of the American Medical Association, 294:8, August 24/31, 2005, pp. 947-954. “Study Authors Didn’t Report Abortion Ties,” The New York Times, Friday, August 26, 2005; “Report Finds Fetuses Feel Pain Later Than Thought,” The New York Times, Tuesday, August 23, 2005; “Fetal-Pain Study Omits an Abortion-Rights Link,” The Philadelphia Enquirer, Wednesday, August 24, 2005.
August 26, 2005
The Bible clearly and unambiguously reveals that human beings are special creatures –the only creature made in the image of God. That claim is now a focus of the evolution debate, as is made clear in a recent op-ed column published in The New York Times.
“Grasping the Depth of Time as a First Step in Understanding Evolution” by Verlyn Klinkenborg sets the issue clearly:
The essential, but often well-disguised, purpose of intelligent design, is to preserve the myth of a separate, divine creation for humans in the belief that only that can explain who we are. But there is a destructive hubris, a fearful arrogance, in that myth. It sets us apart from nature, except to dominate it. It misses both the grace and the moral depth of knowing that humans have only the same stake, the same right, in the Earth as every other creature that has ever lived here. There is a righteousness – a responsibility – in the deep, ancestral origins we share with all of life.
Once again, we are confronted with the fact that evolutionary theory and the Christian faith represent two rival faiths, with two rival cosmologies and incompatible understandings of humanity.
Klinkenborg also stated: Accepting the fact of evolution does not necessarily mean discarding a personal faith in God. But accepting intelligent design means discarding science. Much has been made of a 2004 poll showing that some 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth – and humans with it – was created as described in the book of Genesis, and within the past 10,000 years. This isn’t a triumph of faith. It’s a failure of education. So, accepting evolution does not mean that one must “necessarily” abandon belief in God, but it does mean that one must necessarily abandon belief in the uniqueness of humankind — at least according to Verlyn Klinkenborg.
August 25, 2005
“It is nowadays very difficult for a boy to grow up with masculine honor in this society. For one thing, he is standing at the tail-end of a veritable whirlwind of anti-male sentiment that has been sweeping through the country for decades; although the force of this sentiment has somewhat let up, it has left in its wake a vast collection of moral and spiritual debris for any boy to pick his way through.” Those are the words of Midge Decter, first published several years ago.
In “What Are Little Boys Made Of?,” Decter argues that our society is opposed to the very nature of boyhood: Somewhere on the way to and from the 1960′s, something happened in America to suppress this natural condition of boys: some loss of energy, some shying away from their instinctive restlessness and competitiveness, and, with it, a fading of whatever happened to be the standards of gallantry. It is not easy to say what brought this about–our mores of child-rearing certainly had a lot, if not everything, to do with it. In the end what really matters is that the process of damping their natures–which would prove so fateful, to them and to the rest of us, during the years of the Vietnam war–was applauded by the keepers of the national ethos: the intellectuals, the educators, the clergy, and the press.
This article will make every reader think. Midge Decter is a provocative writer, and this article is certain to provoke. Christian parents will not accept every assumption or argument in the article. Nevertheless, Decter is making a serious argument that is seriously needed. Her article, first published in the December 1998 edition of Commentary, is now available at the Web site of the Catholic Educator’s Resource Center. It’s not every day that I recommend an article by a Jewish author posted on a Catholic Web site. This one deserves the recommendation.
August 25, 2005
Once again, I had the honor of preaching the Opening Convocation address for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College. I preached from 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. The message, “By the Mercy of God: Why Would God Call People Like Us to a Ministry Like This?,” is now available on-line as an audio file.