Blog Latest posts from Dr. Mohler
July 9, 2005
My family and I stood on a dark beach in South Florida tonight, watching a great storm build on the horizon. The eye of Hurricane Dennis is still several hundred miles away, but the crushing surf and the gusting winds announce the coming storm. Already, the waves are a spectacular sight and the winds leave a powerful impression. We watched the beauty of the storm testify of God’s power and glory.
July 8, 2005
Yesterday’s edition of The New York Times includes an interesting opinion column by Bob Herbert entitled, “Dad’s Empty Chair.” Herbert writes with passion and insight about the problem of fatherlessness and what the absence of a father means. He looks back at the death of young Christopher Rose, the boy recently killed over an iPod, and relates the concern of Christopher’s father to protect him from the evils he knew would come for his son. Take a look at these excerpts and then read the entire article:
“I was trying to hide him away from all this violence,” Mr. Rose said yesterday. “I knew that someday, somehow, somebody was going to approach him and try to hurt him.”
There are plenty of youngsters who grow up fine without a father in the home. But that’s not a good argument in favor of fatherlessness. Most of the youngsters getting into trouble and preying on others come from fatherless homes, as Mr. Rose pointed out. “There’s no one out there,” he said, “to tell them: ‘Hello! Wake up. You guys have to stop doing what you’re doing.’ “
Kids who grow up without a father never experience that special sense of security and the enhanced feeling of belonging that come from having a father in the home. So they seek it elsewhere. They don’t get that sweet feeling of triumph that comes from a father’s approval, or the warmth of the old man’s hug, or the wisdom to be drawn from his discipline.
July 8, 2005
The bombings in London force us to look evil in the face once again. While some observers and commentators wonder aloud how human beings could do this to each other, Christians must affirm what we already know — that great evil lurks in the heart of humanity. When that evil is set loose, unconstrained by conscience, law, or social sanction, the monstrous reality of human evil bares its teeth once again. The mounting casualty and death toll in London is but the latest face of the evil we have now come to know in the form of mass terror.
We must pray for the people of Britain, for the injured and the mourning, and for a world growing both old and weary with each attack.
The major media have been covering this story all day and will continue coverage in days to come. Comments ranging from the insightful to the insipid have filled the airwaves. For one interesting and informed response, consider Thomas L. Friedman’s column published in today’s edition of The New York Times. Friedman gets right to what he sees as the great challenge ahead:
So this is a critical moment. We must do all we can to limit the civilizational fallout from this bombing. But this is not going to be easy. Why? Because unlike after 9/11, there is no obvious, easy target to retaliate against for bombings like those in London. There are no obvious terrorist headquarters and training camps in Afghanistan that we can hit with cruise missiles. The Al Qaeda threat has metastasized and become franchised. It is no longer vertical, something that we can punch in the face. It is now horizontal, flat and widely distributed, operating through the Internet and tiny cells.
Because there is no obvious target to retaliate against, and because there are not enough police to police every opening in an open society, either the Muslim world begins to really restrain, inhibit and denounce its own extremists – if it turns out that they are behind the London bombings – or the West is going to do it for them. And the West will do it in a rough, crude way – by simply shutting them out, denying them visas and making every Muslim in its midst guilty until proven innocent.
And because I think that would be a disaster, it is essential that the Muslim world wake up to the fact that it has a jihadist death cult in its midst. If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere. Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult. It takes a village.
July 7, 2005
“The Presbyterian Church (USA) is at a crossroads,” declares a recently-released document from a group of concerned Presbyterians. The Presbyterian Lay Committee [PLC] is a venerable group of conservative Presbyterians who have been working for a Reformation within their denomination for many years. Even so, the PCUSA has been moving steadily leftward, and is set to debate the issue of human sexuality yet again. The PLC knows that there are even deeper issues at stake.
July 6, 2005
The New York Times reports on Camp Quest, a summer camp for atheist and agnostic youth. The camp is located in Boone County, Kentucky, and caters to kids from secular homes. One 12-year-old boy expressed his satisfaction with the experience: “It’s good to know there are other people out there who don’t believe in God,” he said.
Here’s more from the newspaper’s report: Providing a haven for the children of nonbelievers is what Camp Quest is all about. As the camp’s official T-shirt announces, it’s a place that’s “beyond belief.” More precisely, it claims to be the first summer sleep-away camp in the country for atheist, agnostic and secular humanist children.
At Camp Quest, children age 8 to 17 take part in all the usual summer camp activities. But in addition to horseback riding, organized water balloon fights and outdoor survival lessons, the camp’s volunteer staff aims to promote a healthy respect for science and rational inquiry, while assuring campers that there is nothing wrong with not believing in the Bible and not putting stock in a supreme creator.
All that sounds pretty much like what kids are likely to hear out in the public, and even in some public schools. Nevertheless, parents pay $650 for each kid to attend this camp. I’m guessing that a Bible is not on the packing list for this camp.
July 6, 2005
A Manchester, England financial institution, The Co-operative Bank, has asked a Christian organization, Christian Voice, to close its accounts because its convictions on homosexuality are “incompatible” with the position of the bank.
Here are excerpts from the bank’s statement, as quoted by BBC News: It has come to the bank’s attention that Christian Voice is engaged in discriminatory pronouncements based on the grounds of sexual orientation. . . . This public stance is incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity and dignity in all its forms for our staff, customers and other stakeholders.
The bank insisted that the decision had nothing to do with religion, but was made “purely on the issue of diversity.” So, what about Christian beliefs about homosexuality? Does the bank have no Muslim account holders? Will they be treated similarly?
The bank charges that the Christian Voice organization is an extreme group that has made scandalous claims against homosexuals. The organization came to the attention of the British public over its condemnation of the BBC for its plans to broadcast Jerry Springer — The Opera, which it described as blasphemous.
In a statement released after the BBC news story, the bank made this claim: We accept that everyone has the right to freedom of thought on religion; however, we do not believe that this entitles people to actively encourage and practice discrimination. In other words, the organization can hold to its beliefs, but cannot act on them?
Here we face another case of using the word discrimination as propaganda. All sane persons discriminate. We do not hire infants as police officers, child molesters as babysitters, or high school drop-outs as brain surgeons. Each of these decisions is an act of discrimination. In the course of a normal day, most persons make dozens of discriminatory decisions. The moral issue is whether an act of discrimination is right and proper. This bank is, to turn its own phrase, actively encouraging and practicing discrimination against a Christian organization — even as it condemns discrimination in all forms.
This news story is hard to take at face value. It is hard to believe that a financial institution can get away with this kind of overt religious discrimination. Who’s next?
LINKS TO UNCOOPERATION: News story from BBC News. See also the bank’s statement, posted on its Web site and a statement from Christian Voice, from its Web site.
July 5, 2005
Stephanie Coontz is back on the op-ed pages, staying on-message with her new book about the transformation of marriage. She celebrates the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada and Spain, assured that these events serve as further evidence that marriage, at least as we have known it, is dead — or at least utterly transformed.
In her latest article, published in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times, Coontz suggests that Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family is right when he argues that the arrival of same-sex marriage means that marriage as we have known it for 5,000 years is dead. Don’t jump to the conclusion that Coontz is with Dobson on what this means, however. Coontz simply argues that marriage has been so completely transformed — by heterosexuals — that the advocates of homosexual marriage are certain to have their way.
Here’s her main argument: Heterosexuals were the upstarts who turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution. Heterosexuals were the ones who made procreation voluntary, so that some couples could choose childlessness, and who adopted assisted reproduction so that even couples who could not conceive could become parents. And heterosexuals subverted the long-standing rule that every marriage had to have a husband who played one role in the family and a wife who played a completely different one. Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too.
She’s right about much of this — especially the way that heterosexuals have transformed marriage and forced the institution to adapt to autonomous individualism. What she misses is how the Christian vision of marriage is both more traditional and more revolutionary that anything she has yet seen. I’ll be revisiting Coontz and her arguments in coming days.
Meanwhile, check out this article on bisexuality from the same edition of The New York Times. It’s a masterpiece of sociology, ideology, and plain perversity masquerading as science. The article is too sexually graphic to be quoted at length here, but it was interesting that the researchers found that the majority of supposedly bisexual men are apparently homosexual in some form.
July 5, 2005
Observers of Christianity in America have suggested in recent years that the most interesting controversies of our times are those within denominations. That generalization may be generally accurate, but the other big story is the great and widening division between liberal and conservative denominations. In reality, these two visions of Christianity represent two different religions. This was apparent to J. Gresham Machen and others early in the twentieth century. Now, it must be apparent to any honest observer.
Monday’s vote by the United Church of Christ [UCC] endorsing same-sex marriage makes this point clear. The UCC has been moving steadily leftward over the last several decades, and the main trajectory of the denomination has been consistent in rejecting the authority of Scripture. Yesterday’s vote did not emerge from a vacuum. A line of doctrinal accommodation and theological compromise necessarily produces such a development. Without the norming authority of Scripture, anything becomes possible, if not inevitable. If the Bible does not serve as the authoritative norm, anything can be normalized–even what the BIble condemns.
The Rev. John Thomas, the UCC’s president and general minister told a press conference after the group’s vote, “On this July 4, the United Church of Christ has courageously acted to declare freedom, affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights of gay — of same-gender — couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages by the state, and encouraging our local churches to celebrate those marriages.” This language is characteristic of those who would defy biblical authority and forge their own versions of the Christian faith. Just label a rebellion against Scripture and two thousand years of church tradition as courageous.
The two rival visions of Christianity now represented in American Protestantism operate out of radically divergent worldviews. The dividing issues range across the spectrum, including even the concept of truth and the meaning of language. Nevertheless, the fundamental line of division is the issue of authority. In the end, this issue determines all others.
DOCUMENT THE TRAGEDY: Coverage in The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ABC News, UCC Newsroom [Atlanta].
July 4, 2005
Historian David McCullough spoke at Michigan’s Hillsdale College earlier this year on “Knowing History and Knowing Ourselves.” The address is a delight for several reasons, but within his speech McCullough made some interesting and timely observations about the American Revolution. Enjoy these excerpts:
Keep in mind that when we were founded by those people in the late 18th century, none of them had had any prior experience in either revolutions or nation-making. They were, as we would say, winging it. And they were idealistic and they were young. We see their faces in the old paintings done later in their lives or looking at us from the money in our wallets, and we see the awkward teeth and the powdered hair, and we think of them as elder statesmen. But George Washington, when he took command of the continental army at Cambridge in 1775, was 43 years old, and he was the oldest of them. Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. John Adams was 40. Benjamin Rush – one of the most interesting of them all and one of the founders of the antislavery movement in Philadelphia – was 30 years old when he signed the Declaration. They were young people. They were feeling their way, improvising, trying to do what would work. They had no money, no navy, no real army. There wasn’t a bank in the entire country. There wasn’t but one bridge between New York and Boston. It was a little country of 2,500,000 people, 500,000 of whom were held in slavery, a little fringe of settlement along the east coast. What a story. What a noble beginning. And think of this: almost no nations in the world know when they were born. We know exactly when we began and why we began and who did it.
In the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington hangs John Trumbull’s great painting, “The Declaration of Independence, Fourth of July, 1776.” It’s been seen by more people than any other American painting. It’s our best known scene from our past. And almost nothing about it is accurate. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4th. They didn’t start to sign the Declaration until August 2nd, and only a part of the Congress was then present. They kept coming back in the months that followed from their distant states to take their turn signing the document. The chairs are wrong, the doors are in the wrong place, there were no heavy draperies at the windows, and the display of military flags and banners on the back wall is strictly a figment of Trumbull’s imagination. But what is accurate about it are the faces. Every single one of the 47 men in that painting is an identifiable, and thus accountable, individual. We know what they look like. We know who they were. And that’s what Trumbull wanted. He wanted us to know them and, by God, not to forget them. Because this momentous step wasn’t a paper being handed down by a potentate or a king or a czar, it was the decision of a Congress acting freely.
The Revolutionary War was as dark a time as we’ve ever been through. 1776, the year we so consistently and rightly celebrate every year, was one of the darkest times, if not the darkest time in the history of the country. Many of us here remember the first months of 1942 after Pearl Harbor when German submarines were sinking our oil tankers right off the coasts of Florida and New Jersey, in sight of the beaches, and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it. Our recruits were drilling with wooden rifles, we had no air force, half of our navy had been destroyed at Pearl Harbor, and there was nothing to say or guarantee that the Nazi machine could be defeated – nothing. Who was to know? I like to think of what Churchill said when he crossed the Atlantic after Pearl Harbor and gave a magnificent speech. He said we haven’t journeyed this far because we’re made of sugar candy. It’s as true today as it ever was.
Happy Independence Day to all. McCullough’s latest book, 1776, is a chronicle of the Revolutionary War and its leaders — especially George Washington. The text of his Hillsdale address is available through the college’s Web site and its publication, Imprimis.
July 4, 2005
Those watching the United Church of Christ [UCC] know that the denomination has been moving steadily leftward for decades. Nevertheless, the official endorsement of same-sex marriage represents something genuinely historic and genuinely tragic. Such a move represents far more than a statement of liberal commitment to the normalization of homosexuality — it represents a repudiation of the Bible’s mandate for heterosexual marriage.
The denial of biblical authority leads to a moment of decision on marriage that an affirmation of biblical authority would have prevented in the first place. Now, news out of Atlanta indicates that a key policy committee of the church has just given its enthusiastic support to a resolution calling for same-sex marriage. An Associated Press report released just hours ago states, “A committee of about 50 United Church of Christ representatives gave nearly unanimous approval Sunday to a resolution that moved the church one step closer to becoming the largest Christian denomination to endorse same-sex marriage.” The denomination’s General Synod is scheduled to act on the resolution Monday in Atlanta.
The committee’s vote was so overwhelming that some reports characterized it as “nearly unanimous.” The group turned down a resolution calling for marriage to be defined as the union of a man and a woman.
There are those in the UCC who are resisting the tide, defending marriage and biblical norms of sexuality. Speaking on behalf of the resolution that defined marriage as a heterosexual institution, Bill Boylan of Massachusetts said, “If we have in our hands the word of God, the only loving thing is to speak it.” The Rev. Brett Becker, pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ in Cibolo, Texas, told the Associated Press that, “Throughout the Scriptures marriage is always defined as being between one man and one woman.”
In the 1970s, the UCC became one of the first denominations to ordain an openly-homosexual minister. In one sense, the endorsement of homosexual marriage is just an extension of the logic the leadership of the denomination had accepted long ago.
Some threaten to pull out of the church if the General Synod endorses same-sex marriage. But the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer of Cleveland, Ohio responded: “I really don’t think this is going to be a devastatingly divisive issue for the church.” He added: “I hope people will just take a deep breath if this is passed by the General Synod.” It will be interesting to see if, instead of taking a deep breath, at least some decide to take a walk.
July 3, 2005
Shelby Foote, who died last Monday at age 88, left quite a mark on the American mind. Made popular by the Ken Burns PBS series, The Civil War, Foote was one of those few historians who can communicate both in print and in person. His Mississippi drawl, bearded face, and irreverent manner gave him a persona made for television — at least for the folks who watch PBS.
Foote believed that history was best understood as the instructive story of how great individuals and great events had shaped reality. He was a master in the form of narrative history, but he held to the rather quaint and eccentric notion that the basic facts of history should not bend to accommodate modern ideologies.
In a 1999 interview published in The Paris Review, Foote explained his approach to history. Here are a few choice paragraphs:
On history and facts: I am what is called a narrative historian. Narrative history is getting more popular all the time, but it’s not a question of twisting the facts into a narrative. I maintain that anything you can learn by writing novels–by putting words together in a narrative form–is especially valuable to you when writing history. There is no great difference between writing novels and writing histories other than this: if you have a character named Lincoln in a novel who’s not Abraham Lincoln, you can give him any color eyes you want. But if you want to describe the color of Abraham Lincoln’s, President Lincoln’s, eyes, you have to know what color they were. They were gray. So you’re working with facts that came out of documents, just as in a novel you are working with facts that come out of your head or most likely out of your memory. Once you have control of those facts, once you possess them, you can handle them exactly as a novelist handles his facts. No good novelist would be false to his facts, and certainly no historian is allowed to be false to his facts under any circumstances. I’ve never known, in at least a modern historical instance, where the truth wasn’t superior to distortion in every way. . . .
Advice to young writers: To read, and above all to reread. When you read, you get the great pleasure of discovering what happened. When you reread, you get the great pleasure of knowing where the author’s going and seeing how he goes about getting there: and that’s learning creative writing. I would tell a young writer that. Of course I would tell him: work, work, work, sit at that desk and sweat. You don’t have to have a plot, you don’t have to have anything. Describe someone crossing a room, and try to do it in a way that won’t perish. Put it down on paper. Keep at it. Then when you finally figure out how to handle words pretty well, try to tell a story. . . . You may never be able to do it. That’s the gamble. You not only may not be able to make a living, you may not be able to do it at all. But that’s what you put on the line. Every artist has that. He doesn’t deserve a whole lot of credit for it. He didn’t choose it. It was visited upon him. Somebody asks, “When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?” I never decided I wanted to be a writer. I simply woke up a writer one morning.
On the meaning of history: I think that’s one of history’s main jobs–to let men know what happened, before, so they won’t make the same mistake afterward. Also, the Romans believed history was intended to publicize, if you will, the lives of great men so that we would have something to emulate. That’ll do as one of the definitions.
In one of history’s remarkable twists, Shelby Foote was introduced to Walker Percy when both were young boys. Percy, who was recently orphaned, was introduced to Foote by his famous uncle, famed author Will Percy. The elder Percy noticed young Shelby Foote at the local country club swimming pool and decided that he would make a good friend for his nephew. The result — in more ways than one — was historical. Foote and Percy forged a life-long friendship that sustained each other through decades of trial, fame, and literature.
Foote never understood Percy’s commitment to the Christian faith. Russell Moore points back to their published correspondence and reflects, Sadly, Foote couldn’t seem to understand Percy’s attraction to Christianity, afraid that Percy’s conversion would weaken him as a novelist. Foote was concerned, for instance, about Percy’s insistence that characters in a novel should be “redeemable” or else they are uninteresting. “I think the real difference is, I’m talking about novels and you’re talking about Protestant Sunday-school tracts; old John Calvin is breathing down your neck.” The Catholic Percy was no doubt amused to be called a crypto-Calvinist.
When the Foote-Percy correspondence was first published, I picked it up and read it nearly cover-to-cover before putting it down. Seldom have two minds met with a more productive result. Shelby Foote serves to remind us that God has often used unbelievers to write some incredible literature.
July 3, 2005
Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel have written a perceptive analysis of our contemporary culture in One Nation Under Therapy. It’s worth your time and attention. Sommers and Satel look at the contemporary scene and the ridiculous escapades of the psychotherapeutic devotees. The book will have you laughing and cringing from page to page.
The picture is bigger than that, of course. The therapeutic revolution has been one of the most significant mechanisms for the transformation of the culture into a world of autonomous individuals — each destined for nothing higher than his or her individual construction of happiness. Human problems are reduced to matters of victimization by psychological syndromes. Sin disappears and the horizon of meaning is leveled to a horizontal plane. Shame and guilt are seen as repressive rather than instructive, and the moral frame is reduced to meaninglessness. Everyone is mentally ill — or on the verge of being mentally ill — and therapy is the only means of recovery. Those who deny they need therapy merely give evidence of their repressed or unconscious need for the same. As the bromide accurately represents the concept: Everyone is either in therapy or in denial.
In this paragraph, Sommer and Satel get to the heart of their critique: Of course, we are not suggesting that everyone is perennially happy or possessed of an abiding sense of wellbeing. Many, if not most, human beings are mildly neurotic, at times self-defeating, anxious, or sad. These traits or behaviours are characteristic of the human condition, often emerging in different life circumstances – they are not pathological. And they are certainly not new. What we oppose is the view that Americans today are emotionally underdeveloped, psychically frail, and that they require the ministrations of mental health professionals to cope with life’s vicissitudes. The crisis authors offer only anecdotes, misleading statistics, and dubious studies for their alarming findings. Yet they are taken very seriously. Very seriously indeed.