Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It Only Takes a Girl


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ben Stein's Confessions [re: Christmas]

In 2005, Ben Stein delivered this commentary about the observance of Christmas on CBS Sunday Morning, with Charles Osgood.
CHARLES OSGOOD: We all have our own thoughts about the holidays. Here's Ben Stein with his.

BEN STEIN: Here at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart. I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are.

(Footage of People magazine; Us magazine)

STEIN: I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I'm buying my dog biscuits. I still don't know. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores who they are. They don't know who Nick and Jessica are, either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they've broken up? Why are they so darned important?

(Footage of People magazine)

STEIN: I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I don't care at all about Tom Cruise's baby.

(Vintage footage of congressional hearing)

STEIN: Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I'm a subversive? Maybe. But I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. Is this what it means to be no longer young? Hmmm, not so bad.

Next confession: I am a Jew and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish, and it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautifully lit-up, bejeweled trees "Christmas trees."

(Footage of Christmas trees)

STEIN: I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are — Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they're slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. I shows that we're all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year.

It doesn't bother me one bit that there's a manger scene on display at a key intersection at my beach house in Malibu.

(Footage of manger scene; menorah)

STEIN: If people want a creche, fine. The menorah a few hundred yards away is fine, too. I do not like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat. Or maybe I can put it another way. Where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and aren't allowed to worship God as we understand him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we used to know went to. [Bold type added.]

There are several versions of this floating around the internet, but this is the correct original, according to the official CBS transcript, and verified by

Friday, December 16, 2011

Anglican Fever: Youth Flock to New Denomination

Here's an encouraging video and story about young people being drawn to Anglicanism. Some of the news deals with nearby congregations in the upper Midwest.

Read the whole story.

Here are some of the points I took away from this brief video about what these young people are looking for in Church:

  • They love the emphasis on Scripture.

  • They love the Sacraments.

  • They love worship that is grounded in ancient tradition.

  • They love worship that is paticipatory and interactive.

  • They love being part of a movement that is globally connected.

  • They love church leaders taking a stand for the faith.

  • They respect the willingness of these congregations to walk away from property for their beliefs.

  • (In regard to the previous two points: The Episcopal Church's litigation strategy is creating martyrs.)

  • They recognize that the Anglican Church in North America is a movement that is growing (with a strategy to double to 2000 churches in five years).

  • They appreciate being part of a revitalized tradition, in contrast to the decay of many mainline churches.

Did I miss anything?  What are your "take-aways?"

Friday, December 09, 2011

Global Schism: Is the Anglican Communion Rift the First Stage in a Wider Christian Split?

From 2007, but still very relevant:
Some of the nation's leading journalists gathered in Key West, Fla., in May 2007 for the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life.

Philip Jenkins, a Penn State University professor and one of the first scholars to call attention to the rising demographic power of Christians in the southern hemisphere, analyzed the ongoing schism in the worldwide Anglican church. While the dispute concerns attitudes toward homosexuality, Jenkins argues the core of the conflict lies in how biblical authority is defined. [Emphasis added.]

Will the current alliances between conservative Western and African leaders endure? Will African leaders begin to press an ultra-liberal economic agenda? Are other mainline denominations in the U.S. headed for similar splits? Jenkins answered these and others questions, while offering a fascinating glimpse into the life of African Christianity.

Read it all.

How to answer those questions? Here are my thoughts:

1. Will the current alliances between conservative Western and African leaders endure?

Given this week's developments in the Anglican Mission in the Americas, that is indeed a question. If Global South Anglicans were ever tempted to think of their western brothers and sisters as "Ugly Americans" this week's resignation of Chuck Murphy & Company from the Anglican Province of Rwanda and the events leading up to it cannot help but reinforce that impression. How will this eventually be resolved? And will this action by AMiA leaders cast a shadow on the Anglican Church in North America's relationship with the Global South? I pray not. But time will tell.

2. Will African leaders begin to press an ultra-liberal economic agenda?

No. Not in any way that will alienate them from their North American brothers and sisters. Still, North Americans need to try harder to understand the economic realities faced by those in the Global South and work constructively and cooperatively on solutions.

3. Are other mainline denominations in the U.S. headed for similar splits?

Yes. Presbyterians actually preceded Anglican splits with the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Moves by the "mainline" Presbyterian Church in the USA to ordain non-celibate homosexual clergy will only expedite the exodus, assuming that there are actually any remaining conservatives in the PCUSA who have not already left. (And, yes, I know there are some--you don't need to write.)

Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant body in the US, have seen their liberals (yes, liberals--not moderates--look at what they actually believe on all the major issues) depart into the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has seen their conservative wing split after they followed Episcopalians and Presbyterians in ordaining gay clergy. The conservatives have now formed the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The trend is sure to continue as other denominations face these issues.

But the critical question is the one in the title: "Is the Anglican Communion Rift the First Stage in a Wider Christian Split?"

In a nutshell, yes. Christianity is faced with a division of greater significance than the Protestant Reformation and even the Great Schism between East and West in 1054, as western, so-called "mainline" churches embrace secularist agendas and revisionist views of God, and reject biblical and historic Christian teaching on faith and morals.

There are those who will challenge me for saying this is of greater significance than the Protestant Reformation. I would say it is because they have not looked at what is really at stake. The Protestant Reformation was chiefly concerned with the nature of justification (sola gratia, sola fide) and the related issue of biblical and church authority (sola scriptura) although there were other issues as well. The division today is over the nature of God. You can follow in the direction of Sallie McFague (quoted approvingly by TEC presiding bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, although she is far from alone among mainline leaders in embracing McFague's views) or you can hold that God has an objective identity that we know through revelation.

McFague's view is essentially this: God is a projection of our own needs, ideals, and imaginations, not a being with an absolute, objective identity that we can know. The classical Christian view is that God has an objective existence, that he has revealed himself to us in Scripture and in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. I cite McFague, but she is only one example. The drift in academic theology from the objective to the subjective has taken place over more than sixty years. It includes Paul Tillich but goes back even farther, as theology moved from being a dogmatic discipline grounded in Scripture to a speculative discipline grounded in philosophy.

Then there is the division over the nature of the Bible. The revisionist view holds that the Bible is merely a record of human experiences of God. The Jews of the Old Testament had their guesses about God. The New Testament Christians had their guesses about God. And as these guesses worked themselves out in religious experience they became enshrined in a book. But, say those who hold this view, our contemporary guesses about God and our experiences are just as valuable as theirs, maybe even more so. This leads to the hubris that results in such statements as "The church wrote the Bible; the church can rewrite the Bible." For others it is not so much a matter of rewriting the Bible as interpreting it any way they please (they would say they are interpreting it in the light of "modern scholarship" or "contemporary experience") or ignoring it altogether.

What we are dealing with is a dichotomy as to whether Christianity is a speculative religion or a "revealed religion." In affirming revealed religion, I would point to two such unlikely allies as John Henry Newman and J. Gresham Machen. (Take time to follow the three links in this paragraph and to read both Newman's sermon and Machen's entire Christianity and Liberalism, and you'll be glad you did.)

The cry sola scriptura was once raised against a church hierarchy that twisted the interpretation of Scripture for its own ends. Today we must raise once again the cry sola scriptura against church hierarchies and liberal academia that have twisted Scripture to erect a god and a theological system that is of their own idolatrous imaginations instead of the God who was, and is, and evermore shall be, who has revealed himself in the Word of God written [Article XX] and the Word of God Incarnate, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Great Schism of 1054 was between two different expressions of Christianity, East and West. The Schism today is between two elements that, though they both use Christian terminology, are, in fact, two different religions.

This is a rift that has been growing for decades, perhaps for centuries, and that has resulted in two distinct (despite the attempts at camouflage) and incompatible worldviews. It is a rift that cannot be bridged because there is no middle ground. You have to choose.

I have made my choice. Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir.

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement: Discipleship That Transformed a Nation and Changed the World

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement: Discipleship That Transformed a Nation and Changed the World
When John Wesley was born in 1703, four million out of Britain’s five million people lived in absolute poverty—unless they found enough food for that day, they would begin to starve to death.

When John Wesley launched a Church Planting Movement in this context, he not only changed the eternal destinies of an estimated one million people who came to Christ through his ministry, he changed their economic status as well. Not only did the Methodists he led get saved, they got out of poverty and became a powerful influence in discipling their nation. Wilberforce and other “spiritual sons” of Wesley honored him as the “greatest man of his time.”

The Methodists made such an impact on their nation that in 1962 historian Élie Halévy theorized that the Wesleyan revival created England’s middle class and saved England from the kind of bloody revolution that crippled France. Other historians, building on his work, go further to suggest that God used Methodism to show all the oppressed peoples of the world that feeding their souls on the heavenly bread of the lordship of Christ is the path to providing the daily bread their bodies also need.
Read it all.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Topography of Faith

USA Today has published a unique map, where you can roll your cursor over the map to see how various faith traditions break down by state. (However, they seem not to have included Alaska and Hawaii.) Moving your cursor outside the map will give you the figures for the US as a whole.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Hobbits March in One Year

From here.
The legacy media can't read the Hobbits because they're unfamiliar with life in the Shire. Ironically, they pronounce the death of the Tea Party while it is they who speak with the death rattle.

Near the final scene of the Lord of the Rings films, Gandalf crowns the new king and proclaims, "Now comes the days of the King." The crowd cheers. The new king kisses his queen to be. The crowd applauds. Then the king the approaches the four Hobbits: Frodo, Samwise, Peregrin, and Meriadoc. The Hobbits bow to the king. He stops them, saying, "My friends, you bow to no one." And the king leads the crowd in kneeling before the Hobbits.

That's something akin to what the Founders had in mind for the United States of America.

One year from this November 9th, the Hobbits march to the polls.

Read it all.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

[Breaking News] Dioceses of Eau Claire and Fond du Lac have voted to approve merger

[UPDATE: The vote was later found to have been miscounted in the Diocese of Fond du Lac, and the measure failed. The merger has been defeated--deferred, postponed--who knows? Stay tuned.]

My sources in northern Wisconsin told me moments ago that the Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire and the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, both meeting in convention today, have voted to approve a merger of the two dioceses.

[Update - 2:58 p.m.:] A press release has just appeared on the Diocese of Fond du Lac website.

[Update - 3:44 p.m.:] An announcement has also appeared on the Diocese of Eau Claire website in which Bishop Edwin Leidel states:
Today our two dioceses made history. Never before have two dioceses in the Episcopal Church "junctioned" together. So, today we begin a new journey to create a new Diocese in northern Wisconsin.

The "junctioning," as it is being called (is there some reason why they want to avoid the term "merger"?), of the two dioceses has been a matter of study and discussion for the past several years and comes amidst losses in membership and attendance in both dioceses, but particularly the Diocese of Eau Claire.

Statistics for 2010 show that the Diocese of Fond du Lac has seen a decline in average Sunday attendance from approximately 2800 to 2100 (for the entire diocese) during the period from 2003 to 2010. The Diocese of Eau Claire has seen a decline in average Sunday attendance from approximately 1000 to 800 (again, for the entire diocese) in the past four years (2006-2010).

While this may be the first time in the history of the Episcopal Church that two dioceses have "junctioned," it appears that this solution may be adopted in other Episcopal dioceses with declining membership in the years ahead.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta to consider resolution restoring Pelagius as "a viable theological voice within our tradition"

From here, though you will have to scroll down to Resolution "R11-7"

Pelagius was condemned as a heretic in the 5th century. The case for reappraising Pelagius is a current theological fad (yes, theologians have those), but it is still rather amazing that it should come up as a resolution in an Episcopal diocesan convention. For those interested in concise explanation of why this matters, I recommend this article.

The full resolution from the Diocese of Atlanta is below:

R11-7 Contributions of Pelagius

Whereas the historical record of Pelagius’s contribution to our theological tradition is shrouded in the political ambition of his theological antagonists who sought to discredit what they felt was a threat to the empire, and their ecclesiastical dominance, and whereas an understanding of his life and writings might bring more to bear on his good standing in our tradition, and whereas his restitution as a viable theological voice within our tradition might encourage a deeper understanding of sin, grace, free will, and the goodness of God’s creation, and whereas in as much as the history of Pelagius represents to some the struggle for theological exploration that is our birthright as Anglicans, Be it resolved, that this 105th Annual Council of the Diocese of Atlanta appoint a committee of discernment overseen by our Bishop, to consider these matters as a means to honor the contributions of Pelagius and reclaim his voice in our tradition And be it further resolved that this committee will report their conclusions at the next Annual Council.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Chicago Consultation uses Indaba to Export TEC's LGBT agenda

The Chicago Consultation is taking its innovative views on human sexuality and justice to a conference at the Ujamaa Centre in South Africa. Designed to strengthen mission and advocacy connections, the Consultation will provide Indaba processing and Bible studies for bishops, church leaders and "grassroots advocates for LGBT people":

From here:
In mid-October, the Chicago Consultation and the Ujamaa Centre of the University of KwaZulu-Natal will convene a gathering in South Africa to strengthen mission and advocacy connections among Anglicans who are interested in the theology of human sexuality and justice. We believe that deeper connections with each other will make it easier for us to work together in mission and to communicate productively when challenging Communion-wide issues arise. The co-conveners of the consultation are Professor Gerald West, director of the Ujamaa Centre, and Professor Esther Mombo of St. Paul's University in Limuru, Kenya.

The consultation, which will involve about 55 people and last for three days, will be grounded in the Indaba process, prayer and Bible study and will explore theological perspectives on human sexuality and justice. Participants will include theologians, bishops, church leaders, grassroots advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and other people willing to engage in intensive conversations across cultural boundaries.

The participants in the consultation will share their experiences with the wider church through stories and video reflections and through the report of a listening team led by the Rev. Janet Trisk, a representative to the Anglican Consultative Council from the Church of Southern Africa. [Emphasis added.]


Monday, October 17, 2011

[Updated] EPGM disbands after 21 years of service to the Episcopal mission community

From Episcopal News Service:
Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission (EPGM) has announced that it will officially disband as a mission networking organization serving the Episcopal Church, according to an Oct. 15 news release.

The decision to disband was made at EPGM's annual meeting, held at the Everyone Everywhere 2011 conference in Estes Park, Colorado, and approved by consensus of the attending membership organizations, the release said.

EPGM began in 1990 as the Episcopal Council for Global Mission (ECGM). It was renamed in 1999 when its structural organizing plan was approved by Executive Council. General Convention adopted the plan in 2000.

Financial issues due to loss of funding from the 2009 General Convention and loss of membership contributed to the decision to disband, according to the release.

Read it all.

The Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission was once a fine organization--an umbrella group where all of the agencies and mission organizations that served the Episcopal Church could come together and work on goals and strategies and engage in cooperative efforts. As with so many other signs of TEC's implosion, it saddens me to see it die.

However, as Paul Harvey was famous for saying, we need to know "the rest of the story." The sentence mentioning the loss of membership is the key.

Following the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, the Diocese of New Hampshire applied for membership in EPGM. Viewed charitably, one could perhaps hope that the application meant there was a group in the Diocese genuinely concerned for world missions. A more skeptical view is that the Diocese was seeking to force recognition and acceptance from one of the few remaining Episcopal organizations where theological conservatives were in the majority. The application, and the debate over issues of sexuality that were racking TEC as a whole, only served to bring to a head longstanding disagreements over theology and the meaning of mission and evangelism.

In any event, New Hampshire's application to join EPGM put the conservative mission organizations in a difficult position. Many of the overseas Anglican provinces where missionaries from the conservative mission organizations served were determined to break fellowship with the Diocese of New Hampshire and even the whole of the Episcopal Church as a consequence of the consecration of a gay bishop. Some of these same Anglican provinces started refusing money from TEC, and they began questioning missionaries and mission organizations that worked in their countries about their participation in TEC and their position on TEC's actions.

Consequently, conservative mission agencies that had been a part of EPGM were faced with a choice of either losing their ability to send missionaries to various countries or else withdrawing from EPGM. The withdrawals did not happen quickly or without much prayer and discussion. New Hampshire's application to join EPGM was put on hold while these conversations occurred. But, in the end, EPGM willingness to admit the Diocese of New Hampshire caused the conservative mission agencies to leave. Titus Presler encapsulates this episode very well in his history of EPGM, published on the EPGM website (while it is still online). (See especially the section entitled, "EPGM Fractured by Sexuality Turmoil," pages 6-7.) As Presler notes, the agencies that left EPGM were the ones responsible for sending nearly all of the actual, long term missionaries from the Episcopal Church. These organizations have since formed a new umbrella network, the Anglican Global Mission Partners.

Interestingly, while the split in EPGM began over an application for membership from the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, the list of current members on the EPGM website shows no listing for the Diocese of New Hampshire nor any organization from that diocese.

[Update 10/18/11]: For those who may be interested in what has happened to the organizations that left since the split, the Anglican Global Mission Partners continue to meet twice annually, usually hosting a missions conference at the church or seminary where they meet. Their meeting, two weeks ago, at St. James Anglican Church, in Newport Beach, CA, was in conjunction with the SALT Missions Conference. Their Spring 2012 meeting will be at Nashotah House Theological Seminary, and they are planning a Re:Mix Youth Missions Conference at the same time.

The agencies that are a part of Anglican Global Mission Partners (AGMP) have continued to grow. For instance, SAMS (formerly the South American Missionary Society) has changed its name to the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders. The number of missionaries being sent from SAMS has nearly doubled in the past decade, and they are now a worldwide organization, with missionaries on every continent.

The Anglican Global Mission Partners (AGMP) itself has grown through the number of new organizations that have joined since the split from EPGM. A personal observation: One would think that the contrast in the histories of the two entities since the split—even the contrast in sheer vitality between the two organizations—might be enough to convince TEC that they made a wrong turn somewhere.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Wall Street Journal: Twenty first century Excommunication

The Wall Street Journal has turned it's focus onto the Episcopal Church's campaign against departing churches:

When the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, N.Y., left the Episcopal Church over disagreements about what the Bible says about sexuality, the congregation offered to pay for the building in which it worshiped. In return the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price to someone who turned it into a mosque.

The congregation is one of hundreds that split or altogether left the Episcopal Church—a member of the Anglican Communion found mostly in the United States—after a decades-long dispute over adherence to scripture erupted with the consecration of a partnered gay bishop in 2003. But negotiating who gets church buildings hasn't been easy. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she'd rather have these properties become Baptist churches or even saloons than continue as sanctuaries for fellow Anglicans.

Read it all.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saint John to close in Wilmington, Delaware

The headline says it all, but you can read the letter from the Vestry regarding the cathedral's closing here. An Episcopal cathedral, with programs, ministries, and a full-fledged choir school, going out of business as of next July.... It's stunning, and it made me very, very sad.

It might be noted that the cathedral website contains this statement on diversity and inclusion:
The Cathedral Church of Saint John is a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive congregation which offers innovative opportunities for children, youth, and adults to find a special niche for spiritual growth and nurture within a small group setting. Our membership is diverse in age, career interests, sexual orientation, and racial and cultural backgrounds. Community service, diversity, and excellence in liturgy and music are hallmarks of the Cathedral.
Our Call:

As the Cathedral Church of Saint John, we believe that God is calling us:

To be a welcoming and supportive community to our diverse congregation;
To nurture children, youth, and adults in our congregation and urban neighborhood;
To be personal Disciples of Christ and public witnesses of the Gospel; and
To be a resource to the clergy and people of the [sic - This is where the statement ends in mid-sentence.]

Apparently the emphasis on diversity and inclusion wasn't sufficient to build a congregation big enough even to continue to operate.

This is where the Episcopal Church has made a huge mistake: substituting inclusion and social justice for evangelism. (But when you have lost sight of the biblical gospel, what else can you expect?) It was the death of the 20/20 program, and to the extent that the rest of the Episcopal church follows this trend (and it is!) it will be the death of the denomination.

Don't misunderstand me: Evangelism is supposed to be inclusive. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel..." (Mark 16:15). The gospel is about diversity: "make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19). But inclusion and diversity (social justice, the Millennium Development Goals, etc.) apart from the authentic, saving Gospel of Jesus Christ is a futile and empty thing--one that offers no true salvation but only death.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why Young Americans Can’t Think Morally

by Dennis Prager (from National Review Online)

Last week, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a column on an academic study concerning the nearly complete lack of a moral vocabulary among most American young people. Here are excerpts from Brooks’s summary of the study of Americans aged 18 to 23. It was led by “the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith”:

● “Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing.”

● “When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all.”

please visit the original site and read it all.

● “Moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner.”

● “The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste.”

● “As one put it, ‘I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.’”

● “Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.”

Please visit the original site and read it all.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

America as Less Than No. 1?

As the US economy reels from the downgrade of our debt by Standard & Poor's last week and as we watch Britain burn and the economy of Europe meltdown, Daniel Henninger asks, "So this is a taste of what it will be like when the American superpower starts shrinking. Enjoying it yet?" His column in today's Wall Street Journal is a must read for everyone concerned about the future of the United States and the policy decisions we face.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Pray for England

Photos from here.

The riots that have encased the poor neighborhoods of London for three days spread to six new parts of the city late Monday night as Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would cut short his August vacation and return Tuesday. Protesters smashed windows and set fire to cars in the neighborhoods of Hackney, Lewisham, Clapham, Peckham, Croydon, and Woolwich, as well as the cities of Birmingham and Liverpool.

The riots erupted Saturday night in Tottenham (north London) after police shot and killed a gang member, but government officials have said the upheaval can be blamed on the austerity measures that have effectively crippled police. The rioting has taken place near the site of the 2012 Olympic Games, which had been labeled as a boon to the same impoverished neighborhoods that are being devastated. The riots are considered the worst social upheaval in Britain in living memory.

Please pray for a restoration of law and order (and sanity) among the affected populations in England and for spiritual renewal and healing of the nation.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Rev. Dr. John R.W. Stott - R.I.P.

This past week saw the death of a giant among evangelical Christians. Who is John Stott? If you don't know, the best short explanation is perhaps the Op-Ed column from The New York Times written by David Brooks in 2004. Others may want to check out the obituary or the excellent tribute from Christianity Today or the "Opinion Roundup: Leaders and Friends Remember John Stott" from that same magazine.

John Stott was one of the greatest influences in my life as a Christian. I first encountered his thinking in the small book, The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit when, as a teenager, I confronted questions about this issue. This encounter led me to read Basic Christianity and, over the years, practically everything Stott wrote, eventually using his book, The Cross of Christ as one of the texts in teaching systematic theology at the seminary level and in numerous classes for laity. This book is, in my opinion, the best, most powerful, and most accessible treatment of the subject of the Atonement of Christ ever written.

While still a college and seminary student I had several opportunities to hear John Stott speak and to meet him. He influenced not only my understanding of my call to ordained ministry but also my pilgrimage from Baptist to Anglican.

In May of this year, Nashotah House conferred an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree on John Stott, who had received numerous similar honors in his lifetime. It was the hope of the graduating senior class, who recommended that Dr. Stott be nominated for the degree, that he would be our Commencement speaker. But his advancing age and declining health did not permit him to attend, so he received the degree in absentia.

I consider it among the high points of my deanship and presidency at Nashotah House that we were able to confer honorary doctorates on John Stott as well as another British evangelical leading light, Dr. J.I. Packer, who was our Commencement speaker in May 2009. If anyone had told me, when I was a college and seminary student, benefiting from their powerful teaching more than 30 years ago, that I would someday be signing my name on a diploma for either of them, I would not have believed it.

In the Anglican tradition we pray in each Eucharistic service the "Prayer for the Whole State of Christ's Church and the World." The traditional form from the Book of Common Prayer contains these words for the departed:
And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear, especially [names of those to be remembered], beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service; and to grant us grace so to follow the good examples of all thy saints, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.

We don't merely ask that the departed might rest in peace, we pray that they might experience "continual growth in thy love and service..." One could well ponder what that might look like for a faithful servant like John Stott. While, by God's grace (and Stott would be the first to acknowledge that it is only by God's grace), he has entered into the rest prepared for all God's saints, it gives one hope and a cause for rejoicing to think that he is still growing in the love and service of his dear Savior and Lord.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Pride Eucharist at the Cathedral"

From Tom Crowe @ Catholic

St. James' Episcopal Cathedral, in Chicago, is the birthplace of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew (in 1883). My, how things have changed!

In case you can't read the fine print, it says the Eucharist will be "A Prayerful Celebration featuring the music of Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper."

"…Because nothing says “prayerful” like the music of Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Archbishop of Sudan asks for prayers and help for the conflict in southern Sudan

The Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS), the Most. Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul, has appealed to the international community for help to resolve the conflict engulfing Abyei and Southern Kordofan states ahead of the indpendendence of South Sudan on 9th July 2011.

Fighting and violence, including the use of warplanes to carry out aerial bombardments, has been ongoing in the region since 5th June 2011 and has been directed in many cases against civilian settlements and churches, including All Saints Cathedral in Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan. The United Nations has reported that over 160,000 have fled the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and local communities.

Archbishop Dr Deng Bul said in a statement, ”Without a doubt then, the most worrying aspect of this recent conflict is the way in which the fighting that originated between the SAF and the (South Sudan-based) Sudan People’s Liberation Army has now transformed into what can only be described as a deliberate attempt to rid Kadugli of its indigenous African and Christian population by the SAF, in short a policy of ethnic cleansing.”

As well as asking for prayer for a resolution to the situation, he also appealed to the international community to apply diplomatic pressure and to aid agencies to work with the ECS to relieve the suffering of local people.

Donations for the work of the ECS to relieve the suffering in Abyei and Southern Kordofan states can be made through Anglican International Development’s website:

Background to Anglican International Development

Following the founding of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in the UK and Ireland that is seeking to provide a spiritual home for Orthodox and Mainstream Anglicans, Anglican International Development (AID) has been founded in solidarity with Anglican Christians throughout the world.

Over the next few years, enabled by a supporter team, AID will be partnering with churches around the world in the fields of education, skills & capacity building, job creation, agriculture, healthcare and church development, as well as support to economic development by offering training and finance to micro-enterprises and small businesses. AID plans to bring help and hope, especially into those in regions where access to these basic, life-supporting needs have been restricted or denied to Christians due to deliberate discrimination and oppression. AID is commencing its work in South Sudan, a region catastophically affected by a civil war over decades that will gain its independence on 9th July 2011.

To find out more, please visit:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's the End of the World as We Know It (or not)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A California pastor's prediction that the world would meet its demise (or that the Rapture would come) on Saturday failed to materialize. The uneventful passage of May 21 no doubt came as a surprise to followers of 89-year-old Harold Camping, the pastor and owner of the Oakland-based Family Radio Network. Some of Camping's followers and listeners to Family Radio around the world quit their jobs, cashed in retirement savings, and spent thousands of dollars to warn others of the impending doom.

While Mr. Camping was reading his Bible, he should have paid attention to Matthew 24:36, "However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows."

So, nope, no end of the world yesterday. Although there were still floods along the Mississippi and this volcano thingy over in Iceland.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama throws Israel under the bus

Obama throws Israel under the bus, but Netanyahu responds brilliantly. From here:
Netanyahu: History Will Not Give the Jewish People Another Chance
Katie Pavlich

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have wrapped up their meeting about the future of the Middle East. Obama tried to reassure the American and Israeli people that the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel is sound.

Yesterday, President Obama called on Israel to go back to its borders of 1967, which put the Jewish State at just 9 miles wide. Netanyahu immediately rejected that call yesterday and rejected it again in front of the world today.

“Israel cannot go back to 1967 lines,” Netanyahu said. “We can’t go back to the indefensible lines.”

Throughout his remarks, Obama claimed the goal of his administration is for Israel to be a secure state living in peace next to a contiguous Palestine. In order for Palestine to be contiguous, Israel would have to be divided into two.

Netanyahu said in order to have real peace based on undeniable facts, the Palestinians would have to recognize Israel’s right to exist and that negotiating with Hamas would be to negotiate with the Palestinian equivalent of Al Qaeda. Hamas is a terrorist organization and has fired thousands of rockets into Israel with a goal of killing innocent men, women and children.

“Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that's backed by Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of bin Laden. “

Netanyahu gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a choice: stand with Hamas or make amends and peace with Israel. He also called for Abbas to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem in the context of a Palestinian state, not within the borders of Israel.

“The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refuge problems: Palestinian refugee problem and a Jewish refugee, roughly the same number who were expelled from Arab lands. Now tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refuges but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees. Now, 62 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel, ‘Accept the grandchildren and the great grandchildren of these refugees,’ thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state. It’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen. And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly, it’s not going to happen,” Netanyahu said. “It’s not going to be resolved within the Jewish state.”

During their conversation, Obama and Netanyahu also talked about the situation in Syria, the Arab Spring and the efforts of Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, but it is clear the focus of their conversation was centered on the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

“We share your hope and your vision for democracy in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said. “Israel wants peace, I want peace. What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure.”

Obama reiterated his belief in the meeting that it is inappropriate for Iran to have nuclear weapons and said the U.S. and Israel continue to share deep concerns about Iran.

“We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” Netanyahu said. “History will not give the Jewish people another chance.”

A peace based on anything else but reality will not last. Oliver North put it perfectly in his reaction to the meeting by saying this isn’t about an election for Netanyahu; this is about the survival of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.

Although the meeting was tense, Netanyahu said there is an overall direction he wishes to take to work with the United States in order to pursue a real, genuine peace, showing faith in the American people to do the right thing.

“You are a leader of a great people, the American people, and I’m the leader of a much smaller people. It’s a great people too. We’ve been around for almost 4,000 years. We’ve experienced struggle and suffering like no other people. They’ve gone through expulsions and massacres and the murder of millions, but I can say that even at the nadir of the Valley of Death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of reestablishing a sovereign state and an ancient homeland of Israel. Now it falls on my shoulders, as the Prime Minister of Israel, at a time of extraordinary instability and uncertainty in the Middle East, to work with you, to fashion a peace that will ensure Israel’s security and will not jeopardize it’s survival. I take this responsibility with pride, but with great humility,” Netanyahu said.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

Alerts to Threats in 2011 Europe, by John Cleese

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France 's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Libya and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get the Bastards." They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to “Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to "She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is canceled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

John Cleese
British writer, actor and tall person

This came in my e-mail and is apparently all over the internet. But it is so good I just had to reproduce it here. If you hold the copyright, and your security level has been raised from "Miffed" to "Peeved" or even higher by seeing it here, drop me a line and, after verification, I'll pull it.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Google Exodus

If the Exodus took place today:


[Off Topic] Even the fictionally rich keep getting richer

A miserly duck, a vampire and pair of precocious kids are among the richest fictional characters, according to a ranking by Forbes.

Scrooge McDuck, with a fortune in gold coins whose estimated worth is $44.1 billion, headed the list of Forbes' "Fictional 15" wealthiest imaginary characters.

To qualify for the list the characters must be known in their fictional stories and by their audiences for being rich.

"Net worth estimates are based on an analysis of the fictional character's source material, and where possible, valued against known real-world commodity and share price movements," Forbes said.

While the list, which Forbes editors have compiled since 2005, is all in fun, the process and resultant numbers are serious business, said special projects executive editor Michael Noer.

"We go to great lengths to calculate their net worth," Noer said. "It's similar to how we calculate real billionaires."

Market forces, especially commodities, also provided some guidance.

"McDuck was up over 30 percent, which is what gold has done this year, and his wealth is mostly in gold," Noer explained.

Similarly Jed Clampett, the country bumpkin who found black gold in the television series "The Beverly Hillbillies" benefited from rising oil prices for a $9.5 billion net worth.

Mr. Monopoly, the top-hatted, mustachioed character from the popular board game, placed ninth with $2.6 billion. The editors based his worth on the current value of Atlantic City real estate and a presumed percentage of property ownership.

The full list, with character profiles and sources of their wealth, can be found here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Find out how Kody met his four wives: Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn. "

So goes the promo for a seven part television series on TLC - The Learning Channel. That's right, The Learning Channel—which usually contains documentaries about things that we are actually supposed to... ummm..., you know, learn.

Just like HBO's series Big Love, this series is about polygamists from one of the Mormon offshoot sects that practice plural marriage. But where Big Love is a fictional drama, Sister Wives is a documentary about an actual polygamous family—apparently one of many. The ad for Sister Wives urges us to:
Rethink Love.
Rethink Marriage.
Rethink Family Reality.

How is it that two television channels have been running very similarly themed series about plural marriage at the same time? And why now? As one critic entitled her review of the last week's series finale of Big Love, "Goodbye, 'Big Love,' you almost made the idea of polygamy attractive."

Mark my words, the battle over redefining marriage is just beginning!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pastor loses job after questioning hell's existence

In case you aren't familiar with the controversy over evangelical pastor Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, this column by Southern Baptist seminary president Albert Mohler pretty well sums up my own position. Now, it seems that the controversy is resulting in casualties among the ranks of the clergy that are attracting the attention of the secular media.

From here:
DURHAM, N.C. — When Chad Holtz lost his old belief in hell, he also lost his job.

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow's Chapel in Henderson.
Read it all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chavez says capitalism may have ended life on Mars

From here:
Capitalism may be to blame for the lack of life on the planet Mars, Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday.

"I have always said, heard, that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet," Chavez said in speech to mark World Water Day.

Perhaps we should send Señor Chavez on an expedition to Mars to find out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How do we reach Japan?

It has been my experience that when a Christian thinks of missionary work, he or she thinks of a particular country. Those who have read of the lives of William Carey, Mother Teresa, or Adoniram Judson think of India or Burma. Others think of the nations and peoples of Africa or Latin America. Many who have read about the life and work of Hudson Taylor, Lottie Moon, or Gladys Aylward picture themselves in China. My own thoughts have usually, though not exclusively, turned to Japan.

Two of my professors in seminary had been missionaries in Japan in the 1950's. In that period, following World War II, Japanese society underwent a great upheaval, a cultural transformation. There was a great openness to new ideas. My professors always lamented that western Christians did not make a more widespread effort during that period to reach Japan with the Gospel. Comparisons were frequently made to the growth of Christianity in South Korea during this same period.

One of my professors, Dr. T.V. Farris, had served in Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido. After graduation, one of my classmates and his wife went to Japan as missionaries with OMF. Perhaps because of Dr. Farris' influence, they ended up going to Sapporo as well. Shortly after I joined the faculty at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, my friends came home. But, at the same time, a graduate from Trinity and his wife joined OMF and went to—you guessed it—Sapporo, Japan. They now live and work on the main island, Honshu, closer to Tokyo (and closer to the site of last week's earthquake). So, one way or another, I have been praying for and supporting missionaries in Japan ever since I graduated from seminary 32 years ago.

Now Japan has experienced a cascade of devastating disasters—an earthquake, followed by a tsunami, followed by radiation leaks from damaged nuclear reactors. Many lives have been lost. Rebuilding the devastated areas will take years. How should Christians, both in Japan and around the world, respond to this crisis?

Japan's natural disaster has called attention to two less conspicuous disasters that have been brewing for a long time. The first is a crisis of leadership. As a nation, Japan has been cruising, as though on autopilot, for decades. Cruising on autopilot works as long as conditions are smooth. But when you encounter a storm, autopilot won't do. You have to change course, speed, altitude—human intervention is needed. In political terms, that means leadership; and leadership is one thing Japan has lacked for a long time.

The second problem is Japan's low birth rate. Japan currently has one of the world's lowest birth rates. The decline has been so severe that the Japanese even have a word for it: 'shoshika,' meaning a society without children. Someone once said "Having children is an act of faith that the world is going somewhere good." What does Japan's low birth rate say about the confidence, commitment, and priorities of the Japanese people?

Japan's leadership crisis and low birth rate both point to a spiritual malaise—a lack of purpose, identity, and direction—but chiefly a lack of trust that the One who creates and sustains the world anew in each moment of time has a plan that includes each of us and generations yet unborn. It has been said that the devastation hitting Japan is the worst since World War II. Could this crisis be an occasion for Japan to reexamine its foundations—to rebuild not merely buildings, but to rebuild its society with new vision and purpose? Could it be an occasion for Christians, who have faith in God's eternal purposes—who know that God gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, that through faith in him we might not only have life beyond the grave but a new reason for living here and now—to share that faith with those whose need is so great?

If we choose to share our faith, we can be sure that cynical secularists will say we are merely using this crisis to proselytize. But we who know the grace and love of Christ know also that we must share that grace and love with others.

Should we donate money to Japan? Reuters columnist Felix Salmon has written two recent columns advising people not to do so: 1, 2. As hard-hearted as Salmon's columns sound, he presents an interesting argument. For instance, he quotes both Japanese government and Japanese Red Cross spokespersons as saying they do not need the money that outsiders are raising for Japan. Salmon's advice (which I believe is good advice) is that we should always give to worthy charities that provide aid in such situations; but we should give undesignated or unrestricted gifts. This allows the organization to assess the need and send aid appropriately. It does not tie their hands from giving to more needy situations if (in this case) Japan already has adequate financial and material assistance.

Christians should consider one additional step: giving to organization that work among Christians in Japan. In doing so we can encourage our brothers and sisters there and make sure that they have the aid to share with their fellow Japanese and can provide a Christian witness at the same time. (If you want a recommendation, I will mention again OMF, which has a distinguished track record working in this part of of the world.)

Consider the Apostle Paul's admonition to the Church in Corinth:
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:12-15)


Friday, March 11, 2011

Pray for Japan [Updated]

The video below does the best job I have seen of encapsulating the devastation that has hit Japan. It is Saturday morning already in Japan as I write these words. I have written a missionary couple I know in the Tokyo area but have had no reply as yet. Normally they would have written by now to assure their friends they are okay. I am taking the delay to mean that they are affected by the disruption in utilities, and I am hoping and praying it is not a sign of anything more serious. I'll post an update as soon as I hear anything.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

[Update 3/12/11] My friends in Tokyo are safe. A portion of their message this morning follows:
We felt the earthquakes here at home, but the worst of the damage was further north. We had a few books and decorations that fell from shelves, but nothing like the absolute devastation of some areas on the Pacific coast north of here. At present email is working, but the phones are not, so we are still trying to contact our church members.

You may remember that ____ and I worked in a church in Sendai shortly after we got married. Sendai is one of the places that has been hit particularly hard. It will probably be several days before we find out how they are doing. In the past when there have been big earthquakes, the Christian community has sent word around of churches and Christians in need of financial help. I suspect we will get similar notices this time. Pray that our church will be moved to help in some way to show the love of Christ. I’m sure they will.

Comment: Sendai (a city of over one million people) was the city hit hardest by the Tsunami. Please pray for the people of Japan and for the Church, that Christians there can share Christ's love with those who are hurting and in need.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Terry Mattingly: "Shahbaz Bhatti, modern martyr"

Distinguished religion columnist, Terry Mattingly, illustrates the fact that there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in the preceding 19 centuries, and it appears that the 21st century is on a course to exceed even that.
In the early days of Christianity, martyrs often gave their final
testimonies of faith to Roman leaders before they were crucified,
burned or fed to lions.

Times being what they are, Shahbaz Bhatti turned to Al Jazeera and
YouTube. The only Christian in Pakistan's cabinet knew it was only a
matter of time before his work as minister for minority affairs got
him killed. Threats by the Taliban and al-Qaeda kept increasing.

"I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own
life for us. I know what is the meaning of the cross and I follow him
on the cross," said Bhatti, in a startlingly calm video recorded
several weeks before his assassination on March 2.

Read it all.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Why Madison?

From here:
Ohio union bill speeds toward passage

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With barely a whimper of the protests that have convulsed Wisconsin, legislation to curb public employee unions is speeding toward passage in Ohio, an even bigger labor stronghold.

Labor experts said the greater tumult in Wisconsin reflects the state's long history of progressive political activism; the Statehouse's location in Madison, the famously liberal home of the University of Wisconsin; and perhaps a feeling of hopelessness among Ohio's working class, which has been hit particularly hard by the recession.

Days of protests in Columbus haven't added up to the numbers seen in a single day in Madison. The rallies there have topped more than 70,000 people, compared with roughly 8,500 on the largest day of demonstrations at the Ohio Statehouse. When the Ohio bill passed the Senate 17-16 on Wednesday, the crowd was estimated at 450.

"Madison is kind of a perfect storm of factors for this," said Don Taylor, assistant professor of labor education at the University of Wisconsin School for Workers in Madison. "It's an extremely progressive city in terms of politics. It's one of those places in the country where people will refer to it as a 'People's Republic.'"

Read it all.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Rubicon: A river in Wisconsin"

Charles Krauthammer, in his typically clear-sighted way, does a beautiful job of summarizing the current political battle in Wisconsin. No one excerpt is enough. You really must read the whole thing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

George Will: High Speed to Insolvency -- Why liberals love trains.

From here:
To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.
Read it all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No soul ever gets it right

I was driving through South Carolina the other day and heard the Indigo Girls singing "Galileo" on Charleston's 105.5 FM, "The Bridge." I once had the pleasure of meeting the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers, whose father, Don Saliers, is a theology professor at Emory University's Candler School of theology. (If you watch the video, Emily is the redhead.) This was several years ago, when "Uncle John's Band" and "Closer to Fine" were the only songs of theirs I had heard. Galileo is a catchy song—great harmony, nice rhythm, and a clean, acoustic sound. But the lyrics are something else.

...and then you had to bring up reincarnation
over a couple of beers the other night;
and now I'm serving time for mistakes
made by another in another lifetime.

How long till my soul gets it right?
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light?
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
king of night vision, king of insight.

Now maybe the Indigo Girls are just playing with ideas—entertainers have been known to do that. But—pardon my bluntness—reincarnation has always struck me as being one of the most futile attempts to explain the inadequacy and frustration human beings feel as a result of the whole cycle of sin, guilt, and quest for redemption that everyone (in every culture) experiences in some form or another.

The Apostle Paul expressed this same frustration when he wrote: "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:21-24)

It is also what Paul meant when he wrote that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). So in answer to the question, "How long till my soul gets it right?" the bad news is that no soul ever gets it right.

Fortunately, that is not all Paul has to say in Romans 3: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

And later he says, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). That is the GOOD NEWS—that while no soul ever gets it right, we don't have to! God loves the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God's Son has gotten it right for us, so that we are not trapped in a cycle of death and rebirth, but can have eternal life, through faith in him.

The answer won't be found in Galileo or any other human teacher, unless they point to the Word of God, Jesus Christ, who became flesh and dwelt among us... "and to those who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (John 1:12).

I hope I meet Emily Saliers again someday. We have a lot to talk about.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Robert Samuelson in Newsweek: "High-Speed Rail Is a Fast Track to Government Waste"

From here.
Vice President Biden, an avowed friend of good government, is giving it a bad name. With great fanfare, he went to Philadelphia last week to announce that the Obama administration proposes spending $53 billion over six years to construct a "national high-speed rail system." Translation: The administration would pay states $53 billion to build rail networks that would then lose money—lots—thereby aggravating the budget squeezes of the states or federal government, depending on which covered the deficits.

There's something wildly irresponsible about the national government undermining states' already poor long-term budget prospects by plying them with grants that provide short-term jobs. Worse, the rail proposal casts doubt on the administration's commitment to reducing huge budget deficits. How can it subdue deficits if it keeps proposing big spending programs?

[Read it all.]

Which is why Wisconsin, Ohio, and now Florida have refused federal money for high speed rail.

Here's the story from Wisconsin: The proposed rail line was to run between Milwaukee and Madison--a trip that takes a little over an hour by car on I-94 which connects the two cities and runs right past all the stopping points where the rail line would have stopped. There is already bus service between the two cities that costs $17.50 per trip. The number of stopping points meant that the "high speed" rail would only achieve a top speed of 57 miles per hour between stops, making it slower than going by car or non-stop bus. One way tickets were going to cost $30, and this doesn't count a state subsidy that was estimated to run up to $68 per ticket--bringing the actual cost of transporting a person to more than $100, a cost that would most likely be borne by state taxpayers. So Samuelson's article is right on the money.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Bless me, iPhone, for I have sinned.

An iPhone app aimed at helping Roman Catholics through confession and encouraging lapsed followers back to the faith has been sanctioned by the Church.

Confession: A Roman Catholic app, thought to be the first to be approved by a church authority, walks Catholics through the sacrament and contains what the company behind the program describes as a "personalized examination of conscience for each user."

Read more.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Theses for a new reformation in the Anglican Communion

Mark Thompson, who heads the theology department at Moore College, Sydney, Australia, has posted some interesting and thoughtful theses about the real need in the Anglican Communion today, which is a reformation of the minds and hearts of Anglican believers. Until that happens, the institutional malaise the Communion is experiencing will continue unabated.

Read them carefully and see what you think.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Spam message kills a suicide bomber, saves hundreds

This is some weird news: very sad for those involved, but good news that a mass tragedy was avoided.
A spam message wishing a Russian woman happy new year may very well have killed her, and saved hundreds of intended targets.

The unnamed woman, who is thought to be part of the same group that struck Moscow's Domodedovo airport on Monday, intended to detonate a suicide belt on a busy square near Red Square on New Year's Eve in an attack that could have killed hundreds.

Security sources believe a spam message from her mobile phone operator wishing her a happy new year received just hours before the planned attack triggered her suicide belt, killing her but nobody else.

She was at her Moscow safe house at the time getting ready with two accomplices, both of whom survived and were seen fleeing the scene.

Islamist terrorists in Russia often use cheap unused mobile phones as detonators. The bomber's handler, who is usually watching their charge, sends the bomber a text message in order to set off his or her explosive belt at the moment when it is thought they can inflict maximum casualties.

The phones are usually kept switched off until the very last minute but in this case, Russian security sources believe, the terrorists were careless.

"The bomber's handler, who is usually watching their charge, sends the bomber a text message in order to set off his or her explosive belt at the moment when it is thought they can inflict maximum casualties."

What kind of religion condones using and killing people this way?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Mike Adams: "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?"

American communities are not what they used to be. Today’s college graduate changes jobs about a dozen times in his career. Since he changes jobs every few years he usually finds himself moving every few years. And since he figures he won’t be with his neighbors for long he seldom takes the time to get to know them.

It wasn’t that way when my family moved to Fort Worth in 1966. Four different welcoming committees came to visit from four different churches - all asking whether we had found a church home. Our first batch of mail was hand-delivered by the postman. When he rang the doorbell he introduced himself and asked “Have you found a church home yet?”

We eventually found a church but it was not the home of any of the four groups that came to visit. They must have all written off their visits as losses. But that was far from the truth. In fact, my mother was so moved by their hospitality that she began regular church visitation as soon as she joined a church. She kept doing so after we moved to Houston.

You really must read it all.

Adams' closing paragraph is the stuff sermons are made of:

"We can’t change the world overnight. But we can change our neighborhoods today. The Recipe has been around for ages. We just have to keep sharing it with others."