Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The 95 Theses, 490 Years Later

Today isn't just Halloween, it is also Reformation Day. On this day, 490 years ago (October 31, 1517), the great Reformer, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany and launched what is known as the Protestant Reformation.

And to celebrate this holiday, I wanted to post the 95 Theses in it's entirety. The 95 Theses was in response to the Catholic Church's selling of indulgences. Luther was apalled by the concept. We have much to be thankful for from men like Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwinglii, John Craig, and other great Reformers. They changed the course of history, by simply recovering the pure gospel, and leading people to the cross.

The question we ask ourselves today is, is the reformation over? To hear what Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. has to say about it, listen to his radio program by clicking here.

Here is the 95 Theses as translated by Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed and Henry Eyster Jacobs:
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Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God's remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.
11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.
12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.
14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.
15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.
17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.
18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.
19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.
20. Therefore by "full remission of all penalties" the pope means not actually "of all," but only of those imposed by himself.
21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;
22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.
23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.
24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.
25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.
26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.
27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].
28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.
29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.
30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.
31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.
32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;
34. For these "graces of pardon" concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.
35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.
36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.
38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.
39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.
40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].
41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;
44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.
45. 45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.
46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.
47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.
48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.
49. Christians are to be taught that the pope's pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter's church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope's wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.
52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.
53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.
54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.
55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The "treasures of the Church," out of which the pope. grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.
57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church's poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ's merit, are that treasure;
61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.
66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.
67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the "greatest graces" are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.
68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.
70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.
71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!
72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!
73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.
74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.
75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God -- this is madness.
76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.
77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.
78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in I. Corinthians xii.
79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.
80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.
81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.
82. To wit: -- "Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."
83. Again: -- "Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"
84. Again: -- "What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul's own need, free it for pure love's sake?"
85. Again: -- "Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?"
86. Again: -- "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?"
87. Again: -- "What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?"
88. Again: -- "What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?"
89. "Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?"
90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace!
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!
94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.
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Here is the new Luther movies depiction of the nailing of the 95 Theses:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Tomorrow marks the 490th anniversary of when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. To most, this may seem like an insignificant event. But the truth is, October 31, 1517 stands as the day that history changed.

So in honor of this, Here is a short biography on Martin Luther, the Great Reformer:
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MARTIN LUTHER, the greatest of the Protestant reformers of the 16th century, was born at Eisleben, on the 10th of November 1483. His father was a miner in humble circumstances; his mother, as Melanchthon records, was a woman of exemplary virtue, and esteemed in her walk of life. Shortly after Martin's birth, his parents removed to Mansfield, where their circumstances ere long improved by industry and perseverance. Their son was sent to school; and both at home and at school his training was of a severe and hardening character. When he reached his eighteenth year, he entered the university at Erfurt, with a view of qualifying himself for the legal profession. He went through the usual studies in the classics and the schoolmen, and took his degree as Doctor of Philosophy, or Master of Arts, in 1505, when he was twenty-one years of age. Previous to this, however, a profound change of feeling had begun in him. Chancing one day to examine the vulgate version of the Bible in the University Library, he saw with astonishment that there were more gospels and epistles than in the lectionaries. He was arrested by the contents of his newly found treasure. His heart was deeply touched, and he resolved to devote himself to a spiritual life. He separated himself trom his friends and fellow-students, and withdrew into the Augustine convent at Erfurt.

Here he spent the next three years of his life - years of peculiar interest and significance, for it was during this period that he laid in the study of the Bible and of Augustine, the foundation of those doctrinal convictions which were afterwards to rouse and strengthen him in his struggles against the papacy. He describes very vividly the crisis through which he passed, the burden of sin which so long lay upon him, "too heavy to be borne;" and the relief that he at length found in the clear understanding of the "forgiveness of sins" through the grace of Christ.

In the year 1507, Luther was ordained a priest, and in the following year he moved to Wittenberg, destined to derive its chief celebrity from his name. He became a teacher in the new university, founded there by the Elector Frederick of Saxony.

In 1510 or 1511, he was sent on a mission to Rome, and he has described yery vividly what he saw and heard there. On his return from Rome, he was made a Doctor of the Holy Scriptures, and his career as a reformer may be said to have commenced. Money was largely needed at Rome, to feed the extravagances of the papal court; and its numerous missionaries sought everywhere to raise funds by the sale of "indulgences," as they were called, for the sins of frail humanity; the principal of these was John Tetzel, a Dominican friar, who had established himself at Juterboch, on the borders of Saxony. Luther's indignation at the shameless traffic which the man carried on, soon became irrepressible; "God willing," he exclaimed, "I will beat a hole in his drum." He drew out 95 theses on the doctrine of indulgences, which he nailed up on the gate of the church at Wittenberg, and which he offered to defend in the university against all opponents. The general thrust of these was to deny to the pope all right to forgive sins. "If a sinner was truly contrite, he received complete forgiveness. The pope's absolution had no value in and for itself."

This sudden and bold step of Luther's was all that was necessary to awaken a widespread excitement. The news of it spread far and wide.

At first, the pope, Leo X, took little heed of the disturbance. Some of the cardinals, however, saw the real character of the movement, which gradually assumed a seriousness evident even to the pope, and Luther received a summons to appear at Rome, and answer for his theses. Once again in Rome, it is unlikely he would ever have been allowed to return. His university and the elector interfered, and a legate was sent to Germany to hear and determine the case. Cardinal Cajetan was the legate, and he was but little fitted to deal with Luther. He would enter upon no argument with him, but merely called upon him to retract. Luther refused, and fled from Augsburg, whither he had gone to meet the papal representative. The task of negotiation was then undertaken by Miltitz, a German envoy of the pope to the Saxon court, and a temporary peace was obtained. This did not last long. The reformer was too deeply moved to keep silent. "God hurries and drives me," he said; "I am not master of myself; I wish to be quiet, and am hurried into the midst of tumults."

In 1520, the reformer published his famous address to the "Christian Nobles of Germany." This was followed in the same year by a treatise "On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church." In these works, which circulated widely and powerfully influenced many minds, Luther took broader and firmer ground; he attacked not only the abuses of the papacy, but the doctrinal system of the Church of Rome. "These works," Ranke says, "contain the whole kernel of the reformation." The papal bull was issued against him, but the dreaded document was burned before an assembled multitude of doctors, students, and citizens at the Elster Gate of Wittenberg. Germany was convulsed with excitement. Eck (who had been the chief agent in obtaining the bull), fled from place to place, glad to escape with his life, and Luther was everywhere the hero of the hour.

Charles V had at this time succeeded to the empire, and he convened his first diet of the Sovereigns and States at Worms. This diet met in the beginning of 1521; an order was issued for the destruction of Luther's works, and he himself was summoned to appear before the diet. This was above all what he desired - to confess the truth before the assembled powers of Germany. He resolved to obey the summons, come what would. All Germany was moved by his heroism; his journey resembled a triumph; the threats of enemies and the anxiety of friends alike failed to move him. "I am resolved to enter Worms," he said, "although as many devils set at me as there are tiles on the house tops." His appearance and demeanor before the diet, and the firmness with which he held his ground and refused to retract, all make a striking picture.
On his return from Worms, he was seized at the instigation of his friend, the Elector of Saxony, and safely lodged in the old castle of the Wartburg. The affair was made to appear as an act of violence, but in reality it was designed to secure him from the destruction which his conduct at Worms would certainly have provoked. He remained in this shelter for about a year, concealed in the guise of a knight. His chief employment was his translation of the Scriptures into his native language.

In the year 1525, Luther married Catharine Von Boro, one of nine nuns, who, under the influence of his teaching had emancipated themselves from their religious vows. The step rejoiced his enemies, and even alarmed some of his friends like Melanchthon. But it greatly contributed to his happiness, while it served to enrich and strengthen his character. All the most interesting and touching glimpses we get of him henceforth, are in connection with his wife and children.

Two years after his marriage, he fell into a dangerous sickness and depression of spirits, from which he was only aroused by the dangers besetting Christendom from the advance of the Turks. Two years later, in 1529, he engaged in his famous conference at Marbury, with Zwingli, and other Swiss divines. In this conference he obstinately maintained his peculiar views as to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Aggressive and reforming in the first stage of his life, and while he was dealing with practical abuses, he was yet in many respects, essentially conservative in his intellectual character, and he shut his mind pertinaciously after middle life, to any advance in doctrinal opinions. The following year finds him at Coburg, while the diet sat at Augsburg. It was deemed prudent to trust the Protestant cause to Melanchthon, who attended the Diet, but Luther removed to Coburg, to be conveniently at hand for consultation. The establishment of the Protestant creed at Augsburg, marks the culmination of the German Reformation; and the life of Luther henceforth possesses comparatively little interest. He survived sixteen years longer, but they are years marked by few incidents of importance. He died in the end of Febtuary 1546.
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I also want to point you to the latest biographical movie titled "Luther." Here is a scene of Luther at the Diet of Worms as depicted in the movie:

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mohler: Is the University Hostile to Christian Professors?

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has had some great posts recently. I hate to continue to repost his stuff, but he is correctly discussing and providing a Christian worldview to critical issues of our day. It is imperative that we repeat some of the things he is saying.

And this post is no different. My wife and I both have college degrees. I went to Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary where Dr. Mohler is President. My wife, however, went to the University of Louisville. It never ceased to amaze me the drast difference between the schools, even though they were only a few minutes apart.

Some of the things that my wife had to go through and deal with was simply amazing. Whether it was a professor coming in wishing that all Republicans would be shot to laughing at the words of Scripture and the claims of Christianity; she had to deal with a lot of horrendous things. At that University, my wife and I were on the frontlines of the culture war and we saw liberalism for what it was; opression, anger, hatred, and intolerance.

Dr. Mohler, in this post, deals with the secular unisersity and asks if the university is hostile to Christian professors? I believe so. But I would take it even farther: secular universities are hostile to Christianity itself, regardless of what position one might hold. Liberalism is the death of freedom, not the celebration of it.

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The university was the child of the church. The classic ideal of the university emerged from the context of medieval Christianity and the confidence that all truth and every discipline of learning is, in the end, united in Christ -- the wisdom of God.

Fast forward a few centuries and the picture is very different. The modern university has taken on a cultural importance that dwarfs that of the medievals. And these hugely influential institutions are now, in the main, thoroughly secularized.

This does not mean that no Christians are to be found there. It does mean that the culture and worldview of the institutions are thoroughly secular.

Historian George Marsden explains that with the rise of the modern university ideal came a tide that ran against the Christian foundations of the established academic culture. A generation of reformers pushed for the secularization of the colleges and universities as a means of freeing the schools from ecclesiastical control.

"To reformers it seemed that colleges had to be freed from clerical control, and hence usually from traditional Christianity, in order to achieve something that we now take for granted -- the emergence of higher education as a separate profession, distinct from the clergy," he explains.
By the end of the twentieth century, the process of secularization was virtually complete. As Marsden notes, "today Christianity has only a vestigial voice at the periphery of these vast culture-shaping institutions."

A recent news article in The Chronicle of Higher Education raises many of these same issues. Reporter Thomas Bartlett set the story this way:

He thought he had a good chance. Last year Mike S. Adams, an associate professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, applied for a promotion to full professor. He had been at the university for 13 years. In that time, he had published 10 peer-reviewed papers and won three teaching awards. Not that there weren't bumps along the way, but his record, he believed, was better than most.

So when he was turned down, Mr. Adams started asking questions. The official word was that he hadn't measured up in any of the three crucial categories -- teaching, publishing, or service. He didn't believe that for a minute. The real reason he wasn't promoted, according to Mr. Adams, is that he's a Christian.

The remainder of the article is a consideration of this question -- are Christians the targets of discrimination in the university culture. The article presented arguments on both sides, and then turned to the question of whether the real discrimination might not be religious, but political.

Of course, a clear separation of these issues is not possible.

It can be difficult to untangle political and religious views. "A person's stand on a controversial topic -- abortion, say, or gay marriage -- may very well have roots in his or her faith. Where does politics begin and religion end?," Bartlett asks.

He then turns to the example of Professor Randall Balmer of Barnard College and Columbia University:

Of course not all Christian professors are politically conservative. Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Barnard College, is an ordained Episcopal minister and a self-described evangelical. He is also a liberal. He published an article in The Chronicle Review last year titled "Jesus Is Not a Republican."

He has certainly heard people say that Christian professors are discriminated against. But he has never, in his 22 years of teaching at several universities, seen evidence of that. "The picture that has been painted on the right is that the academy is hostile to faith and is a bastion of secularism," Mr. Balmer says. "I simply haven't encountered that hostility."

He does believe there is a liberal bias in academe. "And thank God for that," he says. "I'm glad there is a bunker against the tide of conservatism that has overtaken every other corner of our country."

Professor Balmer is a "self-described evangelical," but that explains almost nothing of his essential worldview. In what sense is he committed to evangelical doctrinal commitments and related concerns? What does evangelical mean in this context?

One professor at an elite university recently told me of a conversation with a Jewish colleague. A recent news item had raised the issue of the exclusivity of the Gospel. The colleague asked: "Do you really believe that persons who do not believe in Jesus are going to hell?" When the Christian professor said "yes" his colleague was outraged. "I would never have voted tenure for you had I known that," he retorted.

The other fascinating issue is Balmer's unvarnished pride in the politically liberal stance and worldview of the university. So much for any claim of objectivity and openness to ideas. He sees the university as a "bunker" against conservative ideas. We should be thankful for such candor. Keep his statement handy so that you have it the next time you hear an major university leader bragging about the openness and political neutrality of his institution.
A very different analysis comes from British historian Paul Johnson in the October 8, 2007 edition of Forbes magazine. Johnson responds to militant atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and then notes:

My old university, Oxford, which was founded by monks, friars and theologians nine centuries ago, was until recently regarded as a bastion of old-fashioned Christianity and, as such, was called "the house of lost causes." Today a publicly expressed belief in Christianity is likely to lower your chance of landing a job at Oxford.

Religion has become a handicap in university life, especially in certain subjects. In philosophy, for example, academics who hope for senior chairs keep mum about any faith they hold. God and promotion do not mix. And in all the sciences, young men and women with religious backgrounds are advised to jettison their Christian, Jewish or other religious baggage if they want to pursue careers in physics, chemistry or biology. The universal assumption seems to be that a belief in God fatally debars a scholar from acquiring scientific knowledge. In Britain the number of students concentrating in the sciences is on the decline, and the systematic discouragement of Christians and Jews in the science faculties will clearly increase that trend.
Recent developments in Britain appear to prove Johnson's point. It appears that the more openly a professor's worldview is tied to Christian commitments, the larger the problem becomes. When the professor's worldview and political commitments are those shared by his or her secular colleagues the social and professional cost of Christian identification is likely to be low. When those commitments and worldviews diverge the cost is likely to be far higher.
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The passages cited from George Marsden can be found in The Secularization of the Academy, edited by George M. Marsden and Bradley J. Longfield (Oxford University Press, 1992). See Marsden's opening chapter, "The Soul of the American University," pages 9-45. Readers are strongly advised to read his classic work on this subject, The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (Oxford University Press, 1994).
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I encourage you to watch this trailer for a documentary dealing with how left colleges and universities are:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mohler: The Postmodern Eclipse of Evil -- Be Advised . . . and Be Afraid

What does a postmodern society do with evil? That's the question posed by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Since postmodernism is all about the absense of truth, everything becomes relative; including morality and evil. How do you call something (or someone) evil whenever morality is relative? You can't!

This is certainly a scary thought, one that very few have thought about. Dr. Mohler's article is very timely. As we look at the world and it's many leaders, no longer do we live in a society that regognizes evil. This is a fearful trend, and one that we must overcome. It is sad when in America we begin to defend persons like Osama bin Laden, the President of Iran, etc.

Mohler is right: be afraid...be very afraid!

Here is his article:
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One of the most harrowing features of modern thought is the reluctance to speak honestly about evil. The cause of this discomfort with the category of evil is understandable, of course. When belief in God recedes, confidence in moral judgment inevitably recedes with that belief.
This is brought to life in the pages of The New York Times Magazine in the form of a film review. The film is a documentary about the French lawyer Jacques Verges -- a man who has defended some of the worst criminals in France, including Klaus Barbie and Carlos "the Jackal." He also had long friendships with murderous dictators such as Cambodia's Pol Pot and China's Chairman Mao.

Reviewer Daphne Merkin seems to understand the difficulty posed by the film and its subject:

What does evil -- a term that came into general use only in the 15th century, originally referring to the overstepping of proper limits -- look like these days, when so many of us are wary of reductive terms, unsure of our own convictions and easily persuaded of the moral relativism of our values? (The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the word is "little used in modern colloquial English.") Does it have a particular smell, like teen spirit? Does it come wearing a hood, as in the movies? Or, again, does it look like you and me, sitting over dinner and enjoying a glass of vintage Bordeaux?

The syndrome cited here -- a reluctance to use "reductive terms" -- reflects the moral discomfort and uncertainty of the age. How do we come to terms with humanity without using the word "evil" and meaning it?

Merkin continues:

For much of history, when an ironclad trust in a divine maker still prevailed (however many plagues or earthquakes he might have arranged), the question of "evil" was contained by one of two rationales: that people deserved it because of wicked behavior or that it was part of a larger, unknowable celestial plan. That attitude, gullible as it now seems, had the benefit of keeping this particular epistemological dilemma outside the human purview. It held steady until the emergence of a philosophical tradition that, beginning with Immanuel Kant's questioning of God's pivotal position and reaching an apogee of unbelief with the arrival of Nietzsche, put the concept of evil right in our laps. As Susan Neiman says in "Evil in Modern Thought," from the Enlightenment on there have been two views: "The one, from Rousseau to Arendt, insists that morality demands that we make evil intelligible. The other, from Voltaire to Jean Améry, insists that morality demands that we don't."

That is a succinct, if reductionistic, explanation for what happened. The great philosophical turn was away from a fixed understanding of evil as an objective concept and toward evil (and all moral judgment) as a matter of subjectivity and context. Gone was the idea of evil as an act that opposed God's law and offended God's righteousness.

Gone with those beliefs was any confidence in moral judgment. As Merkin suggests, postmoderns are more like Neville Chamberlain, trying to negotiate with evil, than like Winston Churchill, determined to oppose it by force when necessary.

The maker of the film, Barbet Schroeder, refuses to take a position in the film, resisting moral judgment. Indeed, he calls Verges a "perverse and decadent aesthete." There is something particularly chilling about reducing evil to aesthetics.

The frightening specter we now face is of a postmodern world that is losing the last vestiges of confidence in moral judgment. Be advised . . . and be afraid.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mohler: Is Creationism a Threat to Human Rights?

I want to pass along this article from Dr. Mohler.
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As if the world needed another crazy development, the Council of Europe, the continent's central human rights body, last week declared creationism to be a threat to human rights. The group's Parliamentary Assembly approved a resolution stating that creationism is promoted by "forms of religious extremism."

As Reuters reported:

The Council, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, oversees human rights standards in member states and enforces decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
The resolution, which passed 48 votes to 25 with 3 abstentions, is not binding on the Council's 47 member states but reflects widespread opposition among politicians to teaching creationism in science class.


The text of the resolution leaves no doubt about the Council of Europe's judgment. "For some people the Creation, as a matter of religious belief, gives a meaning to life," the text acknowledges. "Nevertheless, the Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effects of the spread of creationist ideas within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe."

Anyone looking for evidence of a secularized culture should take a quick look at this resolution. When the official human rights institution of Europe has to explain that "some people" believe that the divine creation of the universe "gives a meaning to life," this can only mean that Europe (at least as represented by the Council of Europe) has forgotten even its Christian memory.
This body is seriously concerned that creationism is not only a threat to their secularized educational systems, but to democracy itself. Human rights could be endangered, the Council claims, if the continent is "not careful."

Someone must be passing out paranoia pills in Strasbourg. But more than secular paranoia is operating here. A closer look at this resolution indicates the centrality of Darwinian evolution to the secular worldview. Any breach in the wall defending evolution can lead, they are sure, to disaster.

"Creationists question the scientific character of certain items of knowledge and argue that the theory of evolution is only one interpretation among others," they argue. "They accuse scientists of not providing enough evidence to establish the theory of evolution as scientifically valid. On the contrary, they defend their own statements as scientific. None of this stands up to objective analysis."

So the initial cause of the offense is that creationists argue that evolution is only one theory among others. Creationists also "question the scientific character of certain items of knowledge," they assert. This rather awkward wording amounts to the charge that creationists deny the larger structure of naturalistic thought. Any doubt about the meaning of that charge is removed when the text goes on to state:

We are witnessing a growth of modes of thought which, the better to impose religious dogma, are attacking the very core of the knowledge that we have patiently built up on nature, evolution, our origins and our place in the universe.

And:

The Assembly has constantly insisted that science is of fundamental importance. Science has made possible considerable improvements in living and working conditions and is a not insignificant factor in economic, technological and social development. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with divine revelation but is built on facts.

That last sentence is truly amazing. Evolution is simply based upon "facts," they claim -- a claim that would make most evolutionary scientists blush.

But the group's commitment to naturalistic evolution is unconditional. The Council even suggests that the meaning and importance of evolution touches the totality of life and drives the development of societies: "Evolution is not simply a matter of the evolution of humans and of populations. Denying it could have serious consequences for the development of our societies."
The Council also attempts to root creationism in a political agenda to replace democracy with a theocracy. Look carefully at these two paragraphs:

Our modern world is based on a long history, of which the development of science and technology forms an important part. However, the scientific approach is still not well understood and this is liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.

The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements. The creationist movements possess real political power. The fact of the matter, and this has been exposed on several occasions, is that some advocates of strict creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.

I would be most interested to see any evidence put forth to back up this claim. The group claims that such knowledge "has been exposed on several occasions" but fails to mention even one such occasion.

The Council also asserted that respectable faiths had found a way to accept and accommodate evolutionary theory. "All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a much more moderate attitude," they advise.

The Council of Europe's resolution is clear evidence of the fact that a secularized society desperately needs naturalistic evolution as the metaphysical foundation of its worldview. Any threat to evolution is seen as a threat to democracy and human rights -- and democracy and human rights are understood in an entirely secular framework as well.

This resolution is so extreme that, at first glance, it appears to be a farce or parody. Sadly, it is not. This is no joke. This is the shape of a secularized future

Monday, October 22, 2007

MacArthur: How to Confront the Culture

How is a Christian to confront the culture? Such a question has plagued the Christian church and every faithful believer for over 2,000 years. Many have tried different methods and models, but what does the Bible say about it? Dr. John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church, has written an article on how the apostle Paul confronted the Athenian culture in Acts 17. His suggestions are helpful, and they are taken right out of Scripture.
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You may know I pastor a church in Los Angeles, California. I have the blessed privilege of mining the truth from God's Word every week of my life. Doing that in L.A. only makes it more interesting, if for no other reason than the tremendous diversity of people, culture, and language here. When we take the gospel to our city, it's amazing to watch God's Word transcend the culture—and every false religion—to change lives. The message of salvation in Christ truly knows no hindrance.

If you think evangelism is a somewhat arduous task in that environment, you're right. We face a culture that has rejected absolute truth and now considers it stylish to openly embrace and encourage degrading passions. The ecumenical, syncretistic spirit of the age recoils in horror at the exclusive claims of Christ. And popular, evangelical seeker-sensitive churches only make the task more difficult by refusing to confront sin in an effort to make the "unchurched" sinner comfortable.

Preaching today is clearly out of season (2 Tim. 4:2) and evangelism is difficult, but that's nothing new. Paul faced worse challenges in his day. He faced an increasingly anti-Christian culture—there was no spirit of tolerance to shield believers from hostility. Still, he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ–a hard, uncompromising message of repentance. That is best illustrated in Acts 17:16-34 where Paul faced one of the most intellectually erudite and morally corrupt audiences ever–the philosophers on Mars Hill. The Situation: Acts 17:16-21
Paul came to Athens after being forced to flee Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:1-15). Athens was the heart of Greek culture and thought, renowned for its art and philosophy and some of the most famous philosophers. The founders of two dominant philosophies, Epicurus (Epicureanism) and Zeno (Stoicism), had taught in Athens.

Athens was also the home of almost every man-made god in existence. The pagan writer Petronius once said it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man. In fact it was Athenian idolatry that drove Paul to preach the gospel in Athens—such idolatry offended him to the core (v. 16). In customary fashion, he marched directly to the local synagogue and was reasoning from the Scriptures (cf. v. 2) "with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present" (v. 17).

Some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers heard Paul's message in the market place and brought him to the Areopagus on Mars Hill before some of the most astute philosophers in Athens. They had no interest in the gospel; Paul was simply a novelty to them. They set him in their midst as a specimen that would amuse their interest in "telling or hearing something new" (v. 21). That's the setting for Paul's message and method for confronting a godless culture.

The Method: Acts 17:22-34

Paul spoke his message to an indifferent and arrogant audience, like many to whom you and I speak today. As we look at how Paul preached to the philosophers, you'll see three essential elements of an effective message to confront our post-Christian culture with the truth.

First, tell them that God is (vv. 22-23). Here's Paul's first point: "You are ignorant and I'm going to give you the truth." Try recommending that opening line at an evangelism conference. Some people think Paul commended their religiosity when he mentioned their many objects of worship. He wasn't commending them at all–their idols infuriated him (v. 16). Rather, he started with a given: all men are innately religious. All men are created to be worshipers–they either worship God or something else, but everyone worships something. The Athenians were no different.

Externally, God has given witness about Himself through what He created: "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Ps. 19:1). Internally, according to Romans 1:19: "that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." They have an innate sense of the true God of the Bible, His standards are written on their hearts, and their consciences hold them accountable (Rom. 2:14-15). But because of sin, they "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). They willfully reject what they know to be true and choose instead to worship in ignorance.

Second, tell them who God is (vv. 24-29). This is Paul's lesson to the ignorant about the unknown God. This is Theology 101. It's ironic that Paul was teaching the ABCs of theology to those who were known worldwide as supreme intellectuals. It proves the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:25: "The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Here are five things ignorant, rebellious men need to know about the "Unknown God."
God is the Creator. Verse 24a: He "made the world and all things in it." In Paul's day and ours, the truth makes no room for men's opinions regarding origins.

God is the Ruler. Verse 24b: "He is Lord of heaven and earth [and] does not dwell in temples made with hands." It logically follows that if God is the Creator, He is also the rightful Ruler of what He created. And if He is Creator and Ruler, He doesn't live in what His creatures have made.

God is the Giver. Verse 25: "He [is not] served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things." Far from needing anything from men, the Creator "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45).

God is the Controller. Verse 26: "He made from one man every nation of mankind … having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." That statement was a blow to the national pride of the Greeks, who scornfully referred to non-Greeks as "barbarians." Nonetheless, God controls the affairs and destinies of men and nations.

God is the Revealer. Verses 27-29: Men should "seek God... He is not far from each one of us... Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like [anything] formed by the art and thought of man." God, by creating, ruling, giving, and controlling all things, has clearly revealed Himself in what He has made—men are truly without excuse (Rom. 1:20).

Third, tell them what God says (vv. 30-31). Paul's evangelism method ends with a simple, powerful point: tell them to repent or be judged. In the past, God was patient. But a day is coming when He will judge the world through Jesus Christ. God gave sufficient proof of the truth of His Word in the resurrection of His Son—He holds all men accountable to that evidence. His grace in the past and His wrath in the future require repentance in the present. As Paul said elsewhere, "Now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation'" (2 Cor. 6:2).
That message isn't popular today, but then again, it has never been popular. "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer... so Paul went out of their midst" (v. 32-33). I mentioned earlier that Paul's method was effective, and it is. Look at verse 34: "But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them." It was effective to save those whom God chose to save. Paul was faithful to proclaim the truth. He left the results to God.

From Athens to Los Angeles, first century to twenty-first century and everywhere in between, repentance may not be popular, but it's still the gospel. Teach this post-Christian culture about God and then command repentance. That's the only message we have; without it, no one would be saved.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Oversexed Culture Coming to a Middle School Near You

There is a Biblical doctrine that is important to review (as we have done in the past). The doctrine is called Total Depravity (whether or not you believe man's depravity is total or not is irrelevant at this point. Biblically speaking, you must admit that we are depraved as a result of the fall). Total Depravity says that everything we do is tainted with sin. Because of the fall in Genesis 3, man has inherited a corrupt nature (oftentimes called Original Sin), and therefore indulged in their sin. Man is completely hopeless, wretched, and is always living for himself and to gratify himself.

This is important. Why? Because it explains a lot about our culture. Because we are depraved at our core, mankind will do whatever they can to normalize, legalize, legislate, and encourage sin. In order to do this, man must severe the conscience.

Just look at the issue of marriage for example. 50 years ago, it would have been unconsiousable to get a divorce. Now we have no fault divorce. Not only that, but we are changing the very definition of divorce. We now want homosexuals to get married. How do you do that? You normalize the sin (and so you put them in comedies and make them like everybody else and eventually people won't be so "mean" to them). From there, you legalize it by legislating it. And that is exactly what is happening. From there, we will be facing issues such polygamy, incest, and even bestiality. Already, we are wanting to legalize the "7 Year Itch" mentality.

In short, we want to gratify, encourage, and celebrate sin. And such a concept, not only affects marriage, but such sin goes after younger and younger people.

If you don't believe me, then please explain to me why a middle school in Maine is offering birth control pills to their students? Apparently the free condoms idea wasn't working!

It is appalling that such a thing would be offered to high schoolers, let alone middle schoolers, but what do you expect in a culture that is obsessed with sex? We want sex with whoever, whenever, and now, at whatever age.

Already, many countries in the Western world are lowering the age of consent. In Spain, for example, the age of consent is down to 13! What grade is a 13 year old in? Middle School.

How have we come this far?

LOW EXPECTATIONS

We live in a society that celebrate youth and then exploits it. We say things like, "your young, you should enjoy your life." "Your only a teenager for so long." Likewise, we put expectations on youth that they are suppose to be sexually active, rebellious, angry, and kiddish. It amazes me to this day that we want 5 years olds to act like adults (by giving them Ridilin and other drugs) and yet expect teenagers to act like kids (so we expect them to disobey, rebel, and do whatever they want).

What do you expect whenever you tell someone not to have sex yet, and then turn around and say, "but we know your going to, and so when you do, have your partner (assuming that they are of the opposite sex) wear this condom, and you should begin taking this pill. Just in case."? We have essentially told our young people that they are incapable of overcoming temptation, of growing up, and taking responsibility. But then again, what do you expect from a society that wants socialize medicine, health care, and expects the government to provide everything from them instead of earning a living and taking personal responsibility for oneself?

I am a youth pastor. And this has creeped into the church. My first day at where I serve (where I have been for 4 years) blew me away. Since we were at church, I, wrongly, assumed that at least most of us would have our Bibles. Sadly, only me and my wife had brought ours. Why? Because they weren't expected to.

Here's a lesson in life: you will likely succeed at where you set your expectations. If you don't think you will never be able to make it, finish school, get a good job, marry a respectable and honorable person, overcome temptation, wait to have sex, have better friends, live a life that honors Christ, etc., then you won't! It's that simple.

And we have told the youth of this nation, "You can't. So don't." Therefore, "here's a pill."

Even to middle schoolers!

LAZINESS AND LACK OF PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Thanks to feminism, liberalism, socialism, and the ilk, we live in a society that doesn't believe in personal responsibility. We live in a society that thinks it is OK to sue McDonald's because your fat and you burned yourself with your coffee and nowhere on the cup did it warn you that coffee was hot! What do you expect from such a culture?

Such irresponsible people have bred and brought up irresponsible children and youth. Instead of the parent taking responsibility for the child, the parent has passed them on to the public school and to the government. We expect the schools to teach our kids about sex, responsibility, character, morals, etc. We expect the government to babysit our kids why we go live our own lives.

So called adults of today have neglected the parents primary role of being a parent. Instead, parents today are told to be buddies and pals with their kids. Whatever happened to parenting? Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

Since we're not responsible for our own actions, we live in a fantasy world of being able to do whatever we feel like without consequences. We actually think that if we have sex, there should be no way to get an STD or get pregnant. We believe this so much, that if we do get pregnant, we can murder the infant and pretend it never happened.

We need to bring back personal responsibility. If you made your bed, you sleep in it.

In other words, we need to grow up!

PSYCHOLOGY AND NO TO DISCIPLINE
Thanks to psychology, we are raising a bunch of wimps primarily because our parents are made wimps by our culture. Psychology actually believes that giving a child a time out will teach a kids more than actually disciplining him.

We are wimps raising wimps! We too afraid to harm one's self esteem that we're afraid to tell someone that they are wrong. Therefore, we begin to think that right and wrong, black and white are murky.

Let's bring back common sense. If you act up, you are punished. If you break the law, you are punished.

And how about this: I will set up boundaries where my children will not be tempted to have sex!

Now that is an outrageous statement to most in our culture. It is simply wrong, according to our culture, to tell a child or youth no and to set up boundaries that you control. It is simply wrong to not let a youth go out every Friday night. It is simply wrong to moderate who your child is hanging out with, dating, who their parents are, what they are learning in school, etc.

Psychology says that children and youth should learn from their mistakes, but common sense says that is moronic. How about this: NO. And to insure that my child isn't going to get pregnant, I am going to put up boundaries.

CONCLUSION: A RETURN TO COMMON SENSE
This whole issue of giving birth control to 11 year olds shouldn't surprise us. We've seen this coming for years now. We should have known that our culture wouldn't have been content with condoms in the classroom and we should have known that that policy wasn't going to work.

Our culture is obsessed with sex and will do everything it can to encourage, legalize, normalize, and regulate. A depraved people make up a depraved culture that want to loosen the bonds of morality and boundaries. Therefore, it constantly seeks to break down such barriers, and this one is not new.

Let us return to sanity, responsibility, and common sense. It doesn't take much smarts or education that with every action, there are consequences. It is furthermore common sense that no pill or condom will protect you from all such consequences.

Let us return to common sense parenting. Parents should grow up and start parenting their child instead of expecting disobedience, rebellion, and promiscuity. Parents should act as parents. They are not buddies. They are not friends. They are not pals to their children and youth. They are the parents.

Let us return to common sense in our culture. Let us cast off such irrational notions of psychology and other ignorant icons. Let us return to personal responsibility. If it's your problem, don't blame others, deal with it. It is your fault!

Let us return to common sense in the Church. No longer should the Church go along with the flow, but boldly take a stand for Christ. We are to be different, and so let us be different. We need to show the world, not morality, but Christ. "Are we trying to moralize the unconverted, or convert the immoral?"

Finally, let us return to common sense with sex. The primary purpose of sex is to procreate. That is common sense. That does not mean that we cannot enjoy sex (just read Song of Solomon). However, let us not be naive in thinking that we can have the sex without the consequences. Furthermore, let us return to the principle of how much greater sex is whenever we wait for our spouse. Though our world hates it and though they fear such a movement being popular, we must return to a world where sex is not something you do, but a result of a covenant that has been made.
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Here is a link to the article reporting this issue in Maine.

Here's a video reporting this issue. Just notice the irrationality and the carelessness of the parents and the "experts"


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Colson: A New Form of Discrimination

I want to bring this article by Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, to your attention. Colson exposes our culture's hatred for Christianity and how it will not stop until it is irraticated. Even in a "free" society, Christianity is not welcome. Our forefathers would have been ashamed at this kind of intolerance toward religion that the secularist in our society have.


Imagine you own a small business—let’s say a donut shop—and you have an
employee who is late for work everyday and is rude to customers. When you fire
him, he claims it is really because he is gay—and sues.

Or imagine you run a daycare center in your church basement. One day a homosexual applies for a job. When you turn him down, he says you broke the
law.

Today, both of these stories are simply scenarios. But by the end of the
week, they could be reality.

Under intense goading from the gay-rights lobby, the House of Representatives is poised to vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, called ENDA. This legislation would add “sexual orientation” to civil rights law. If passed, ENDA would cut deeply into the religious rights and freedoms of all Americans.

For example, an employer with a moral or religious belief opposed to homosexuality or bisexuality would be forced to give up those rights the moment he arrives at his office. No business would be allowed to refuse to hire a homosexual for any reason. Fire a person because of incompetence—he would say it’s because he is gay, or just even perceived to be gay.

That’s right. ENDA would also expand civil rights protections on the basis of a simple perception. Because ENDA includes “real or perceived” discrimination, an employee, or potential employee, could sue an employer for his or her perception of the employee’s sexual orientation. But sexual orientation is not like race, age, or gender; it is behavioral and not empirically verifiable. Can you imagine the license this would give the courts to begin to investigate peoples’ sex lives? It’s astonishing.


If passed, ENDA would place all the power of the federal government in direct opposition to the beliefs of all major faith groups in America regarding the teachings about sexuality. ENDA would also undermine the institution of marriage by pronouncing traditional sexual morality a form of discrimination. This legislation will lead to a flood of lawsuits; employers would inevitably be forced to require
marriage-like benefits to homosexual employees.

The bill also includes phony religious protection language that does not exempt all religious schools and universities (even K through 12).

Pro-ENDA lawmakers are being especially disingenuous. Many congressmen are going to the floor to make speeches about the value of faith groups in American life. The idea seems to be to create the appearance of how much they care about religious communities—records they can point to later for cover as they vote for bills like ENDA. It’s astonishing how easily they think Christians can be fooled, isn’t it? Do they still think evangelicals are poor, ignorant, and easy to command, as the Washington Post once said?

The Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual rights group, is having their annual gala (a dinner) this weekend—and congressional leaders want to hand them a big victory. You and I need to get to our telephones immediately, especially if you own a business, and call our members of Congress. We must tell them that we are not fooled by any of this religious protection language, that this bill discriminates against religious business owners, and that we want them to vote against this invasion of religious freedom. If you visit the BreakPoint website, you will find more
information about ENDA and how it will cut into the rights of faith
communities.

A Seven Year Itch? Recovering Marriage in a Culture That Took It Out of It's Vocabulary - Part 1

Should we put a limit on marriage? What a strange question, but it is seriously being debated in Europe. One politician wants to limit marriage to the seven year itch. In other words, after 7 years of marriage, couples could essentially "cancel' the marriage without the damage of divorce. They will simply end the marriage and move on.
And this is a serious debate in Berlin!

The problem here isn't the proposal, for we shouldn't be surprised, but rather how marriage has been so denigrated where it means absolutely nothing.

Therefore, we must recover the meaning and purpose of marriage. Marriage is no longer a covenant in western society, but is now simply a certificate. Marriage is a piece of paper to sign and nothing else. Most couples in our day have absolutely no idea why marriage even exists, and what it's purpose is. We have so denigrated marriage that it means absolutely nothing.

Since we have lost the correct vision of marriage, we are irrationally throwing it away. Think about the debates our culture are having; same-sex marriage, polygamy, no fault divorce, co-habitation, raising children (single parenting vs. mom/dad), abortion, surrogates (cf. Abraham and Hagar in Genesis), and so many issues. If we understood what marriage is, then these issues would be solved.

So what is marriage?

First, marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 5. Since Christ gave up everything (including His very life!) for the sake of His Church. Therefore, men are to "love their wives" just as "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her." So, a loving husband who gives up everything for the sake of His wife is a picture of Christ and the Church. Likewise, we see the husband as the leader of the marriage just as Christ is the leader of the Church. This should humble every man (and women) who have this understanding. Every marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church, it is not about you. Rather, you, in your marriage, are to reflect Christ's relationship to His bride.

Secondly, marriage is for the raising of children. Sadly we have lost this purpose of marriage. I know so many people who have sex with someone (or just go to the sperm bank) just so that they could have a child. This is primarily a problem with women who want a child, they just don't want a husband. We have so celebrated single parenting (and we should, but not at the cost of uplifting it as better than the raising of children by both parents) that marriage is seen as getting in the way of parenting. God is clear that a married couple is to leave their parents (cf. Genesis 2), and have children.

Likewise, children are to be a blessing, not a curse. We have to get past this notion that having children takes away freedom of a married couple and is a burden. Rather, children are a blessing given to us by God! It is sad to see groups like No Kidding and No Baby on Board celebrated by our culture because they encourage couples not to have kids. Having children is a great responsibility, it should never looked at as a problem, but rather a gift.

Thirdly, marriage is a sexual union. Or as Moses put it, a one flesh relationship (cf. Gen. 2). Marriage is two different people, from two different families, coming together as one flesh, never to be torn apart, for the glory of God. This is a great picture of marriage and it is a great picture of sex! Sex isn't about me, me, and me, but rather about union, togetherness, and a symbol of the commitment to each other. We have so lost this vision in sex in our day. Sex is about pleasure and satisfying the self. Imagine how much greater sex would be if we recovered this proper understanding of marriage and sex.

Finally, (and this is no exhaustive list) marriage is the ultimate act of adulthood. What do I mean? Look at Genesis 2 again. Moses says that a man (and woman) are to leave their parents and be joined together with their spouse. What is interesting about this, is that God gives this command to Adam and Eve even though neither of them had parents. That, first of all, reminds us of the universality of this command (meaning that it continues to apply to us today). But it also is a reminder of how one is to approach marriage; it is essentially both in the couple leaving what they have known all of their lives, and putting their trust (men are you listening?!) in the other and in God.

The problem with the last purpose of marriage is that people increasingly do not grow up. We have raised a bunch of whining babies who, if they don't get their way, act like older babies, they complain, sue, and ask the government to pass a law. What further shocks me is that we want children to act like adults (meaning not being as hyper and active) and so drug them, but we expect teenagers and young adults to act like children (meaning that we expect them to act up, rebel, and ignore morality, and try things out first). We essentially let teenagers run around and do whatever they want hoping that they will be moralized.

We need to grow up!

This is why people who do get married are getting married at an older age. It used to be, in America, that you would get married shortly after high school, not it seems people are getting married after their mid-life crisis! The average age of getting married (the first time that is) in America is close to 30, and couples might have 2 children! Why? Because we haven't grown up and have so radically changed our perception of children.

We must recover these purposes and definition of marriage. If we understand these things, such issues like same sex marriage, abortion, parenting, etc. can be wiped away. You will not abort if you understand the role of children and parenting within marriage. The marrying of same sex couples is simply outrageous whenever we understand God's plan and picture of marriage.

A culture that neglects the centrality of the family, is a culture on the brink of collapse! Let that not be the story of America and Western Society.
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Here is a link to the story about the politician proposing a 7 year itch on marriage. After those 7 years, the couple can cancel their marriage.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"The Pursuit of Happyness"

I want to point you to a blog I put on my Reviews blog. Usually I put reviews of books that I have read, but my wife and I recently watched a movie that I felt needed to be commented on. The movie was "The Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith who plays Chris Gardner. This movie is based on a true story, and I highly recommend it.
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Normally, this blog is for books that I have read, but today I will make an exception. My wife and I would encouraged to watch the movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness," (based on a true story)and we were not disappointed. I am not necessarily interested in writing a review on it, but rather pointing out some of the themes throughout the movie that still ring true today.

POWER OF CAPITALISM, AMERICA, AND THE AMERICAN DREAM

One of the things that struck me about the movie is what it said about the power of the American system. The main character, Chris Gardner, is simply broke. His wife is working double shift while he is trying to sell an investment that is failing. She eventually leaves, and he keeps their child and raises him. And his "business" continues to fail. He has no money to pay for rent, taxes, etc.

Eventually, his wife leaves. He therefore gets kicked out of his apartment, and so moves to a motel. Eventually he gets kicked of of his motel, and spends a night in a public restroom. He essentially hits rock bottom.He continues to try to sell the invention he has invested in, but even that isn't going well. Even when he does sell one, he is so backed up in bills, that he can't get ahead. He is forced to stay in homeless shelters and always carry his belongings with him.

And all the while, he is pursuing a job as a stock broker. Therefore, his time is pressed. Since he doesn't have a great education, and less time on his hands especially since he is now a single parent with a young son, he has to strive harder, worker hard, work smarter, and utilize his time wisely.What drives him is the "pursuit of happiness" as laid out in the declaration. Throughout the movie, he reflects on what that phrase meant. What makes him ponder is the fact that Jefferson added the word "pursuit" in that phrase. As if to mean that we may not ever find it. But what is amazing, is that Gardner realizes that happiness is a pursuit, and isn't something that is given to us. Happiness, and in this context I mean success, would take hard work, and time-consuming, bottom of the barrel efforts. And he embraces that and realizes that nothing will be given to him.

In fact, he never takes abuses the gifts what our society offer to help people get back on their feet. When his son asks if they could spend the night at the shelter after he finally sells one of his products, he refuses and says that there are some things that are "fun" the first time, but you never want to do again. And therefore, he takes the financial gift he has been given as a result of the sell, and they spend the night in a motel.What makes Gardner "happy" or rather successful and able to provide for his son, isn't selfishness and laziness, but rather giving everything he has for the sake of his son and hard work. He knew his limitations, and did not use them as excuses.

At one point, when applying for an internship as a stock broker, he tells an employer that he would like to discuss the things on his application that "appear to be weaknesses."Chris Gardner becomes a poster child to the opportunities this country offers and serves as an example of how America has grown to be great. Whenever men and women are willing to "pursue" success in America, they can succeed. Those who are lazy, will forever remain in their poverty and it is no one's fault but their own. It is called freedom. Gardner wanted more, and he was willing to work hard for it.

This is the great advantage of capitalism and the American economy; one does not have to remain in their poverty or their current situation. If they are willing to work hard, work long, and endure, then you can make it. Gardner understood this concept. Even though he was less educated, didn't know the right people, had less time, had more on his plate, and had no money, he nonetheless rose to the occasion and persevered.

Contrast this with socialism. Instead of shared prosperity as many socialist promise, it leads to shared misery and poverty. Socialism takes the hard work and striving of men like Gardner, and gives it to people who are simply lazy who do not add to society at all. Therefore, hard workers ask themselves why they are working so hard. In fact, why work? If everything is going to be given to you, and your hard work isn't going to help you advance in your job or paycheck, then why bother?

Therefore, productivity goes down. Creativity and technological advancement comes to an end. And people like Gardner whose dream it is to pursue happiness (as laid out in the Declaration of Independence) comes to an end. In a socialist society, you are stuck where you are. There is no hope. And instead of being driven to aspire and to overcome, you are driven into a hole where there is not way out.

We therefore must preserve this American dream of "you can become whatever you want to if you are willing to work for it" before the socialist take over. We must be reminded of people like Chris Gardner who were able to overcome their obstacles (poverty, single parenting, etc.) because they were willing to work hard for it.For if we loose this dream, we will loose America.

IMPORTANCE OF FATHERHOOD

Another theme that I noticed in this movie was the importance and the impact a father can have on his son. Modern feminism has done two things to men. First, feminism has neutered men. Feminism says that it is wrong for men to be aggressive, hard on their children, driven, etc. Therefore, they have neutered the very identity of men. It is now wrong to be aggressive. It is now wrong to discipline your children and expect more out them. It is to a point that they actually believe that if the world were run by women, there wouldn't be wars!

Secondly, feminism has neglected men. Feminism says that men are needed. A woman can solve everything themselves. They raise the children on their own (since men are too aggressive, mean, and hard on their children). They can make their own money, make their own financial decisions, and take care of their own house. Men aren't needed to be providers and protectors, because women are more driven (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and therefore can provide for themselves, or they can just get the government to take the place of the father. Such a woman could have government run daycare (which sometimes I think that that is what public school is, it's no longer about education, but indoctrination), the government will provide you with a checks, groceries, housing, etc. Therefore, men aren't needed, and therefore, are not wanted.

Since men can't be men, and men aren't wanted, men then leave. We are seeing an exodus of men like never before in this country. It is rare to find a man who isn't willing to be a man, and when told he can't be a man in this relationship or in this family, he leaves. Our society encourages abandonment and divorce so much that it is the "smart" thing to do. Why get boggled down in a struggling relationship, whenever you can be single, free, and satisfy yourself without the strains of a relationship.Marriage, therefore, is a burden. And if marriage is a burden, then child rearing is hell!

"The Pursuit of Happyness" goes against the grain. It rejects all of this nonsense. We see the husband doing everything he can to make the relationship to work. When it fails, he fights for the child and wins. He sees himself as a father, not as a sperm donor!

Gardner gives everything up for the sake of his son. He walks his son to school, he monitors what his son watches, says, reads, etc. He takes the time to play with his son, talk to his son, teach his son, and assure his success and well being. Gardner's drive for success in the business world isn't about him making money, but him providing for his family. A character trait that has long been forgotten.

Gardner in this movie serves, to me, as the Biblical understanding of what it means to be a man. He provides, protects, serves, gives everything up, for the sake of his family and his marriage. It is a shame that the marriage fails, but instead of leaving, he stays with it and raises his son. He never accepts government run programs (outside of the shelter) and believes that he must earn his money. He is driven to sell his products, to be the best in the business, all for the sake of his son.

One more thing about being a father I found striking. He found it important to train his child. There is one scene in the movie that sticks out. Gardner takes his son to go play basketball (for they got their son a basketball for his birthday). His son shoots, and is pretty good. But in a moment of depression, the father tells his son that since he is his son, he will probably be as good as his father; below average. Therefore, he should accept the fact that he does not have a future in basketball and he should just accept those facts.The son reacts as any son would; anger and defeat. The son begins to walk off the court, and at that time, Gardner realizes what he had done. He looks at his son and tells him to never let anybody tell him that he can't succeed at something; even his own father! If he is driven and willing to work hard and be the best, he can do anything.

This moment seems to serve as a pivotal moment in Gardner's life. He had been told he couldn't be a broker because he didn't have a great education, he was poor, he didn't know the right people, but at this moment as he was training his son, teaching him important lessons, he ends up teaching himself. From there, he continues to study and work hard at his internship, and gets the job.

This is why we need fathers. A mother has an ability to nurture in a way that no man can match, but at the same time, a father has a way to train and instruct in a way that no woman can match. That is not being sexist (notice that I also bashed men in that sentence!), but reality. POD summed up this point well in their song "Youth of the Nation:"
"Last day of the rest of my life, I wish I would have known because I didn't kiss my momma goodbye. I didn't tell her that I loved her and how much I cared (noticed how the mother is described; nurturing and affectionate) and thank my Paps for all the talks and all the wisdom he shared (notice how the father is
described; a wise trainer and instructor)"

Gardner was to his son what I hope to be with my future kids. And let us all pray that our nation might return to what true manhood is, and not to be ashamed of how God made us. God is most glorified in our sexuality whenever we maximize who we are (whether male or female), and serve each other in marriage, as parents, as children, and as the people of God.

Here is a video of Will Smith's character is teaching is son to never give up and to pursue happiness, and to pursue his dreams.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Mohler: When Ecology Replaces Theology


The whole global warming, climate change, and save the planet issues aren't necessarily about science, but rather are about religion, and Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has exposed just that. In this article, he points out that many liberal churches are abandoning the call to save souls and are preaching a gospel of saving the planet.

We should expect this. This is why liberal churches/religions shrink in numbers; there is nothing to hold on to. If you go to church and are told that you are not a sinner, there is no hell, God loves you for who you are and what you are doing right now, everyone is going to heaven, etc., then why go to church? Your not gaining anything from it.

And so, as we would expect, such liberal churches/religions have abandoned their call to reach out and lead people to salvation, and are instead preaching to save the planet. This is gaining much popularity in Christianity today, and it is dangerous.

Now, let me say from the outset that I am not against taking care of the planet, for that is a mandate given to us by God. We are to have dominion over the earth and take care of it. However, if I had to choose between saving one's soul and saving the planet, without debate, I will save a man's soul. We must not confuse these two. This is not our homeland; we are mere visitors passing through.

And so, this should be a reminder of our calling on earth while we are still alive. It is not necessarily to save that which will end (the earth, the planet, etc.) but rather to bring loss souls to the cross, for the forgiveness of sins, and the promise of eternal life, on a new heaven and a new earth.
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Is saving the earth what remains when liberal churches are no longer concerned for the salvation of souls? Have these churches replaced theology with ecology?

Frank Furedi is a British sociologist who teaches at the University of Kent. He is also a controversialist and a public intellectual. In a recent article published at Spike, Furedi suggests that some religious institutions are "busy reinventing themselves by promoting ecological virtues and preaching against the eco-sins of polluters." He offers a most interesting argument.
Furedi contends that a crisis of authority has shaken many churches, and that modern societies the have largely given up on saving traditional morality. In his words:

Sometime back in the 1980s, Western societies gave up on the project of rescuing 'traditional values' and morality. From time to time, conservative politicians and moral entrepreneurs have attempted to launch back-to-basics crusades promoting 'family values'. However, their lack of popular appeal has only exposed society's estrangement from these traditions. Indeed by the Eighties, even religious institutions found it difficult to uphold their own authority with conviction. Instead of influencing society many churches began to internalise the attitudes associated with the lifestyles of their increasingly individualised consumerist flock. The last quarter century has seen a steady diminishing of religious authority in Western societies.

Debates about the role of women priests, homosexuality and marriage indicated that religious institutions have become confused about their own relationship to traditional values.

Furedi suggests that these churches are now seeking to find a new platform in order to assert a new claim to authority within the culture. This new platform appears to be ecology and the goal of saving the earth.

His argument is compelling:

In recent years, some in the church have sought to gain the public's ear through the greening of traditional doctrines, and Christ the Saviour is fast becoming Christ the environmental activist. Western society is continually in search of rituals and symbols through which moral probity can be affirmed. It appears that, for many church leaders, the project of saving the planet offers more opportunities for reconstituting rituals and symbols than the saving of souls.

It is not just the odd priest offering absolution through the ritual of eco-confession. Church leaders have embraced the rituals of eco-morality to demonstrate their commitment to a higher good. Absolution through carbon offsets appears to be the way forward.

An observer of church life today, especially within the shrinking domain of liberal Protestantism, will find plenty of evidence for Furedi's hypothesis. Ecological concerns appear to serve as a replacement for abandoned doctrines and outdated concerns -- such as evangelism.

Furedi finds plenty of support for his argument within contemporary Roman Catholicism, but here is his analysis of the situation within the Church of England:

In 2006, the Church of England launched an eco-crusade entitled 'Shrinking the Footprint'. The Archbishop of Canterbury complained that 'early modern religion contributed to the idea that the fate of nature is for it to be bossed around by a detached sovereign will, whether divine or human'. It seems possible that those misguided early modern religionists received that idea from the Book of Genesis, where God gives Man dominion 'over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth'. Now the head of the Anglican church protests about nature being 'bossed around' not only by Man, but by God. This year, the Church of England launched a booklet of green tips for the faithful entitled How Many Christians Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb? Its eco-commandments include: share cars on the road to church, use virtuous low-energy lightbulbs but cast out junk mail, and do not flush the loo at night.

So is Christ the Savior is fast becoming Christ the environmental activist? Furedi's argument is both insightful and troubling. There can be no doubt that his argument is true with respect to many churches and denominations. And there is a clear warning here. When churches abandon or marginalize the central doctrines of the Christian faith, another religion soon takes its place. That religion might be a religion of therapy, social action, or ecology -- or any number of other substitutes for the Gospel.

As Furedi explains, this particular temptation can be traced to "the powerful influence that environmentalism exercises over contemporary culture." When churches lose confidence that they can speak to other issues in terms of right and wrong (sex, personal behavior, etc), environmentalism remains. In effect, it is the only socially acceptable form of moralism.
Nevertheless, Furedi believes that this is a losing strategy for the church in terms of social and cultural influence. As he explains, "eco-spirituality cannot really compensate for the loss of traditional moral authority."

Furthermore, once a church embraces environmentalism as its central mission, its authority suffers and even greater loss because the society considers the true authorities for ecology to be scientists, not church leaders. "The shift away from God towards nature inevitably leads to a world where the pronouncements of environmentalist experts trump those of the priesthood," he explains. "It will be interesting to see what will remain of traditional religion as prophecy and revelation is displaced by computerised climate models."

Christians do bear a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth. This is not an easy responsibility to bear in the confusing context of modern ecological debates. But the church of Jesus Christ bears the responsibility to be the steward of the Gospel above all other concerns. The temptation to turn to this-worldly concerns at the expense of spiritual concerns is very strong. Beyond this, human beings will worship either the Creator or the creation. When the authority of the Bible is undermined and confidence that we can know the Creator is compromised, the creation itself looms larger and larger as a central passion.

When a passion for seeing sinners converted to faith in Christ declines, a passion for converting people into environmentalists can appear as a replacement purpose and a culturally-attractive mission.

We should take note when a sociologist like Frank Furedi sees the picture so clearly. Why does he see what so many others miss? When a church forfeits its God-given mission, no other mission matters.