Saturday, June 30, 2012

Benedict XVI on divine beauty

In August 2002, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) sent a message to the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation in August 2002. His topic was divine beauty, and his message is one of the most powerful treatments on this subject that I have ever read. Here's a portion of what he said (the entire message can be read here).

Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time. …
The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgment and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true."

The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration.

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Wonder and Paradox in Literature

Al Pacino played Michael Corleone
in The Godfather
When we surrender to works of art - whether a song, poem, film, novel, painting or ballet – and let the artwork stir our imagination, we are often changed in ways that are hard to quantify. Often the experience may be difficult to articulate and may actually lose something if we try to put it into words. This is what I experienced when I watched the foreign language film The Lives of Others (warning: there is at least one inappropriate scene that should be fast-forwarded).

Sometimes we have to simply let ourselves experience a work of art before we try to explain it, to let ourselves surrender to it in a way analogous to our approach to persons. The way to get to know a person is not to begin analyzing him or her, but just to enjoy the relationship, to listen to what the person has to say, to empathize with the person, to allow ourselves to experience life through our friend’s perspective. In doing this, the horizons of our own personhood are expanded. It is the same with literature.

When we approach literary texts like this, we often find that they are laced with paradoxes and evade any straight-forward explanation. For example, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, it can be tempting to see Brutus as the villain and to then approach the play as a straight-forward lesson about the dangers of treachery. But this approach actually destroys the ambiguity of the play. If you take Shakespeare’s play on its own terms, one of the things you have to wrestle with is that Brutus is not a textbook villain, but is actually motivated by good desires and wrestles with moral choices that are by no means straight forward. The same is true for the character of Michael Corleone in the iconic The Godfather films.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Human Roadkill

Collateral Damage: From Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Human Roadkill in Two Easy Steps

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

Wang Yue, October 13th, 2011
Late on the afternoon of October 13th, 2011, as shoppers milled about a local market in Foshan, Guangdong province in southern China, a lone toddler strayed into the narrow street. Then, in a scene more horrifying than anything Hollywood could stage, a white van approached, struck the child, paused as if the driver knew he’d hit something, then lurched forward, causing the rear wheel to also pass over the child’s limp body as the van continued on its way.

Pedestrians and cyclists strolled past the bleeding child, some swerving slightly to avoid her as one might avoid a pothole. Then, sickeningly, a second van approached, ran over the helpless child, and continued on its way. A full ten minutes after the first hit-and-run impact, an older woman picking up trash noticed the child, pulled her out of the street, and called for help. Two year old Wang Yue died four days later.

When a surveillance camera video of the ordeal went public, some Chinese soul-searching ensued. “The Chinese citizens have finally arrived at their most immoral moment!” one Chinese national said. But while nothing can excuse the appalling display of apathy, we might extend the Chinese a measure of grace for confusing the responsibilities of individuals, family, and government in a thoroughly Communist state such as China. In fact, apathy and neglected children are precisely what we should expect from a society built on the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a prime forerunner of Communism.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Links to All Romney Articles

Last month I wrote four articles on Mitt Romney, each of which explores the question of his religion from different perspectives. The articles can be read by clicking on the following links:


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

James Jordan on the Lord's Supper

In James Jordan's article, 'Doing the Lord's Supper', he writes
"Paul says that Jesus took bread and gave thanks. He does not say to "set apart the elements from common use." He does not say to "invoke the Holy Spirit upon the elements." He knows nothing of any "consecration of the elements." There is no act of consecration of bread and wine. This means that there is no change in the status of the bread and wine. Just as God gives us life when we eat dead meat and vegetables — food that will rot if we don’t eat it — so He gives us New Kingdom Life when we eat bread and wine in the liturgy. By refusing to consecrate the bread and wine, we affirm that the grace of the sacrament comes from the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life."
It is an interesting move to suggest that refusal to consecrate the bread and wine affirms that the grace of the sacrament comes from the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. Matthew and Mark explicitly say that Christ blessed the bread. Did he bless it with something other than the Spirit?

Jordan goes on to say, 
"Asking the blessing before we eat at church is no different from asking the blessing before we eat at home. There is no other 'setting apart' involved."
I haven't read enough of Jordan's theology to situate his remarks in a larger doctrinal framework, but taken on the surface it seems indicative of a deeply unsacramental mentality which has much in common with modern evangelicalism but little resonance with the historic understanding of the church.

I wonder whether this is just another example of the zero-sum type of thinking that I identified in the article I wrote last December, 'A Critical Absence of the Divine: How a ‘Zero-Sum’ Theology Destroys Sacred Space.' I recalled how
Earlier in the month I asked a young theological student if he thought that asking God to bless our meal made any actual difference to the food. He said that it couldn’t possibly make a difference because then a human work would be achieving something. His words echoed Arthur Pink’s discussion of prayer in The Sovereignty of God, in which he took violent exception to an article on prayer where the author had declared that “prayer changes things, meaning that God changes things when men pray.” This also echoes Jeffrey Meyers‘ approach to prayer in his lecture on the Eucharist in the 2010 Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference: “The Necessity of the Reformation”. Significantly almost Meyers’ entire argument against the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist rested on the fact that it involved manipulating God through a human work. If carried to its logical extension, this approach comes very close to Jonathan Edwards’ complete elimination of secondary causality. If human work cannot achieve anything, if human work cannot be the instrumental means of causing God to do certain things (‘manipulation’ is simply a pejorative way of talking about secondary causality), then I am left wondering what the purpose of supplicatory prayers even is. Even though the reformed tradition has the categories for a robust theology of secondary causation (how many times have you heard that if God wills an end, He also wills the means to that end?), we tend to be uncomfortable with God working through means. Our default modus operandi is to think we are giving more to God by granting less to creation. The notion that God can be manipulated by human works is deeply problematic, even though the doctrine of God’s sovereign decrees ought to immediately situate such works in a context that renders them compatible with, rather than in competition to, our understanding of Providence.

Further Reading


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Monday, June 25, 2012

Review of The Moral Landscape

Sam Harris
In November 2006, Gary Wolf published an article in Wired magazine in which he used the term ‘new atheists’ to describe the recent insurgence of atheism popularized by men such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens.

Of course, atheism itself is nothing new. Throughout the ages there have always been those who were foolish enough to say there is no God. However, what is new, and perhaps unexpected in our postmodern era, is the virulent energy with which these men and their votaries have asserted their atheistic dogmatism.

Dawkins set the tone for ‘the new atheism’ in 2006 with his bestselling book The God Delusion (which I reviewed here). In it Dawkins argued that religious belief is not just false, but evil. It is so evil, in fact, that Christianity is like a virus threatening the very health of the human race. Government must respond to the challenge of religion, he argued, by measures such as criminalizing Christian education and removing the tax exemptions enjoyed by religious organizations.

Moral Absolutes Without God

Next to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris is probably the best respected of the new atheists. He distinguished himself in 2005 by writing The End of Faith, and a year later by writing Letters to a Christian Nation. These books attempted not only to undermine the central tenants of Christian belief, but also to show the harm that religion allegedly brings to society.

Harris’s 2010 publication, The Moral Landscape, takes up where Letters to a Christian Nation left off. If, as the New Atheists argue, religion is bad for the well-being of the human race, then what is the alternative? More specifically, if God does not exist, then how can human beings derive a sense of moral absolutes?
When Dawkins took up this problem in The God Delusion, he came about as close to conceding a point as Dawkins is capable of coming. The fact is, if God does not exist, then it is hard to maintain that our concepts of right and wrong have any ultimate legitimacy. Philosopher of science Michael Ruse articulated this position like this:
“The position of the modern evolutionist… is that humans have an awareness of morality… because such awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves . . . Nevertheless . . . such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction. . . and any deeper meaning is illusory…”
Harris disagrees. Moral absolutes can and do exist, he asserts, but they are not rooted in either God or biological evolution. Rather, they are grounded in neuroscience. This is the thesis of Harris’ entire book.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

The Plausibility Structures Behind Same-Sex Marriage

How has our world got to the point where people even talk about same-sex 'marriage.' For millennia of human history, the institution of marriage has always been understood as being between a man and a woman. Even in cultures where the practice of homosexuality has been widespread, if someone had suggested widening the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, no one would have taken you seriously. So why now, all of a sudden, are so many states and nations jumping on the bandwagon to make marriage mean something else?

To ask this question is to ask about something called “plausibility structures. The phrase “plausibility structures” was coined by sociologist Peter L. Berger to refer to the conditions in a society that make certain beliefs seem reasonable or unreasonable. Why is it that a proposition which, at one time and place, might seem completely self-evident and not even in need of argument, will seem totally absurd in another time and place? Questions like this force us to be attentive to more than merely what people believe, but the plausibility structures that explain why certain beliefs feel normal.

Peter Berger
To talk about plausibility structures is to talk about the broader sociocultural context in which our understanding of the world (including understandings which may be unconscious) make sense to us and seem plausible in the first place. It is to be attentive to what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has called “a context or framework of the taken-for-granted, which usually remains tacit, and may even be as yet unacknowledged by the agent, because never formulated.” Or, as Peter Berger explained it as follows when discussing the Christian worldview in his book The Sacred Canopy, “The reality of the Christian world depends upon the presence of social structures within which this reality is taken for granted and within which successive generations of individuals are socialized in such a way that this world will be real to them. When this plausibility structure loses its intactness or continuity, the Christian world begins to totter and its reality ceases to impose itself as self-evident truth.”

In our present sociological context, if a journalist were to write an article suggesting that the definition of marriage be widened to include union between persons and animals, few people, if any, would think such a crazy idea was even worth arguing about. But that is exactly the type of reaction that advocates of same-sex marriage would have been greeted with even thirty years ago. What are the plausibility structures that make the former still seem absurd to the ordinary person while the latter increasingly no longer does?


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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sustainable Liberties

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

This morning, while you were sipping your coffee and checking the morning news, an august body of global luminaries continued their three-day meeting planning what kind of coffee you may drink in the future, how much of it you may drink, and what kind of cups you may drink it from. If they allow you to live, that is.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But not much of one. Earth Summit 2012, also known as the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20 in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is officially underway. One of the main goals of Earth Summit 2012 is to solidify support from governments around the world for its designs on sustainable development, which have been set forth in a 300-page document known as Agenda 21. The key strategy for advancing Agenda 21, global implementation at the local level, is being driven by an organization called the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Available Now!


In an article I published with the Charles Colson Center, titled 'The Shadow of Ezekiel Bulver', I mentioned about Theodor W. Adorno (1903 – 1969) and the Frankfurt movement. I pointed out that Adorno set in motion the tendency to consider that those who held conservative views were not just wrong, but neurotic; and not just neurotic, but neurotic in a fascist sort of way. By converting ideas into pathologies, the Frankfurt school set in motion the trend of psychologizing political opponents as a substitute for critical engagement.
Consider: Following in the footsteps of Adorno and the Frankfurters, one does not need to show how a truth claim is false provided that it can be identified as being “sexist,” “homophobic,” “patriarchal,” “logo-centric” or even “Islamophobic.” Terms such as these can be bandied about to short-circuit rational debate, even as Ezekiel Bulver’s mother closed down her husband’s discussion with the unanswerable exclamation, “Oh you say that because you are a man.’”

Because our public discourse implicitly attaches a greater premium on diagnosis than argumentation, whole swathes of public assumptions become immune to critique. The result is frequently to induce a state of affairs described by George Orwell when he remarked that “at any given moment, there is a sort of all-pervading orthodoxy – a general tacit agreement not to discuss some large and uncomfortable fact.”

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Literary Criticism Articles

I have finally completed my ongoing series of articles for the Colson Center on the subject of literary criticism which I started last February. It's best to read the articles in the order below because each articles builds on the last sequentially.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Aristophanes and Gay Marriage

In a post for Salvo earlier this year I commented on the subtle sophistry involved in the homosexual lobby's recent attempts to portray the fight for gay marriage as a fight for civil rights. It might be worth mentioning that this is not the first time that the gay community has indulged in sophistry to twist the truth.

But what do I mean by sophistry? In an article I wrote last year for the Chuck Colson Center, titled 'Sophistry in Ancient Athens,' I explained how the sophists were teachers that arose as a result of Athens not having a police force.
The ancient city of Athens didn’t have a police force. Thus, if somebody committed a crime against you – if, for example, they embezzled your money or stole your property – the only way you could achieve justice was by taking them to court.
Ancient Athens also didn’t have any lawyers. Thus, anyone who found himself in court had to be prepared to argue the case himself.

One thing that ancient Athens did possess was plenty of unscrupulous characters. Many of these less-than principled folk discovered that if you were clever enough you could persuade the court to agree with you even if you were in the wrong (especially if your opponent was not very bright).

In the latter half of the fifth century BC, a group of teachers arose in Athens called Sophists. The Sophists claimed to be able to teach students how to prove impossible propositions, such as that nothing exists or that motion is impossible.

The Greek playwright, Aristophanes, poked fun at the Sophists in his comedy The Clouds. In his play, an elderly farmer named Strepsiades goes to a special school called “The Thinkery” where Socrates (caricatured here as a Sophist) promises to teach him how to use persuasive rhetoric to prove that right is wrong and wrong is right. Overjoyed at the power he will wield once Socrates has taught him the secret to proving anything, the unscrupulous Strepsiades breaks forth into this refrain (taken from Alan H. Sommerstein’s wonderful Penguin Classics translation)

“So I give myself entirely to the school – I’ll let it beat me,
It can starve me, freeze me, parch me, it can generally ill-treat me,
If it teaches me to dodge my debts and get the reputation
Of the cleverest, slyest fox that ever baffled litigation.
Let men hate me, let men call me names, and over and above it
Let them chase me through each court, and I assure you that I’ll love it.
Yes, if Socrates can make of me a real forensic winner,
I don’t mind if he takes out my guts and has them for his dinner.”

Although The Clouds was a work of dramatic fiction, it isn’t far off from the truth of what actually went on in Athens. Though it is unlikely that the historical Socrates was anything like Aristophanes’ portrayal, the Sophists were just as unscrupulous. Many of the youth flocked to them to learn how to be clever enough to persuade courts and other audiences, even if what they were saying was false.
The chorus of clouds in Aristophanes' comedy
What does any of this have to do with homosexuality? Quite simply that the homosexual lobby uses tactics of sophistry similar to the characters in Aristophanes' play to get us to think that 'gay marriage' is something it is not.

I don't refer to the fact that it is not really marriage, though that is perhaps the most obvious example. Rather, I'm thinking of the way we keep hearing that laws to allow gay marriage will simply extend to same-sex couples the rights that the government already gives to married couples. President Obama's own comments show he has bought into this reasoning. Yet there is a fatal flaw to this utterly-simplistic and naive narrative. At least that is what I argued in another piece I did for the Colson Center, titled 'Sophistry in America'. This is what I wrote:
If we accept that the principle of equal protection under the law means that same-sex couples should be entitled to the same rights as married couples (including the right to call their union a “marriage”), then in order to be logically consistent we would have to say that a definition of marriage that includes both heterosexual and same-sex unions, yet excludes unions with animals or multiple partners, is also failing to provide equal protection under the law. Indeed...if someone is bisexual, then in order for their sexuality to be fully expressed, their “marriage” must include a minimum of at least one person from each sex. At least, that is where the argument against “discrimination based on sexual orientation” could go.... [The reality is that] any new definition of marriage that [we] may wish to proffer opens the door to an endless series of redefinition in the years to come. This is because what is true of the word marriage is true of any noun: to define a word as one thing is necessarily to exclude that word as being some other thing. A noun that can mean anything is a noun that can mean nothing.

Consequently, if we say that it is unconstitutional for the word “marriage” to exclude anyone or anything, then we are beginning a process whereby the word must necessarily be eventually emptied of all content.

Suffice to say, if [the laws restricting marriage to one-woman and one-man] were set aside, then not only would a union between one man and one woman no longer have a monopoly on the term “marriage,” but in principle any definition of marriage (even one broadened to encompass homosexual unions) could eventually be challenged as unconstitutional by an extension of the same logic.

In short, the word “marriage” must finally come to cover anything we could possibly imagine. However, to do that would render the term incoherent, and that is something that not even the homosexuality community wishes to see happen.
Further Reading

Sophistry in Ancient Athens

Sophistry in America

Gay marriage: A Civil Right?

The Tyranny of the Minority: How the Forced Recognition of Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Undermines a Free Society.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Jesus, what are we doing?"

by Terrell Clemmons

No one survives an abortion encounter unscathed. Even though he’d been raised in a family that was “thoroughly pro-abortion” and believed that abortion was “always the best option,” after his wife’s abortion, one post-abortive father was surprised by his own reaction. Despite the fact that he’d wanted it, insisting on it so vehemently he’d threatened to leave her if she didn’t consent to it:

"I found that I felt guilty, like I'd stepped over a line that shouldn't have been crossed. There was also a feeling of dread, of impending doom. I sensed that some sort of divine punishment was waiting for me, and it was frightening."

Dr. Arthur Shostak, who describes himself as “unswervingly pro-choice,” also confessed distress after involvement in an abortion:

"While I believe my lover and I chose the least-worst of the options available to us over two decades ago, I have lingering regrets about the situation."

And that paragon of virtue, Steven Tyler, wrote this about witnessing his girlfriend’s abortion, which he also had coerced under threat of abandonment:

"It was a big crisis. ... they put the needle in her belly and they squeeze the stuff in and you watch. And it comes out dead. I was pretty devastated. In my mind, I’m going, Jesus, what have I done?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Romney's Deification of the State

Ironically, in attempting to bracket his Mormon religion off from his political life, Romney has ended up embracing the type of civic nationalism so prevalent in the Mormon church.

For example in a speech on 6 December, 2007, Romney championed what he called “America’s political religion” and vowed that as president he would acknowledge no obligation higher than the constitution and the laws of the United States. As he put it
I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law. As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America’s ‘political religion’ – the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God.
What Romney failed to realize is that if there is no set of obligations higher than the laws governing a particular country, then the state essentially becomes divine. Again, to suggest or imply that a President has no obligation higher even than his oath of office is to offer up to the state a loyalty that properly belong only to God’s kingdom.

Romney has also suggested that religious differences are trivial as long as people are good patriots, as if a love for America trumps all other spiritual priorities. In his 2007 ‘Faith in America’ speech he remarked that “every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God” and he quoted Sam Adams who urged said “he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot.” Moreover, he pointed to the American War for Independence as an example of how religious differences fade into insignificance next to our commitment to our country.

This is a frightening claim since it elevates our loyalty to the state above all other loyalties, including those commitments which have traditionally acted as a hedge against an all-powerful state. To suggest or imply that loyalty to America trumps and renders insignificant all other spiritual loyalties is to predicate to a nation qualities that properly only belong to God’s kingdom.

Similarly, during the GOP presidential debate in Florida, Romney said that the Declaration of Independence is a theological document establishing a covenant “between God and man.”  For someone who has gone out of his way to bracket religious truth-claims off from public life, it is interesting to see him applying theological categories to the state. However, this ceases to be so surprising when we view it through the grid of Romney’s civic nationalism, since it is the state that becomes the true object of religious devotion. In order to elevate the state to this level Romney must upgrade America’s charter documents to a spiritual status, investing them with theological significance.

If Romney were consistent with predicating quasi-divine honours to the nation state, he would have to urge us to pray to the state. Thankfully, he has not gone that far, although he has suggested that prayers derive their value, not by virtue of the object to which that prayer is directed, but by virtue of whether or not the supplicant has a love for America. Indeed, he believes that the prayers of all faith traditions are valuable provided they come from true patriots.

Don’t get me wrong. Romney is a good patriot and that is refreshing after four years of a President who, as Dinesh D’Souza has convincingly shown, does not even love America. But Romney’s love for America goes far beyond the bounds of patriotism. His book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness describes the United States in Messianic terms, saying that she is not only “the greatest nation on earth” but also “the hope of the world.” Once again, the only way it is possible to make America the hope of the world is if we have given the nation a role and responsibility that properly only belongs to the kingdom of God.

Further Reading

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review of Philliber's book

Last week I wrote a review of a book that my friend Michael Philliber recently wrote on Gnostic influences in the modern evangelical church. Philliber is a PCA minister and makes many important observations. To read my review click on the following link:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Longsuffering in the Christian Life

In his book Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards wrote as follows about meekness and longsuffering in the Christian's life:

And meekness, as it respects injuries received from men, is called longsuffering in the Scriptures, and is often mentioned as an exercise, or fruit of the Christian spirit (Gal. v 22). . . He, therefore, that exercises a Christian long-suffering towards his neighbor, will bear the injuries received from him without revenging or retaliating, either by injurious deeds or bitter words. He will bear it without doing anything against his neighbor that shall manifest the spirit of resentment, without speaking to him, or of him, with revengeful words, and without allowing a revengeful spirit in his heart, or manifesting it in his behavior. . . .

"Not that all endeavours in men to defend and right themselves, when they are injured by others, are censurable, or that they should suffer all the injuries that their enemies please to bring upon them, rather than improve an opportunity they have to defend and vindicate themselves, even though it be to the damage of him that injures them. But in many, and probably in most cases, men ought to suffer long first, in the spirit of the long-suffering charity of the text. And the case may often be such, that they may be called to suffer considerably, as charity and prudence shall direct, for the sake of peace, and from a sincere Christian love to the one that injures them, rather than deliver themselves in the way they may have opportunity for.”

I've used Edwards words as a springboard for a week's worth of Bible readings on the topic of longsuffering in the Christians life. You can download the Bible study and the reflection questions that go with it at a pdf at the Charles Colson Center by clicking here.

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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Why Gay Marriage Threatens Freedom

Proposals to legalize same-sex ‘marriage’ will provide the perfect mechanism for the homosexual lobby to realize one of its long-term objectives: the criminalization of all opposition to homosexuality.

For years the UK gay community has dreamed of creating a society in which criticisms of homosexuality are punishable by law. However, up to now they have only been able to achieve this on a sporadic basis through a combination of intimidation, vague public order acts, and pro-homosexual members of the police.

If same-sex ‘marriage’ is legalized, however, the gay lobby will be given a mechanism to begin targeting defenders of traditional marriage on a systematic basis.


Friday, June 08, 2012

Food: a thing indifferent?

Does the Biblical worldview have any relevance to what we eat? Yes it does. When writing to the Corinthians the apostle Paul said, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) In gathering, preparing and eating meals, we have a God-given obligation to glorify Him. This is true of food just as it is true of “whatever you do.”

There are many ways that we can fail to glorify God with our food. Food prepared in anger, food eaten with a grumbling heart instead of a spirit of gratefulness, or food eaten to excess, are just some of the many ways it is possible to sin (and therefore fail to glorify the Lord) while eating.

But can we go further than this? Sure, God cares about attitude issues in how we eat, but does He actually care what we eat? God cares about the attitude in which we receive the soup, but is He really interested in what goes in the pot?”

One popular Christian has stated emphatically and repeatedly in numerous articles, blog posts, and online videos that God does not care what you eat. In one article discussing 1 Corinthians 8:7-13, this teacher wrote,
“Food is adiaphora, a thing indifferent. God doesn’t care what we eat. We are no better off if we eat certain things, and we are no worse off if we refrain. God doesn’t care what we order off the menu, just so long as we are grateful for it.”
Elsewhere this same teacher comments, “The starting point is that God doesn't care what you eat.” Provided we do not sin while eating, the menu for a spiritually mature Christian is open-ended.

Or is it?

Putting aside for the moment that in 1 Corinthians 8 Paul was addressing the question of food sacrificed to idols and was not making a blanket statement about food being adiaphora (indifferent) in any absolute sense, we may question the scientific accuracy of the assertion that “We are no better off if we eat certain things.” But we also question the Biblical accuracy of it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Saints and Scoundrels now on Amazon

My book Saints and Scoundrels is now available through Amazon.

Here is the Amazon product description:

Saints and Scoundrels presents the complete stories of twenty heroes and villains from the birth of Christ to the fall of the USSR. Cheer as Wilberforce and Solzhenitsyn defeat political goliaths, wince as Prince John schemes and Joseph Smith prophesies, mourn as William of Orange is shotgunned by an assassin and Perpetua, a young mother, is martyred in the arena. The desires and beliefs that drove these characters still drive men today: Robin Phillips shows how Rousseau's Romanticism was connected to totalitarianism, how Dorothy Sayers and George MacDonald s thoughts on story and the Trinity affected their readers, and how Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt movement infiltrated America, among others.

At the end of each chapter are discussion questions relating the chapter's themes to larger issues (whether biblical, philosophical, or cultural), and a personal challenge applying the lessons from these lives to the reader and current society. The book also contains a glossary of bolded terms for quick reference, and a bibliography for further study--all the tools needed to bring the clash of history into the home or classroom.
To purchase the book on Amazon, click here.

To learn more about this book, click here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Seperation of Church and State

When the American founding fathers set up a system in which church and state were kept separate, they had no intention of separating the state from religion. What was at stake at America’s founding was the question of sphere sovereignty. The Constitution separates the mechanisms of the institutional church from the mechanisms of the federal government, allowing both spheres to flourish without interference from the other.

This meant that church ministers didn’t have any authority over statesmen in the federal government, but it also meant that congress couldn’t interfere with the freedoms of the church.

Even this sphere sovereignty originally only applied at the level of federal government and not state government, as Daniel Dreisbach has shown in his book Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State and as I have shown in the following articles: ‘Bill of Rights‘ and ‘Free Speech and Animal Cruelty‘ and ‘The Constitution and States Rights‘ and ‘The Constitutional Convention and States Rights‘.)

These distinctions are often confused.


Sunday, June 03, 2012


Frankincense Trees
Frankincense oil was a key ingredient of the incense formula prescribed by God in Exodus 30. It is mentioned in the Bible 52 times and was considered by the ancients to be more valuable even than gold. It was one of the gifts that the Magi brought the Christ child, a fitting gift for a king.

Since the beginning of this year Esther and I have been selling therapeutic-grade Essential Oils over the internet as distributors for the company Young Living. To get started we purchased the Everyday Oils Kit. The kit contained many wonderful oils, such as Peppermint Oil which acts as a caffeine substitute, or the blend of different plant oils called Peace and Calming because of the way it functions as a sedative. But by far our favorite of all the essential oils was Frankincense.

There is a reason Frankincense was valuable enough to serve as a gift for the Christ-child. The trees that produce it only grow in two places in the world, the southern peninsula of Arabia and the Somalian deserts of northeast Africa. Moreover, it takes a Frankincense tree around 100 years to reach the point where the resin can begin being used to produce the oil.

But there is another reason for Frankincense's value. It was much coveted by the ancients because of its medical benefits. Scientists have still only scratched the surface of all the oil's medicinal uses. A team of scientists from the University of Oklahoma, along with immunologist Dr Mahmoud Suhail have discovered that Frankincense appears to be able to stop cancer cells from reproducing and to correct a cell’s DNA code. (CLICK HERE to read about their studies in this fascinating BBC article.)
Studies at Cairo’s King Faisal University show Frankincense to exhibit a strong immuno-stimulant capability. Studies at Weber State University in the U.S. claim that Frankincense is effective in dissolving petrochemicals in the blood and preventing DNA breakdown. A joint study by 3 Indian universities found that patients with osteoarthritis experienced reduced pain and stiffness and less difficulty in performing daily activities.

I have already mentioned that Frankincense is one of the primary ingredients of incense that was prescribed in the law of Moses. It makes sense to use the oil liturgically because of its effect in enhancing spiritual awareness. In her book Their Leaves for Healing: The Divine Gift of Plants That Heal, Elizabeth Flores writes: 

...the intriguingly deep, musky, exotic and mystical fragrance of frankincense has been present in houses of God, from medieval cathedrals to the Orthodox churches of today.

Frankincense...contains sequiterpenes. It too, effectively penetrates the blood-brain barrier and has an uplifting and mood-elevating effect. Frankincense is an oil of gladness and has been effectively used as an antidepressant. [See here for an amazing testimonial about using Frankincense to treat depression.] It creates emotional balance, enhances spiritual awareness and is useful for meditation.
If you would like to buy Young Living's Everyday Oils Kit, which includes a bottle of Frankincense, click on the link below. 

Buy Essential Oils at Discounted Prices!