Thursday, November 29, 2007

Guns versus machetes

In what is in every way a tragic death, Washington Redskins player Sean Taylor was recently murdered in his home. Taylor was something of a miscreant, while being supremely talented, but seemed to be turning his life around and maturing as a player and a person. On November 26th, Taylor's home was broken into, and armed only with a machete Taylor was shot in the leg by the intruder, severing his femoral artery and leading to his death. Taylor was 24 years old, a world class athlete, a new father, fabulously wealthy and now he is dead for no apparent reason.

That brings us to my team, the Cleveland Browns (a suprising playoff contender...). I check the Cleveland Plain Dealer on a regular basis for news on the Browns as well as the Indians. While reading a column of news blurbs on the Browns, I came across a jaw-droppingly ignorant statement attributed to Browns coach Romeo Crennel. Now Crennel is no stranger to ignorant statements and actions (i.e. taking a timeout to decide to challenge a play, challenging and losing that challenge and thus burning two timeouts on one play). But this crosses a line into ignorance that is amazing even for Crennel:

In the context of Taylor's murder, Crennel said he reminds his players they must be aware of their surroundings. He said he doesn't know if any of them have guns and "if they do have guns, I've told them to turn them in."

Think about that. Taylor's house had been broken into eight days earlier. When an intruder breaks in again, Taylor, his girlfriend and their 18 month old daughter were at the mercy of this intruder. Taylor was attempting to defend his life, his family and his home with a machete. If Taylor had a firearm and knew how to properly use it, perhaps he still would have died, but there is a good chance that he could have defended himself and his family. The idea that American citizens should be encouraged to "turn in their guns" as a reaction to the death of a co-worker who was unable to defend himself precisely because he was not armed with a gun is the height on insanity. The surroundings that Crennel advises his players to be aware of, in the case of Taylor, was his own home. Taylor was not out at a club waving a gun around. He was in his own home, and was trying to confront a burglar armed with a gun with only a machete? That is the fate that Crennel would like his players relegated to?

Rather than heed Crennel, I would hope that his players all seek professional training in the safe and responsible ownership and use of firearms and seek to arm themselves with the hope that they never need use them, but that is called upon to do so they find themselves able to.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Building Bridges Conference

The audio files for the Building Bridges Conference are slowly being added to the Lifeway page here. They have been, so far that I have listened, gracious on both sides

One of the most interesting things I heard was the intro report by Ed Stetzer in which he pointed out that there is a strong trend towards Calvinism among recent SBC seminary graduates. The graph above is mind boggling. Only 10% of all SBC pastors identify themselves as five point Calvinists, but almost 30% of recent graduates (since 1999) identify themselves as five pointers, and the more recent the grad, the higher the percentage. More data and the research methodology can be found here, but some other interesting factoids:
  • Calvinists tend to pastor churches with a lower weekly attendance (Is it because Calvinists run into more opposition in being called to larger churches, or is it because Calvinists have higher standards for who is a member and who is baptized? The why is not answered)
  • Calvinist pastors report sharing the Gospel with others outside of church services at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinist counterparts.
  • While the churches are smaller, Calvinist pastored churches has a baptism rate similar to non-Calvinist pastored churches.
What does all of that data mean? That despite the strawmen used to falsely portray and attack Reformed Baptists, most of those who are both Calvinist and Southern Baptist take very seriously not just theology but also evangelism.

I listened to part of David Dockery's talk, and he was pretty funny. One of his jokes was a Jeff Foxworthy-esque one about those unsure of whether or not they are a Calvinist (paraphrasing here...)

If you have a son named John, whether named after Calvin, Knox, Edwards or Piper, you might be a Calvinist.

If you think the axis of error runs through Pelagius, Arminius and Finney, you might be a Calvinist.

If you think that a psalter is not the thing sitting next to the pepper shaker, you might be a Calvinist

If you didn’t laugh at any of these jokes, you might be a Calvinist!

One of the most encouraging things about the whole conference was not that minds were changed or that any new material was presented, but that the issue of Calvinism was spoken about by both proponents and opponents in a Biblically sound, Christ honoring way and that the recognition was there that theological discussion in the SBC is a positive thing, and the goal is not to convert the world to Calvinism but to win the world for Christ. If we can have more frank, honest, peaceful discussion it will only further the cause of the Great Commission and strengthen the SBC for the future. Those who seek to run Calvinists out of the SBC threaten the future of the Convention. Those who embrace theirs brothers in spite of difference of doctrine are the ones who truly see the future of the SBC.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What is best in life?

Founders Ministries Blog: Building Bridges Conference audio files

Building bridges conference

As part of the effort to address is the growing rift in the Southern Baptist Convention between Calvinists and, for lack of a better term, Arminians several SBC leaders are engaged in a conference designed to open, frankly and lovingly discuss these issues that divide us. Prayer would be in order. The audio files should be out soon online...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fiddling while Rome burns...

The AP reports that our illustrious governor Jennifer Granholm made a point of adding "transgendered individuals" to the lengthy list of protected minorities/special interest groups...

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Jennifer Granholm has issued an order that bars discrimination against state workers based on their "gender identity or expression," which protects the rights of those who behave, dress or identify as members of the opposite sex.

The order, which Granholm signed Wednesday, adds gender identity to a list of other prohibited grounds for discrimination that includes religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, height, weight, marital status, politics, disability or genetic information.

Of course our economy is in the tank, a huge set of new taxes are taking effect and we are bleeding jobs like a sieve, but at least we are watching out for deviants while the rest of the people in the state struggle to get by. Thanks Guv!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

So this is how it felt to be an Ohio State fan all those years..


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The unmovable object

Here is your task Mr. Defensive End. Get to the quarterback.

There is only one problem, there is a fellow in the way who objects to your presence in the backfield. He is 6' 7" and weighs north of 310 lbs. He has been flagged exactly zero times for penalties this season, unheard of from a left tackle. As far as I know, he has not surrendered a single sack. He bulldozes DEs on run plays. So good luck with that.

Jake Long may just be the best player in college football but gets very little ink. That has changed of late, but if the Wolverines lose to Ohio State (which I think they will) this weekend, he will likely be forgotten in the halls of Wolverine greats. That is a shame because he might just be one of the, if not the, greatest linemen in Michigan history. There is a lot more than a Big Ten championship on the line this weekend.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Is that cartoon a bit harsh? Perhaps. But while it may be heavy handed, the truth is that is exactly what is being taught to our children, a nihilistic worldview where God is absent and people are just animals waiting to die and turn into compost.

Most people, myself included, didn't read the last words of Pekka-Eric Auvinen, the school shooter in Finland who killed eight people in his rampage. But Answers in Genesis posted them, and they are a chilling reminder of the secularist worldview:

I am prepared to fight and die for my cause, . . . I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection. No, the truth is that I am just an animal, a human, an individual, a dissident . . . . It’s time to put NATURAL SELECTION & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST back on tracks!

If that sort of statement sounds vaguely familiar, it should becuase it is the same sort of philosophy advocated by Nazi Germany. The weak, the racially impure were not part of the master plan and because human life has no intrinsic value, it simply made sense in a mad sort of way to exterminate them. In Stalinist Russia, those who opposed the revolution were murdered by an atheistic regime. The same holds true in the Killing Fields of Cambodia under Pol Pot. The most murderous regimes in the 20th century all had a common thread, the rejection of God.

I guess that raises a question that may seem harsh, but again needs to be asked: if there is no God and there are no moral absolutes, why NOT shoot up your school? As a Christian, I can answer that question pretty easily: all people, Christians and unbelievers, are created in God's image. God has expressly commanded man to not murder one another (that raises the specter of just war theory, but that is not the topic du jour). So therefore we have been taught, and teach our children, that human life is sacred. But taking that God out of the picture makes moral decisions simply a matter of personal preference. I think killing is wrong, you think it is OK, so who am I to tell you not to kill others. Virtually every decision we make has some sort of consequence to others, so that is not a valid qualifier. Without moral absolutes that stem from an absolutely moral and holy God, each person is left to develop their own moral code and that leads inevitably to people shooting up schools in Colorado, Georgia, Finland and Ohio.

Unlike many Southern Baptists, I am not an advocate for prayer in public schools because I am not an advocate of public schools at all, but as we see in general God being pushed out of the conscience of our country we see a rise in murderous behavior. Moreover, not just violence but a general callous indifference. Man has always killed man, but where God is denied it takes on a coldness that is jarring at first and numbing later on.

The more man learns, in his own limited way, about the wondrous creation that God has made, the more that man seeks to supplant God. Rather than worship Him more for the wonders He has made, man takes his pitiful knowledge and ascribes godhood to himself. The story in the Garden is little changed today, man seeks knowledge to become like God and always fails and always will.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1: 19-25 ESV)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Contend Earnestly: Atonement Debate

Seth McBee at Contend Earnestly has recently (or at least openly declared) his rejection of what is normally called "Limited Atonement" or "Particular Redemption". His intent is to have an online debate, an intramural debate amongst Reformed folks. It should be interesting, but difficult on his part, as the position he defends in my opinion flies in the face of what people who are Reformed have held to. The argument is that God elected only specific people to be saved, but His Son died for everyone. Good luck with that! Seth is a good guy, a brother in Christ but he has a tough task ahead of him.

If indeed the elect are all foreknown, predestined then it has to be assumed that no one who is going to be saved would be unknown to Christ when He walked the road to Calvary. When they drove the nails into His hands, He was not uncertain of whom He was dying for. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, and by implication only those who are His sheep. He died to make propitiation for His elect, but why would He make that propitiatory sacrifice for someone who never would believe and never be saved? It just doesn't seem to make sense in the context of a Sovereign Lord that elects a remnant of sinners to be saved. Not to put too much

Perhaps I am oversimplifying this but I can't see how Seth can make this stick...should be interesting.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

To give "The Speech" or not to give "The Speech"

That is the question facing Mitt Romney. Some quarters think he should give a Kennedy-esque speech on his mormon faith, explaining it and reassuring voters that he would not take his marching orders from Salt Lake City. According to the AP, many of his advisers are recommending against "The Speech", out of fear that it will bring the issue of his mormonism back into the spotlight.

"I'm happy to answer any questions people have about my faith and do so pretty regularly," the former Massachusetts governor said. "Is there going to be a special speech? Perhaps, at some point. I sort of like the idea myself. The political advisers tell me no, no, no — it's not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone."

Romney faces a major hurdle in seeking the nomination and to a much lesser extent the Presidency (I think most Republicans, even the most staunch evangelical Christian, would swallow hard and vote for Romney if the other choice were Hillary Clinton). For most of the GOP's evangelical Christian base, his mormonism is a huge issue. It is partly because mormon theology is so aberrant, so outside of orthodoxy. It is also largely due to the mormon practice of proselytizing Christians, setting them directly at odds with everyday Christians in a way that even Muslims are not (when was the last time you saw to imams riding bikes and going door to door giving away Korans?).

Personally, I think that at some point Romney has to address the mormon issue. There is no way that he can win the nomination without a great deal of support from the most evangelical Christians, and as long as they are suspicious of mormonism (and rightfully so) he will remain an also-ran.
Good stuff on baptism!

Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega ministries and Dr. Gregg Strawbridge, author of The Case for Covenental Infant Baptism had an online debate, sort of a follow-up to the earlier debate between Dr. White and Bill Shisko. I have only listened to bits and pieces, but I am sure of two things: a) it will be very charitable, well-thought out and interesting and b) Dr. White will win because he is on the right side! I downloaded the mp3 for later review...

The audio is available to listen to or download for free by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

First Snow!

Not much, and no one else got any, but because we sit on an especially cold ridgeline we got a light dusting of snow last night and a heavier dusting tonight. Not much, but it is a start and would have been enough to cancel school when we lived in Kentucky!
Little Pellston catches the eye of the Leftist elite!

In an article by Naomi Klein, the far Left, pseudo-intellectual magazine The Nation details in horrifying fashion the proposed new national response center for Sovereign Deed, a private sort of civil defense/insurance outfit, that is coming to Pellston, Michigan. For the average person in Pellston, and Emmet County in general, this is good news, because it is bringing decent paying jobs to an area that is in serious economic trouble.

You know you are in for a treat when the article starts of with this sort of commentary:

I used to worry that the United States was in the grip of extremists who sincerely believed that the Apocalypse was coming and that they and their friends would be airlifted to heavenly safety. I have since reconsidered. The country is indeed in the grip of extremists who are determined to act out the biblical climax--the saving of the chosen and the burning of the masses--but without any divine intervention.

There is not much room for any rational discussion after that intro! But a brief examination of Ms. Klein's body of work, one realizes that she is bent on cashing in on the Leftist hatred of all things that can be related to George Bush. Good for her, in a capitalist sort of way. She is actually kind of cute for a Leftist...

There is such an absolute, irrational fear of Christians among the Left. It has moved past disdain into outright, blind hatred which is ironic since their big claim is that Christians are the unthinking, narrow minded ones. Naomi Klein makes the Sovereign Deed mission sound like some sort of apocalyptic cult trying to bring about the Rapture, and then fails to connect the dots at all. Ms. Klein seems bound by the same formula her comrades on the Left are stuck in:

Possible terrorist attacks/natural disasters+a company founded by a guy with a military background+expensive dues for an expensive service= RIGHT WING CHRISTIAN CONSPIRACY!

Keep in mind that Pellston is hardly a bucolic paradise. The town is economically depressed, and there are really no reasons to live there except that housing is relatively cheap. The schools are, to put it kindly, horrible. Sovereign Deed could bring in jobs that are sorely needed in this area. True not everyone will be able to afford their services, but that is true of almost every business. Given the resources of Ms. Klein, perhaps she would like to start a business in Pellston that will pay decent wages and benefits and employ a few hundred people? Since she cares so much about the downtrodden in Emmet County, that only seems reasonable...

The way I figure it, if The Nation and Naomi Klein are against Sovereign Deed coming to Pellston, that is all the more reason to be for it!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Apparently father (and mother) does NOT know best...

This nice, unbiased article popped up in the Lansing State Journal, written by columnist John Schneider regarding a horror he discovered, the dirty secret that Michigan has long sought to hide: parents of children are not being properly supervised by the state in the raising of their own children! Where is the outrage!? How dare they raise their own children as they see fit!? From this insightful piece of...of...journalism...

PERRY - When the girl got yanked from Perry Middle School for home-schooling, teacher Nancy Head might have shrugged it off as one less mind to feed.

But after 35 years as a teacher, Head has an overdeveloped sense of what's good for kids - and what's not good.

She had a bad feeling about this one, beginning with her doubts that the parents of the girl were capable of providing academic training to their daughter. Head offered me convincing evidence to support those doubts, but asked, for the sake of the family's privacy, that I not reveal the specifics.

What is interesting here is the deafening silence regarding the "facts" surrounding the situation. All we know is that a girl is going to be homeschooled by her parents (or "yanked" from the public school according to Mr. Schneider) and the teacher, who apparently knows better than the parents what is "good" or "not good" for this child, didn't approve. Pretty convenient that we take must take on faith Mr. Schenider's assessment that this situation was "bad" for the kid, and that in the eyes of Ms. Head the parents were unqualified to teach their own child (no word in the article as to what Ms. Head's qualifications are...) Apparently the couple of hours a day that Ms. Head spends with this child counts for more than parental rights, and of course more than the fact that presumably these parents have raised their child from infancy and might just know her and her needs better than the eminently more qualified (we assume) Ms. Head.

Accountability? What accountability do public schools have? If a teacher flat out stinks, what recourse do parents have? Call and nag the principal?

I don't buy into the argument that society has a right to demand that children are raised as productive citizens, and that the only way to do that is to indoctrinate them in public schools. There are plenty of maladjusted people, total screw-ups who are products of the public school system and yet the average parent has virtually no say in how those kids are educated. The farce that is the school board system when compared to the weight of the entrenched, institutionalized education bureaucracy and the mighty teachers union leaves most parents with no voice in the education of their children. Is it any wonder that Christian parents are increasingly leaving behind public schools in favor of educating our children at home, by those who care the most about them and know what is best for them?

One might be paranoid enough to assume that since many, if not most, parents homeschool at least partially for religious reasons, Mr. Schneider has some sort of bias against people of faith. Of course I can't offer any evidence or specifics about this, but then again total lack of evidence (or dare I say journalistic oversight!) doesn't seem to bother Mr. Schenider.

(Christopher Klicka, Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel also responded more formally to Mr. Schenider in a far more gracious manner than I have but being smarmy works for me...)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Semper Reformanda

It was good to see so many Christian ministries still recognizing the anniversary of the nailing of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther to the church door in Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517. Reformation Day is something I had never heard of or considered for the first four or five years of being a Christian, but it is certainly on my calender now. Click here for a great discussion by Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Carl Trueman on whether the Reformation is over or even as some suggest that it never should have happened in the first place.

One great quote from Mohler: “Evangelicals have so minimized what it means to be an evangelical that we hardly qualify to be understood as heirs to the Reformers.” Indeed. I sort of think that the issue of the Reformation never was specifically Rome, but more the general lack of respect and submission to the Word of God as solely and infallibly authoritative. Rome is hardly the only church that has lost it's way precisely because it abandoned His Word. The Reformation was not and is not about Rome, but about vigilance, being jealous of the name of our God and His will revealed in His Word.

As Dr. Carl Trueman puts it, the two big issues that sparked the Reformation are still alive and well, the issues of authority and justification by faith alone. Both get to the heart of mankind's problem, a false sense of self-reliance for salvation, a false gratitude towards God for creating us but a desire to go it alone, to make our own destiny, to chafe under the yoke of authority that goes all the way back to the Garden. Dr. Trueman is spot on in singling out those issues. The Reformation was not about relics or indulgences or immoral priests. It was about a church that had abandoned the Bible, taking it from the people and the Reformation was all about putting God's Word where it needed to be, in the hands of the people and the mouths of the preachers.

I pray that we never forget what drove Martin Luther, 490 years ago, to place his very life at risk in order to stand on the principles of salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone, revealed in His Word alone and for the glory of God alone. To God be the glory, great things HE has done.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18: 15-17 ESV

When faced with an issue of immorality in the church, an issue that is commonly referred to under the umbrella of “church discipline”, the Bible is quite clear on how those issues ought to be handled. There are some areas in the Bible, even in ecclesiology, where there is room for differing interpretations (i.e. singular versus plural elders). But confronting sin issues in the church body is not one of those areas, in fact one would be hard pressed to find a topic in the New Testament that is as clearly addressed as church discipline. The pattern is clear. When faced with a sin issue, there are four steps as I read it:
  • Speak one on one regarding the sin
  • If that fails, take two or three witnesses and speak to the person again
  • If that fails, take the matter before the church
  • If that fails, the individual is to be shunned and treated as an unbeliever before the church

It would seem to make sense that the appropriate witnesses would be those in leadership in the local church body...

The issue at hand is NOT whether or not the actions of the individual accused are proper or improper. The issue is one of fidelity to Biblical teachings on church discipline and respect and submission to Biblically ordered church authority. The existence of sin in the church body is a reality and absolutely MUST be dealt with emphatically and properly, but the hint or even the fact of sin does not give a green light to pick up the phone and start making calls all over town.

By gossiping or at least bypassing Biblical authority, one puts the recipient of the rumors in a horrible position. Do they then go to the person themselves, based on hearsay? Do they sit on the information but look askance at the person in question, letting the issue fester? Do they then go to the proper church authority?

Talking to your wife or talking to a friend at church (no matter how close a friend or mature a Christian they may be) does not qualify as addressing the issue in a Biblical manner. The rules for church discipline are not optional, they are not guidelines. Unfortunately far too many Christians fall into the trap of gossip, even gossip where the heart is in the right place. We are admonished to be watchful, to be diligent but it can be an easy trap to cross over diligence and begin to ignore the mandate of church discipline in an attempt to “do the right thing”. The Bible is clear on the manner of church discipline and condemnation of gossiping or rumors. You are not being a "good Christian" by pointing out the speck in your brother's eye, while ignoring the plank of gossip in your own.