Sunday, December 30, 2007

A great season no matter the outcome

The Browns finished the regular season 10-6, unthinkable when the season opened. We have to hope for a Colts win over the Titans tonight, but since the Colts have no incentive to win and lots of incentive to rest Manning and Addai, and the Titans have every reason to go all out to snatch the playoff berth I am a bit skeptical. But hey it has been a wacky season for the Browns, so nothing would surprise me at this point. Whether they make the playoffs or not, the Browns have shown that they have potential for the future. One note, they may want to draft 100% defensive players next year. If they can manage to improve the defense, they could be a legitimate contender next year. Seriously.
(UPDATE: Jim Sorgi, Manning's back-up, didn't get it done so no playoffs for the Browns. Great season still)

Ugh, we have pink eye running through the little one's, which means it is only a matter of time before I get it, especially with the 3 year old sleeping on my pillow.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

The New Inquisition

I came across just a great editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer today.

The author, Clyde E. Stauffer, has a PhD in biochemistry and makes a ton of sense in a short letter. He starts off strong and goes from there:

In the 16th century a large, powerful institution saw itself as threatened by heretics - people who didn't agree with all its dogmas - so it began to identify and punish those dissidents. Five hundred years later a similar effort is under way.

In the 16th century it was the Roman Catholic church; today it is Big Science. The only real difference is that today heretics are simply deprived of their livelihood; burning at the stake is no longer in vogue.

Dr. Stauffer makes the point that in today's world, self-annointed "scientists" have declared certain truths to be dogma, and above questioning. It has become heresy to even so much as question the dogmas of the secular establishment: global warming, evolution, the Big Bang theory. Dr. Stauffer gives a few examples of scientists who have been run out of the academy because they dared question the establishment. Far too much of what passes as science these days is merely political correctness dressed up with scientific terms.

As a doctoral student I was taught that good science sought reliable facts about the world around us, and hypotheses followed wherever those facts lead. Sadly, that no longer seems to be the case. Instead, selected facts have led to politicized conclusions, and countervailing facts are no longer tolerated. This is not good science.

This letter is worth reading, especially by those high priests of secularism who have no real answers but revile those who do.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why not Romney?

My main issue with Romney is not his mormonism. Some castigate him for being gullible, but having been a member of the mormon church and worn the sacred underwear I am not in a place to be too critical on that front. It is not his religion that is at issue, although it is a false belief system and a cult. It is his inability to develop and hold to core convictions. Will the Mitt Romney we see today on the campaign trail be the same man who nominates a Supreme Court justice if elected? His past is too full of vacillation to have any certainty of that.

Romney strikes me as an empty suit and a weathervane. He looks pretty on TV, looks presidential but has no heartfelt convictions. He changes his stance on vital issues, not in measured steps but 180 degrees to suit the race he is running. He doesn't seem to run on what he believes but on what makes people smile and applaud. He is hardly the only politician to do so, but it seems epidemic with him and at least the other candidates have some basic core beliefs.

Romney has found himself under scrutiny because his mile wide and inch deep candidacy was in the lead and as such drew the most attention. He has wilted under the scrutiny and now is turning the attack dogs loose, a sign of desperation this close to Christmas and New Hampshire/Iowa.

The Concord (N.H.) Monitor has given an anti-endorsement of Romney or anyone but Romney endorsement. Here is an excerpt:

If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core.

It should be clear that Romney will say and do anything for the sake of political expediency. Romney accused McCain of "failing Reagan 101", but President Reagan held to some basic core beliefs: smaller government, lower taxes and a strong national defense to deter the Soviets. Unlike Reagan, Romney has no core beliefs. It is he, not McCain, that fails Reagan 101.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A famine in the land

"Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "when I will send a famine on the land-- not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD." Amos 8:11 ESV

I love this verse and hate it. I love it because it is so true, I hate it because it is so true. It is not the Word that is at fault though, but the church. It is the church that has been established and ordained as the dispenser of the Word, and it is the church that has sought to replace the Word of God with anything else, anything but the Word.

Dr. Steve Lawson is one of my favorite preachers. I heard him in person in the Spring of 2007 at the Toledo Reformed Theological Conference, and his sermons on John 10 and the Good Shepherd were absolutely dynamite. Though Steven Lawson sounds, and kinda looks, like the elder President Bush, he is a powerful preacher and a prophetic voice in our day. I came across a sermon he gave on Amos 8:1-11, and it struck a chord. You don't hear a ton of preaching like this today, and we are poorer as a people for it.

His message is pretty simple, as is true of all good sermons. All is not well. The modern church gives off an image of successful evangelicalism, but it is at it's heart rotten to the core. Churches not only don't transform lives, they hardly even raise eyebrows. The simple proclamation of the Word, Thus sayeth the Lord, has been replaced by slick marketing campaigns. I am all for slick marketing campaigns in the business world. In fact I often benefit quite handsomely from them. But these aren't balance sheets and stock prices we are talking about. These are the eternal souls of sinners standing condemned before a just and holy God.

Our mooring point is not in the infallible Word of God, but in our programs, in our outward success, in our influence over the political process. Our churches measure their faithfulness not in the making of disciples, but in the number of bodies in the pews, the size of the budget, the number of paid staff or the magnificence of their audio-visual system. We ought to grade churches based on their fidelity to the Word of God, and yet that is in many cases the last concern. Far more important is the music style, or the personality of the preacher, or the size of the youth program or what translation of the Bible is used (not whether or not it is a faithful translation, but whether or not it is the right faithful translation.)

The people cry out to be fed, and spend more time and money on "Christian" books and music than ever before, but those same people are being slowly starved to death, starved in the hearing of the Word of the Lord. We starve to death in a land of plenty. Worse yet, it is the church, established and ordered by God, that is withholding the feeding. People come, and what they hear is anything but the Word in so many churches. There is little wonder that so many people are so ambiguous about church, because there is no power when the Word is absent. A church that neglects the Word becomes nothing but a social club or a self-help therapy session. Once people get over their hang up du jour, they move along.

Another of my favorite passages is found in Ezekiel 3, and Dr. Lawson rightly brings it up...

And he said to me, "Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, "Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it." Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. And he said to me, "Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. Ezekiel 3: 1-4 ESV

What value is the Word of God if it is relegated to dusty tomes sitting unused and unopened in the racks on the back of pews? There is nothing magical about the cover and the paper, about the ink on the pages. The power of the Word of God comes from reading it and devouring it. Why should God send forth the Word when people reject it? This sermon from Dr. Lawson and these ancient words from the prophet Amos are required hearing and reading for the church today. May we weep, as I have and I do, for how we have failed in carrying out the mandate of God to declare His Word.

An odd comment from a former Bishop and Stake President...

Mitt Romney is reported in the Salt Lake Tribune as having given a very strange answer in an interview with Boston's WCVB...

WASHINGTON - Presidential candidate Mitt Romney says in a videotaped interview that he doesn't know that God has spoken to anyone since the time of Moses.

The comment appears to conflict with his Mormon faith that believes God spoke to founder Joseph Smith and other church prophets subsequently. In the interview with Boston's WCVB, a reporter asks Romney several questions about his faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including how his faith would impact him if he is elected.

"Should God speak to you, and ask you to do something that might be in conflict with your duties as president, or should He speak to your prophet who would speak to you, how would you make that decision, how would you handle that?" reporter Natalie Jacobson asks.

Romney laughs and then replies, "Well, I don't recall God speaking to me. I, I don't recall God speaking to anyone since, uh, Moses and the [burning] bush, or perhaps some others, but, but I don't have that frequent of communication."

Compare that with official church dogma, from the Joseph Smith History in mormon scriptures...

—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

Well which is it, did God speak to anyone after Moses or not? For a mormon to say "perhaps some others" is like a Christian saying that "perhaps" Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again. That God the Father and Jesus Christ spoke directly and personally to Joseph Smith is THE defining moment in mormonism, the event upon which the entire church stands or falls. It isn't some minor doctrine like Jesus being conceived through a physical act. It is an absolute article of faith. If that didn't happen, Smith isn't the prophet of the restoration, the priesthood has not been restored and Gordon B. Hinckley is no more a prophet than Hulk Hogan (all of which by the way is true). "Perhaps others"? Please.

To deny ongoing revelation knocks the underpinnings out of mormonism, so again we are forced to ask the question: Is Mitt Romney unaware of his mormon beliefs (which seems odd since he was a Bishop and a Stake President), is he not paying attention to the questions or is he intentionally being evasive? Any one of the three raises some pretty serious questions. I wouldn't expect him to go into a diatribe about modern revelation and Joseph Smith in the sacred grove, but to answer in the way he did is pretty dishonest. Mitt is preferable to Hillary or Obama or Edwards for certain, but he is hardly the best choice for the GOP nomination.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Huckabee on homeschoolers...

Leave them alone, they are doing great!

Mike Huckabee also specifically and strongly expresses his support not only of public schools but also homeschoolers. His education issues page states the following:

I have been a strong, consistent supporter of the rights of parents to home school their children, of creating more charter schools, and of public school choice.

I am not as big a fan of his arts and culture curriculum, but I think he has the right frame of mind where eduction is concerned. Huckabee also received a fairly unprecedented early endorsement from the Home School Legal Defense Association:

HSLDA’s PAC Committee has taken the historic step of making an early endorsement in the 2008 race for president.

We believe that Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas, should be elected the next President of the United States. Mike is a principled conservative, a friend of homeschooling, a man of character, and a man with a mature faith in Jesus Christ.

Mike Huckabee, as governor, was the first to appoint a homeschooler to the Arkansas State Board of Education, and to our knowledge the first to do so in any state. He is adamantly opposed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and is committed to stopping the erosion of parental rights. He is pro-life. He supports traditional marriage. He believes that the Internal Revenue Service should be abolished and replaced with the Fair Tax—a move that we strongly support because it would greatly benefit homeschooling families. He believes and is willing to say that Islamic extremism needs to be understood as a theologically driven threat. He believes that America must be strong, but should never be perceived as a bully. He believes that our borders must be secured not only from illegal immigration but from the growing trend among American judges of “illegally importing” international law into our American judicial systems.

Huckabee is a pretty solid ally of homeschoolers, which just adds to his appeal!
Coulter weighs in on Huckabee

Ann Coulter used to be somewhat amusing, but like Hannity and O'Reilly she has become such a caricature that she no longer speaks with any semblance of authority or accuracy. Coulter, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, all are primarily entertainers. As long as they recognize that, as Limbaugh always has, they are fine. Where they get in trouble is when they start to forget their role and take themselves too seriously. Coulter is mostly given notice because she is intentionally bombastic and abrasive, and just as much because she is modestly attractive. Her rant in Human Events against Mike Huckabee is both rude and ignorant.

Coulter starts off with this doozie and it goes downhill from there:

As far as I can tell, it's mostly secular liberals swooning over Huckabee. Liberals adore Huckabee because he fits their image of what an evangelical should be: stupid and easily led.

I know quite a few people who either actively support or are seriously considering Huckabee, not a one them is a "secular liberal". I would imagine that one would be hard pressed for Ms. Coulter to drop me into the "secular liberal" category as well, especially given Ms. Coulter's juvenile religious convictions (see for example her summary of her Christian beliefs in a Townhall Column: People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day because I'm here to redeem you even though you don't deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it. Who needs Calvin and Luther when you have a theologian like that!). If calling a candidate "stupid" and questioning his ability to read is the best argument that Coulter can come up with, it certainly speaks volumes more about her than Huckabee. Then there was this gem:

Asked on CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday night about his beliefs on evolution, Huckabee rushed to assure King that he has no interest in altering textbooks that foist this fraud on innocent schoolchildren. I don't understand that. Does Huckabee believe Darwinism is a hoax or not? If he knows it's a fraud, then why does he want it taught to schoolchildren? What other discredited mystery religions -- as mathematician David Berlinski calls Darwinism -- does Huckabee want to teach children? Sorcery? Phrenology? Alchemy?

So what exactly did Huckabee say on Larry King Live? An outright renouncement of creationism? A Richard Dawkins-esque defense of evolution? Not quite. This is from the transcript of the show:

KING: You've said that you do not believe in evolution. That being a given, how would you deal with the teaching of it in the classroom?
HUCKABEE: The same way I did as a parent, the same way I did as a governor. I don't get into that. I'm not a science teacher. I don't write the curriculum for the science books.My kids, Larry, went to the public schools of Arkansas. I was the first governor in 50 years whose kids had all of their first through 12th grade education in the Arkansas public schools.So, you know, when people say oh, what is he going to do to the textbooks -- well, if I was going to do it, I would have done it when I was governor. Presidents have nothing to do with the curriculum of education.

That was the basis for claiming that Huckabee abandoned creationism on Larry King Live?
Are there any candidates who are proposing teaching creationism in public school textbooks? Is that even a topic of discussion for Presidential candidates? Next we have this inane comment:

When not evolving his position on Darwinism, Huckabee insults gays by pointlessly citing the Bible's rather pointed remarks about sodomy -- fitting the MSM's image of evangelicals sitting around all day denouncing gays. (Which is just so unfair. I'm usually done denouncing gays by 10:30 a.m., 11 tops.) And yet, Huckabee has said he agrees with the Supreme Court's lunatic opinion that sodomy is a constitutional right.

So let me get this straight. Coulter unequivocally claims that Huckabee says that sodomy is a Constitutional right because he said that Lawrence v. Texas was ""probably was appropriate." From that Coulter suggests that Huckabee is "pro-sodomy" and a friend of gay marriage. That makes as much sense as saying that Coulter's penchant for wearing tiny dresses and stiletto heels means she is in favor of legalizing prostitution. (Was that a cheap shot? Yep, but no less so that Coulter's entire editorial)

Is it really the top priority of the United States to enforce sodomy laws? Is doing so a sure path to legalizing gay marriage? Hardly. I think that Lawrence v. Texas was poorly decided, but it is hardly a make or break issue and not frothing at the mouth about it is certainly not tacit approval of gay marriage. Huckabee is a strong proponent of traditional marriage, and his marriage position page on the web backs this up:

- I support and have consistently supported passage of a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
- As Governor of Arkansas, I led the successful effort to pass a similar state constitutional amendment in 2002.
- As Governor of Arkansas, I led the successful effort to make our state only the third to adopt "covenant" marriage.
- Our true strength comes from our families.

It may bear noting that Mike and Janet Huckabee got married in 1974 and have been married for the last 33 years. Coulter has been engaged several times but never married, which hardly makes her a authority on marriage. Again, a cheap shot but I am trying to stay in the spirit that Coulter enjoys.

She ends her hit piece with this:

I guess Huckabee is one of those pro-sodomy, pro-gay marriage, pro-evolution evangelical Christians.

Perhaps the most banal argument is to call Republicans "liberal" when they clearly are not. It lessens the real impact of what being liberal means when it becomes a playground insult in the hands of Coulter. Ann should stick to attacking liberals on Fox News and leave serious discussions to others.
More on Mitt

(Playing a little fast and loose with the facts!)

According to a news report from the AP, it turns out that maybe Romney's dad didn't actually march with Martin Luther King Jr....

BOSTON - Mitt Romney, who earlier this year had to backpedal on his hunting exploits, is explaining himself again after claiming an endorsement he did not receive and saying he witnessed his father in civil rights marches he could not have seen.

"It's a figure of speech," Romney said Thursday after media inquiries into the Republican presidential contender's statement during his recent religion speech that he watched his father, the late Gov. George Romney of Michigan, march with Martin Luther King Jr.

Romney, who was in high school at the time, later said he only heard of his father marching, and some historians have questioned whether his father, in fact, did march with King. The Romney campaign provided books and news articles it said supported his statement.

A figure of speech? This is what he said in his 'Faith in America' speech: " I saw my father march with Martin Luther King."

How is that a "figure of speech"? That smacks of Clintonian spin. Well, I didn't see him, but I saw him, if you know what I mean. The Detroit Free Press, which takes a special interest in Romney because his father is the former Governor of Michigan, has additional details:

Asked about the reports, Romney said: "My own eyes? You know, I speak in the sense of I saw my dad become president of American Motors. I wasn't actually there when he became president of American Motors, but I saw him in the figurative sense of he marched with Martin Luther King.

"My brother also remembers him marching with Martin Luther King, and so in that sense I saw him march with Martin Luther King."

So now his brother allegedly remembering something means that Mitt saw it happen? Huh?!

The AP report also mentions some of Romney's other faulty recollections:

Romney similarly backtracked after telling a national television audience Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "I received the endorsement of the NRA" in 2002 while running for governor of Massachusetts.

The gun rights group did not endorse either candidate, and gave a higher issues rating to his Democratic opponent.

Romney said Monday, "It was, if you will, a support phone bank, which is not an official endorsement."

Throughout his campaign, he has been dogged by allegations of flip-flopping on key issues, from abortion rights to gun control and gay rights.

"It's the fine-tuning that's created the problem. It's always that one extra step that causes him the trouble," said Tobe Berkovitz, a longtime Romney observer and the interim dean of Boston University's College of Communication. "You can't just say that African-Americans were accepted into the church and I was happy, you have to say you pulled over and you cried."

Nonetheless, Romney faced snickers in April after his staff said he had been hunting on only two occasions despite his telling a New Hampshire voter, "I've been a hunter pretty much all my life." Romney later said he had hunted more than twice but only for "small varmints" and that he did not own a gun or have a hunting license.

This is National Reviews true blue conservative? This is their guy? A guy who makes bold claims about stuff that never happened, claims endorsements he never received and makes up a persona to appeal to hunters? Maybe Rich Lowry and company need to look a little harder...
Ask Mitt Anything!
(Just don't expect an honest response!)

Mitt Romney was on Meet the Press with Tim Russert on December 16th, and I will admit he comes across as pretty polished. In the course of his interview, he mentioned racism in America and Russert pounced on him about the mormon church and it's past openly institutionalized racist theology.

MR. RUSSERT: You, you raise the issue of color of skin. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court, Brown vs. Board of Education, desegregated all our public schools. In 1964 civil rights laws giving full equality to black Americans. And yet it wasn't till 1978 that the Mormon church decided to allow blacks to participate fully. Here was the headlines in the papers in June of '78. "Mormon Church Dissolves Black Bias. Citing new revelation from God, the president of the Mormon Church decreed for the first time black males could fully participate in church rites." You were 31 years old, and your church was excluding blacks from full participation. Didn't you think, "What am I doing part of an organization that is viewed by many as a racist organization?"

Romney's response was OK at first and then ended up being over the top. The "my dad marched with Martin Luther King" and "walking out on Goldwater" shtick. The claim that Romney pulled over his car when he heard about the "new revelation" and openly wept. All good and noble sentiments perhaps, but it really evades the question. The question was a simple one, was it wrong for the mormon church to exclude blacks from the priesthood until the 1970's?

The mormon church does not apologize for nor does it reject the teaching of the past prophets that blacks were denied the priesthood because they were unworthy, cursed with the mark of Cain. It is a no-win question for Romney. Reject the church's teachings as racist and you declare that the prophets were wrong, that the revelation was wrong and throw the whole system in disarray. Support the prophets and you agree that blacks are accursed and only recently allowed to enjoy the full blessings of the restored gospel. I don't envy Romney having to answer the question, but at least he could be honest about it.

Romney went on: "My faith has also always told me that, in the eyes of God, every individual was, was merited the, the fullest degree of happiness in the hereafter, and I, and I had no question in my mind that African-Americans and, and blacks generally, would have every right and every benefit in the hereafter that anyone else had and that God is no respecter of persons."

That may be what Romney personally believed, but it is NOT the historical position of the mormon church and if he believed that way then he did so in spite of his mormonism, not because of it, in direct opposition to his church's positions. Here are a couple of direct quotes from mormon authorities, not some crackpot Bishop in a far away ward, but the heads of the mormon church itself (there is an excellent article about the changed "revelation" available from arch-"anti" Sandra Tanner's website here)

Joseph Smith himself taught that "Negroes" are the "sons of Cain." (History of the Church, Vol. 4, page 501) Mormon leaders also taught that "As a result of his rebellion, Cain was cursed with a dark skin; he became the father of the Negroes, and those spirits who are not worthy to receive the priesthood are born through his lineage." (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, page 102)

Brigham Young, the second prophet of the church, asserted: "Cain slew his brother.... and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is a flat nose and black skin." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, page 290)

Joseph Fielding Smith, who became the tenth prophet of the church in 1970, made it clear that Mormons should consider blacks as inferior: "Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race." (The Way to Perfection, page 101) On the following page Smith asserted that the "negro brethren" have a "black covering emblematical of eternal darkness."

This sort of material is dismissed out of hand as "anti-mormon", but it is hard to make the case that dogmatic assertions on matters of theology, declared by those in authority and with the gift of special priesthood revelation, can be considered "anti-mormon". They are not out of context, because there is no context that would allow these statements to be any clearer. I have said before that Christians have a lot to apologize for when it comes to race relations, but the difference is that by and large we have because we recognize that our racist past is not Biblically mandated. We have for the most part recognized our culpability and apologized for it. Mormons cannot, because to question the curse of Cain upon blacks is to question the prophets, the priesthood and Joseph Smith himself and that makes the whole house of cards fall.

(The transcript is available here, the video is available here)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

1 a: darken b: to make obscure 2: confuse intransitive verb: to be evasive, unclear, or confusing

In what is becoming fairly typical for the mormon church, responses to simple and direct questions have become an opportunity to avoid the question, answer a completely different question than the one that was asked or to feign outrage and refuse to answer a question at all. You can argue that they have no obligation to answer these sorts of questions, but on the other hand when you send out missionaries door-to-door telling Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc. that they belong to apostate church accursed of God, I think the level of obligation is a little higher. You cannot on the one hand slam other churches, in a roundabout fashion, and then act aggrieved when the questions are turned back on you.

Fox News submitted a list of 21 questions about mormonism to Salt Lake City, and the response are both typical and enlightening. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries already posted a fairly lengthy response titled "This isn't your father's mormonism: The LDS Church is Embarrassed By Its Own Theology" to some of the "answers" given. What is consistent is that the questions that were asked were all legitimate and the answers given invariably evasive. If someone asks me "Do you believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin" or "Did Jesus Christ literally walk on water", I can without hesitation answer: "Yes!". Not everyone will agree or like my answer, and some may even mock but that doesn't impact my answers. There was a time when mormonism worked the same way, members would unapologetically affirm the basic and distinctive truths of mormonism. Those days are gone.

The "answers" start with an upfront, angry disclaimer: "Many of these questions are typically found on anti-Mormon blogs or Web sites which aim to misrepresent or distort Mormon doctrines," the Church said in a statement. "Several of these questions do not represent ... any serious attempt to depict the core values and beliefs of its members." That is par for the course these days. Before answering any questions, put on a face of righteous indignation that you are even being asked the question at all. I was going to go after each of these responses one by one, but others have beaten me to it and have more time to be thorough. Dr. White is one of the respondents, as is Aaron Shafovaloff of Mormon Coffee. His thorough response is found here. It is worthwhile to look at the questions, the answers and the responses to them. The questions are legitimate, the answers are not and it is incumbent upon Christians to look deeper, move beyond the superficial answers and draw stark contrasts between mormon teachings and Christianity. The deeper you look, the wider the divide.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mike makes NRO mad part deux

More National Review attacks on Mike Huckabee. With an editorial disdainfully titled: "The Problem With Pastor Mike", Peter Wehner castigates Huckabee for his opinions in Foreign Affairs as being "fundamentally unserious":

The role of commander-in-chief is the most important one we look to in a president, particularly when America is at war. Governor Huckabee’s article in Foreign Affairs, while fine (if largely conventional) in some respects, is fundamentally unserious; on national security matters, he is likewise. And when the final votes are tallied in the GOP race, Mike Huckabee’s words, on these issues and others, will cost him.

Was President Bush "serious" about foreign policy? He could barely pronounce many of the names of their leaders.

Wehner's post is full of arrogant snippets that paint Huckabee as a foreign policy idiot: "Governor Huckabee also seems ignorant about the extent of cooperation that, on a daily basis, is garnered for the war against militant Islam. ", "Does he know (or care) that the United States won the unanimous approval of the U.N. Security Council for Resolution 1441" and "Is Huckabee unaware of all the other options on the table, which Iran has so far rejected?". The whole article is liberally (no pun intended) sprinkled with "Pastor Mike" as a pejorative. Odd that referring to someone as "Pastor" would be seen as an insult from an ostensibly conservative writer. His big concern seems to be that Huckabee recognizes that, rightly or wrongly, much of the world looks at the USA as arrogant, that the war in Iraq has been handled poorly (the cause is absolutely right, the execution has been not so much) and that we have made a myriad of mistakes in foreign policy. My hope would be that Huckabee or whichever Republican was elected would surround himself with a solid foreign policy team that will absolutely stand for American sovereignty but also recognize that there are other countries in the world. I personally am in favor of booting the UN out of New York, but I am also not running for Commander-in-Chief.

To jump on Wehner's hyperbole bandwagon, perhaps Hillary or even Bill Richardson would better suit him as a candidate, both being more "fundamentally serious" about foreign issues? Of course that is silly and unfair, but such assertions seem fair game for Mr. Whener, including this doozie: "Would Huckabee base his foreign-policy decisions on how our actions poll in Waziristan or Gaza under Hamas, or in madrasas throughout the Middle East? Based on his Foreign Affairs essay, it’s reasonable to believe he might." What ever happened the the 11th Commandment of the GOP? Those types of comments are just silly and unworthy of an august publication like National Review, and indicate that it may just be Wehner, not Huckabee, who is "fundamentally unserious".

I believe that President Bush is the source of much of the angst among the National Review crowd. They allowed us our candidate once and he was a disappointment in many areas they find important. Of course he is a disappointment to many of us as well. Spending is out of control and the war has been handled poorly. Most social conservative are also fiscal conservatives and we recognize that there need to be changes, and soon. But I quite frankly don't trust Rudy or Romney to nominate an acceptable nominee for the almost inevitable Supreme Court vacancies. We are very close to be able to overturn Roe V. Wade, and we are also on the tipping point of losing that chance if a conservative Justice retires or dies.

It seems to me that because Bush came across as a man of deep and open faith, perhaps not as savvy as some but a genuine person, Huckabee reminds old school conservative of him and that leads to distrust. Certainly being Governor of Arkansas is not the ideal training for a foreign policy leader, but if he will surround himself with the right advisers he should be fine. Better a man of honest and sincere social conservative values than a man who has either rejected those same values (Rudy) or has flip flopped on them when it was politically expedient (Romney)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It was a bad weekend for atheist propaganda movies but a good one for sports!

It was a good sports weekend for me. The Browns won a game with what looks like a baseball score, 8-0 over the Bills and moved into a tie for the AFC North lead because Pittsburgh collapsed. They were playing in a snow storm, so the lack of offense is going to kill my fantasy football teams but at least they won in the real world.

Plus Michigan finally hired a coach, and it sounds like a great one, in Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia. The number one prospect in high school, 6-6 quarterback Terrelle Pryor has announced he is considering Michigan now. Not sure how Wolverine fans will react to a mobile quarterback in a spread offense, it might cause more howls of outrage than you would get by reading from the NIV at a Independent Fundamental Baptist church, but what we have been doing for years is no longer working.

Go Browns!

Go Blue!
Another disappointing weekend for The Golden Compass

Yahoo! reports that the Golden Compass, with huge star power, hype and a $180 million budget, plummeted in ticket sales this weekend...

The previous No. 1 movie, New Line Cinema's fantasy "The Golden Compass," nose-dived in its second weekend, coming in third with $9 million, down a dismal 65 percent from its less-than-expected $25.8 million debut a week earlier.

"The Golden Compass," which cost $180 million to produce, has done $90 million so far overseas but has proven a dud domestically with just $41 million.

I guess if you make a movie with an anti-Christian view but expect families to come out, you ought to consider that those with the biggest families tend to be the most religious. Duh!
Some fun new pics of Tori!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The struggle for the soul of the GOP....

Outside of the chaotic melee that is the GOP primary season, there is another battle that I believe is brewing that will impact the Republican party, and American politics in general, for many decades to come.

There are two main factions: the old school GOPers, readers of National Review who are primarily concerned with tax policy and national defense. This camp seems to like Romney for his alleged business savvy, and Rudy because he was tough on crime in NYC and a strong leader after September 11th. This was the camp I used to identify most closely with.

The second camp are the Johnnie-come-lately's, the Evangelical Christian Right, a group far more comfortable with James Dobson than William F. Buckley. For those on this side, opposition to abortion and gay marriage are the driving forces. This camp has recently embraced Mike Huckabee, due mainly to general discomfort with Rudy's multiple divorces and Romney's flip-flopping on abortion as well as his mormonism. This is where I find myself these days. The Christian Right brings the voters and the enthusiasm, the old school brings the money. It has long been an uneasy marriage, and that partnership seems at a breaking point as we approach the first primaries.

The question comes down to this: will Evangelical, Christian conservatives be content to march in lockstep with the GOP when it seems that many in the Republican part are hell-bent to stick their thumbs in the collective eyes of Christian conservatives, smugly assuming that we have nowhere else to go? Will fear of seeing Hillary in the White House, dangling the vague promise of potentially conservative, constructionist judges be enough to keep the slack-jawed yokels in line? The writers on National Review online have made no secret of their general disdain for Mike Huckabee. Rich Lowry has a current editorial titled "Huckacide" , comparing Mike Huckabee to Howard Dean and warning of certain doom if Huckabee is nominated. Lowry brings up Huckabee's Biblical rejection of evolution and snarkily declares that:

Even if there are many people in America who agree with him, his position would play into the image of Republicans as the anti-science party. This would tend to push away independents and upper-income Republicans. In short, Huckabee would take a strength of the GOP and, through overplaying it, make it a weakness.

Even if there are many people who agree with him? Like the millions of Evangelicals who believe what the Bible says? Lowry should stop by the Creation Museum on a Saturday and tell those waiting in line to disperse before someone sees them and thinks ill of the GOP because of their ignorance. Wouldn't want to offend the "upper-income Republicans"! (As if everyone who is upper income only vaguely believes in the Bible, and everyone who rejects evolution lives in a trailer park drinking RC Cola) In other words, Evangelicals are useful if they march dutifully to the polls to pull the lever for the anointed Republican chosen by their betters and keep their mouths shut otherwise. Other NRO writers are equally effusive in their praise for Romney (see Mona Charen) and their warnings about Huckabee (see Ramesh Ponnuru). Jim Geraghty makes the perfectly valid point regarding Huckabee and his supporters: Evangelical conservative Christians are a powerful and influential group within the Republican party. But they’re not enough to get the nomination, much less the presidency.

True enough, but the converse is true. A conservative simply cannot get the nomination or win the general election without Evangelicals. Looks like we might need one another after all...

Ronald Reagan has loomed so large over the Republican party for so many years that it is way overdue for a makeover. We can't keep searching for the next Reagan clone in a world that has changed so dramatically. The Gipper is gone, and so is the Soviet Union. The Republicans have held power in Congress and the White House, and thus far have proven to be little more trustworthy than Democrats when it comes to fiscal responsibility. Peggy Noonan asks if Reagan would survive in the new GOP, and it is a valid question. But it is an equally valid question to ask if Christian conservatives are obligated to continue to follow the GOP if it proceeds with nominating a candidate that we find unacceptable.

I understand the need in a democracy to form coalitions, especially in a two-party system with winner-takes-all elections. But a coalition does not mean that one faction makes all the decisions and the other faction carries the load. If the old school doesn't figure that out, they will learn to their chagrin that a party made up of only "upper-class Republicans" cannot win elections.

Most shocking political news headline of the year!

Democrats in debate urge taxes on rich

That is indeed newsworthy. Democratic presidential candidates trying to appeal to a far Left base urge socking it to the "rich"? Well, there's a new strategy. When all else fails, appeal to the banal desires of people, to envy and jealously all fueled by the belief that "that guy" has more than me, and that is unfair, so take what he has and give it to me. There was of course no mention by any of the Democrats of the well established fact that the "rich" in this country already pay an obscenely disproportionate share of the tax burden. I shan't hold my breath waiting for that revelation to be spoken by the likes of Hillary, Obama and Edwards.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When a denial is not a denial

Mike Huckabee made some noise recently by raising the question: "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" It was probably intended as a clever way to feign ignorance, knowing all the while that the brotherly relationship of Christ and Satan is firmly entrenched mormon dogma. It raises the question in people's minds, and serves to draw a stark contrast for those who are evangelical Christian voters but like Mitt Romney's recent conversion to conservative social values. While that is a clever political move, perhaps dirty pool a bit, it is not nearly as interesting as the reaction from the mormon church:

A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Huckabee's question is usually raised by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine.

"We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all," said the spokeswoman, Kim Farah. "That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for."

Note that they never deny the doctrine, much in the same way that they never condemn polygamy or the treatment of blacks by the mormon church. It is the modus operandi to cry persecution in lieu of a serious and legitimate answer. What does mormon material, official mormon material say? I still have our Gospel Principles book, our study guide of mormon beliefs for when we first joined the church, printed by and an official publication of the mormon church. In describing the pre-existence, it speaks of how our heavenly father needed a plan to pay for our sins. Apparently God was uncertain what He should do, so... "Two of our brothers offered to help" One of these brothers was Jesus, "Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ" The other brother was the Devil, "Satan, who was called Lucifer" (Gospel Principles, 1992, pp. 17-18). Two brothers, making us a) different from Christ only in that He was oldest and was chosen to be begotten in the flesh (in the same way all of our parents did, through a physical, procreative sexual act) and b) Making Jesus, Satan and us all brothers and sisters. That is what is (or at least was) taught. How incredibly dishonest for Kim Farah to dissemble in the way she did when asked a simple and direct question. I expect a level of ignorance by the average lay mormon, but she is a spokesperson, so you would think she would be more familiar when called upon to respond to these sorts of questions.

Hmm, so it seems that the doctrine of Jesus and Satan being brothers, rather than something stated by those seeking to "smear" mormonism, really is indeed a teaching of the mormon church.

The Not-So Golden Compass

One of the big movies for the holiday seasons is The Golden Compass, based on the series of books by Phillip Pullman. It looks, at least from the previews, visually stunning and has some serious star power with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. In this case however, big stars and lots of hype did not translate into big $$$...from Yahoo Entertainment....

'Compass' Opens to Modest $26.1 MillionSunday December 9 2:13 PM ET

"The Golden Compass" proved a mild fantasy at the box office, pulling in $26.1 million, a modest opening weekend compared to such recent December heavyweights as "
The Lord of the Rings" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" flicks...

New Line, which had enormous success with its three "Lord of the Rings" films, had hoped for more out of "The Golden Compass," expecting it to reach at least $30 million domestically over its first weekend, said Rolf Mittweg, the studio's marketing chief. The film cost $180 million to make.

Dr. Albert Mohler, as usual, has a very sober and well thought out review and recommendation for Christians. It boils down to this, screaming mad protest and frothing at the mouth is not the way to go. All that does is drive curiousity seekers to the movie. But the Christian should seek rather to be informed, and if we are well informed we will make an equally well thought out decision to not support this movie. Money talks far louder than placards and screaming protestors. And it looks like for the most part, money has talked loud and clear. It is my hope that Christian parents will read intelligent reviews like Dr. Mohler's, recognize the anti-Christian worldview of people like Phillip Pullman and simply choose to make their statement by being more discerning with the entertainment choices.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

David Frum on Romney's Speech

David Frum, almost always a keen observer of all things political, made an interesting point about Romney's speech on National Review Online. His point is that by answering, even vaguely, any questions about his religion he in essence legitimized all questions about his faith...

To be blunt, Romney is saying:

It is legitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the son of God?"

But it is illegitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the brother of Lucifer?"

It is hard for me to see a principled difference between these two questions, and I think on reflection that the audiences to whom Romney is trying to appeal will also fail to see such a difference. Once Romney answered any question about the content of his religious faith, he opened the door to every question about the content of his religious faith. This speech for all its eloquence will not stanch the flow of such questions.

Bad move - and one with very unfair results to a candidate who all must acknowledge is a man who has proven that his mind actually operates in a highly empirical, data-driven, and uncredulous way.

Had he focused instead on simply arguing that presidents need only prove themselves loyal to American values, he would have been on safe ground. Instead, he over-reached, super-adding to his civic appeal an additional appeal to voters who demand faith in Jesus as a requirement in a president. That is an argument that will not work - and a game Mitt Romney cannot win.

Interesting spin, I hadn't thought of it that way but it is true. He probably would have been better off refusing to answer any questions at all. He has already peaked and is on the way down methinks...

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The End of Time (in Toledo of all places!)

How Long O' Lord: Three Views on the end of days

March 14-15, 2008

The schedule of speakers is out for the Toledo Reformed Theological Conference and it looks pretty interesting with a focus on examining the three major schools of eschatological thought.

The TRTC rarely has the star power of other conferences. Especially in the last couple of years you are not going to see Sproul or MacArthur here. Steve Camp as always will be there, as will stalwart Don Kistler. The other speakers are not household names.

Dr. Thomas Ice, from Liberty, will be (no surprise since he is from Liberty University!) representing the pre-millennial camp. Dr. Kenneth Gentry will be the advocate for post-millennialism. Dr. Richard Gaffin of Westminster Theological Seminary will speak on behalf of amillennialism. All three are rock solid scholars with great credentials. They may not be as recognizable as the speakers at Together for the Gospel, and the talks likely will not be as rousing, but the teaching should be great. Eschatology is a weak area for me, so I am very much looking forward to the TRTC in March (cleverly scheduled to not coincide with T4G!) Too bad they didn't move the Philadelphia Conference in Grand Rapids so it didn't overlap T4G, a decision which might cost them a lot of attenders.

Covenant Children Today

There is a new book out from Reformed Baptist Academic Press, and it looks like a solid addition to the defense of credobaptism, baptism of believers alone, from a Reformed persepctive. The title is Covenant Children Today, written by Alan Conner. I am not familiar with Alan, but he seems very well versed in the topic and quite serious about his scholarship and exegesis. He was recently interviewed on The Narrow Mind with Gene Cook Jr., and the interview itself was quite informative without even reading the book.

Sometimes we avoid talking about baptism because it is such a divider among Reformed folks. Better perhaps to focus on the Five Points and let everything else slide. But there of course are a few problems with that. First, the fact that our paedobaptist brethren assume that Reformed Baptists are not "TR", Truly Reformed. Secondly, the doctrine of whether to baptize infants or just believers impacts the very nature of the visible church body, and as such is too important to let slide. Certainly we should embrace (and attend!) events like Together for the Gospel, where we focus on the big issues of our faith and celebrate our common roots in Christ, but that doesn't mean we should ignore

There is a great deal of sentimentality among the normally sober minded Reformed regarding infant baptism, and why not? They are our children, little lives in our care and who wants to think of them being not part of the elect of God? It is easy to assume that babies of believers are automatically believers. It is also wrong. It is, like Pastor Gene says, so very obvious in Scripture that baptism is, under the New Covenant administration, an ordinance reserved, just like the Lord’s Supper, strictly for believers. Not for infants who quite frankly we have no idea based on their parentage if they are elect. Merely having elect parents is no guarantee of being elect, any more than being the child of non-elect parents precludes an possibility of being elect.

The issue of who is to be baptized in the church is one that is decided not by skills of debate (Gene Cook lost handily to Paul Manata and James White beat down Bill Shisko, so that was a draw) but rather on the plain teaching of the Word of God. That Word demonstrates openly that only those who are believers in Christ should enter the waters of baptism. We are not saved by baptism, so we ought to reserve that ordinance of the church for those who have expressed faith in Him.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Speech

Mitt Romney delivered "The Speech" today, designed to deflect and soothe, to reassure evangelical voters that they could trust a mormon candidate. As expected he mostly glossed over specifics about mormonism and focused on broad themes of religious tolerance and his independence from Salt Lake when it comes to decision making.

I doubt this speech will do much to assuage evangelical doubts about Romney's mormonism. He certainly was not going to speak about the temple ceremony, or exaltation or really any of the distinctives that make mormonism a heresy and cause sych unease among people. Certainly one should not expect a President to be a theologian, but Romney's hesitancy to speak about what should be THE driving force behind his ideology in other than the vaguest terms should give one pause.

One comment that gave me pause was this one:

I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God.

Really? Buddhism draws people closer to God? Islam draws people closer to God? The problem is that when a mormon speaks of God, when a Muslim speaks of God, they are not speaking of the God of the Bible, the God of Christianity, the true God. They speak of manmade idols, man's pride and creativity molded into a false image to be worshipped. Allah is no more the God of the Bible than the created being, the exalted man worshipped by mormons.

Romney and Christians who support him are willing to blur the lines of truth, replacing the absolute truths of the Biblical Gospel with a pragmatic embrace of "shared moral values". Romney may be the right man to be President, but his faith sets him apart from Christians. I would rather Romney had directly answered the myriad of issues that surround his faith, put his cards on the table and said "this is what we believe, and if my believing this causes you to not vote for me, so be it." Unfortunately that sort of honesty is a rare commodity among politicians of all stripes.

(Dr. Mohler addressed Mitt Romney's speech today on The Albert Mohler Radio Program)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Victoria Lynn at six weeks

Tori turns six weeks old today and is suddenly very interactive. She was smiling in response to my voice and in a pretty decent mood. Enjoy!

Here comes "The Speech"

The AP reports that Mitt Romney is going to the long awaited speech addressing mormonism...

The decision, made after months of debate at his Boston headquarters over whether to make a public address about his religion, comes as the former Massachusetts governor's bid is threatened in Iowa by underdog Mike Huckabee, a one-time Southern Baptist minister who has rallied influential Christian conservatives to erase Romney's months-long lead and turn the race into a dead-heat.

Romney will deliver a speech called "Faith in America" at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, on Thursday.

"This speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor's own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected," Kevin Madden, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement. "Governor Romney understands that faith is an important issue to many Americans, and he personally feels this moment is the right moment for him to share his views with the nation."

I wonder if he had to run it by Salt Lake and have them approve the message? I doubt anything substantive or specific will be addressed, more likely I expect Romney to give a bunch of vague platitudes about religious tolerance and shared values. Don't expect to hear anything about the temple ceremony or the mormon doctrine of exaltation. Should be interesting tho'...