Archive for the ‘current events’ Category

Once again, Mohler’s astute analysis cuts through the rhetoric, penetrating to the heart of the issue:

What the pro-abortion movement fears most is that Americans will pause to consider what this trial [of Dr. Kermit Gosnell] really means. It means that Dr. Gosnell would not be on trial for murder if he had killed those three babies while inside their mother’s body. His murder convictions have everything to do with the fact that the abortions were “botched” and the baies were accidentally born alive. Had the abortions been “successful” — even up to the last hours of pregnancy — Dr. Gosnell might have been charged with performing a late-term abortion, but not of murder.

And, speaking of late-term abortions, the abortion rights movement is against all legal restrictions on those as well. They insist on a woman’s unfettered right to an abortion up to the moment of birth.

Even more chillingly, a Planned Parenthood representative recently told a committee of the Florida legislature that even a baby born alive after a failed abortion should have its life or death decided only by its mother and her doctor.

This is America. A nation that has legalized murder in the womb and that now finds itself staring at what abortion really represents. Human dignity cannot survive in a society that insists that a baby inside the womb has no right to live while that same baby, just seconds later, is a murder victim. Respect for human life cannot endure when a baby inside the womb is just a fetus, but when moved only a few centimeters is a full citizen.

William Edgar, writing for Reformation21:

One of the most important [issues for Christians to work through] is social justice for all people, regardless of their background, or, indeed, sexual orientation. If marriage is not, strictly speaking, a right, nor a civil right, but a creation ordinance, what of the civil rights of gay people? We ought to be just as zealous to safeguard the rights of gay people as we are to safeguard marriage for monogamous heterosexuals. Not because they are gay, but because they are people, citizens, image-bearers. So legislators need to figure out the most equitable way to ensure that every citizen be given the proper access to social benefits, retirement, inheritance rules, etc.

And, surely, there is much repenting to be done over attitudes toward gay people that are hateful and prejudiced. I went to a boarding school many years ago, where the only view of gay people was “yuck!” Yet surely there were young men there struggling with their sexual identity and in need of compassionate counseling. Furthermore, those of us who are married (heterosexually) have a good deal of homework to do in our own families. It won’t do to criticize gays as unhappy, guilty, etc., if our own marriages are flagging. And then, the church needs to think through what it means to be celibate. Certainly this legitimate calling has also been maligned by sub-Christian attitudes.
 
At the end of the day, however, we do not recommend heterosexual marriage because it works best, because children may be born, or because it is the traditional view. We recommend it because God as [sic] ordained it, and it is a good thing: “Let marriage be held in honor among all” (Heb. 13:1).
 
Read the rest of the article here.

To Jerusalem offers some helpful reflections on the infamous “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”:

  1. Karen King has dubbed the fragment a portion of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” Where this may sound logical (considering the content of the fragment), it is rather presumptuous. There is no evidence that the fragment is a portion of a larger, complete text—or ever that the text from which it came was intended to be read as a Gospel (as was the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Judas.
  1. Even if the fragment is verified as dating to the fourth century A.D., it should not be considered a reliable source of historical information about Jesus. King herself has commented on this saying that she never considered the text to speak of the historical Jesus. It is part of a larger body of texts that come out of the Coptic Gnostic tradition that developed its own doctrine concerning the life and teaching of Jesus. The Gnostic writings have never been considered historical, canonical, or biblical. It is these writings that provided the foundation for the fictional story The Da Vinci Code.

Be sure to read the whole post.

Al Mohler calls this a “tragic announcement“:

Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. announced Tuesday that it would no longer offer its venerable reference set in a printed edition. Western Civilization just took another hard blow to the chin.

Mohler bemoans the fact that the experience of reading a physical book will soon be relegated to the sidelines of twenty-first century life.

But reading a physical book, with words printed on paper, is a different experience than reading on a screen. The experience of reading Britannica with a barfing brother in the back of the car is about to go the way of the station wagon—into the mists of history.

Besides the fact that I think there is good reason to believe that the digital reading experience will continue to evolve into something more and more similar to the experience of reading a paper book, what exactly does this comment even mean?  What is so important/valuable about this undefined “experience” that should be preserved?  Mohler never gives any details (though he hints at something when he notes that the experience of reading paper books is devoid of “digital sound and fury,” whatever that means).  He continues,

I also believe that the experience of reading the Bible on an iPhone is radically different from the experience of reading the Bible in printed form, feeling the texture of the book as our eyes take in the inspired text.

Radically different?  Really?

Sometimes I wonder if similar laments were heard with the advent of the printing press.  How many wise and learned men bemoaned the fact that no longer would the Word of God be meticulously written by hand, instead printed en masse on Gutenburg’s new-fangled machine?  In the midst of their sad dirges, how many missed the incalculable advantages of the printing press, an advancement over the written word that would make possible the unprecedented dissemination of information and ideas?  More specifically, how many common men and women were finally able to gain direct access to the written Word of God, now drastically cheaper to produce and distribute?  How many similar advantages, exponentially amplified through the use of digital technology, are now being neglected for the sake of the mysteriously-important “experience” of reading a physical book?

For an interesting review of a few historical “crises” related to new information technologies, check out this article published at Slate.com.  For more of my thoughts on this interesting topic, see “5 Reasons E-Books Don’t Beat Paper Books (Yet).”

Please, take a moment to pray for our brother in Christ, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who just yesterday was sentenced to execution in Iran for converting to Christianity.

Fox News reports:

Supporters fear Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old father of two who was arrested over two years ago on charges of apostasy, may now be executed at any time without prior warning, as death sentences in Iran may be carried out immediately or dragged out for years.

It is unclear whether Nadarkhani can appeal the execution order. …

Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 and was tried and found guilty of apostasy by a lower court in Gilan, a province in Rasht. He was then given verbal notification of an impending death-by-hanging sentence. …

The court then gave Nadarkhani the opportunity to recant, as the law requires a man to be given three chances to recant his beliefs and return to Islam.

His first option was to convert back to Islam. When he refused, he was asked to declare Muhammad a prophet, and still he declined.

Pray that our brother would be strengthened by the Father through the Spirit to hold fast to the word of life, confident that though Christ’s enemies may kill his body, his soul is secure in mercy and grace of God his Father, the only Lord of the universe who works all things according to the counsel of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.

Please, beseech God for his mercy and sustaining power, that Pastor Youcef would be strengthened by the fact that God has granted him the great honor of not only believing in Christ, but also suffering for his name.  Pray that Pastor Youcef would fight the good fight of faith, and that he would confidently take hold of the eternal life granted to him through his good confession of Jesus Christ.

As I’m sure everyone who has Facebook knows, Jefferson Bethke’s “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” video is lighting up the internet.  Currently, his video has over 6.5 million views on YouTube.  Clearly, something about his message is appealing to many people (it also helps to get a shout-out from The Resurgence).

In light of the way it has gone viral, I thought I might offer a brief response.  Below are four reasons why I love (pure) religion, but hate false dichotomies.

  1. Jesus was highly religious.  He was a devout, Torah-observing Jew, profoundly concerned about living a pure, God-honoring life.  When Jesus criticized the Pharisees and teachers of the Law – the self-proclaimed “religious people” of his day – he was not criticizing their “religion” but rather their lack thereof (cf. Jam. 1:27)!  It’s not that the Pharisees were too careful or strict in their observance of the Law.  Rather, they felt the freedom to pick and choose what they would follow, preferring to puff up their self-righteous hearts by (rightly) tithing out of their spice racks while (wrongly) neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness (“the weightier matters of the Law“).  Pitting Jesus against “religion” is inconsistent.
  2. Religion isn’t the problem.  Prideful works-righteousness is.  Do we really want to give up the word “religion” to a few self-righteous legalists who don’t understand the glories of grace?  I don’t.  The real issue is the way we all (not just the grumpy Baptist fundamentalists down the road) tend to confuse God’s grace with our merit.  You don’t have to be wearing a suit and tie to be brimming with self-righteousness.  The contrast isn’t “religion” vs. Jesus.  Rather, it’s mandated obedience in order to please a heavenly Dictator vs. a vital, Spirit-formed relationship with our benevolent Father. Christianity is fundamentally about the latter, not the former.  Pitting Jesus against “religion” just isn’t helpful.
  3. Christianity is a religion.  From a historical perspective, to abstract Jesus from the religion that he started is kind of silly.  By any normal definition, Christianity is a religion.  We can repudiate religion based on works-righteousness without disparaging religion based on Jesus.  Additionally, your “I follow Jesus, not a particular religion” line will only go so far.  Sooner or later, your unbelieving friends will realize that you’re simply a Christian who loves Jesus, and your false dichotomy will just end up making you look dumb and/or insincere.  Pitting Jesus against “religion” is simply silly.
  4. Jesus loves His church.  I worry about the conclusions that many will draw from rhetoric like this.  Many who dislike “religion” also dislike “the church,” thinking it’s full of disingenuous, self-righteous people.  And they’re right – the church is full of disingenuous, self-righteous people because the church is full of sinners!  But Christ loves His church.  He created it, sustains it, and is Lord over it.  And He desires that His people live, worship, and evangelize the world in community.  There’s no such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian.  We were (re)created for Christian community (aka, the church).  Additionally, the New Testament clearly outlines a certain organization, structure, and authority for the church.  Yes, it can be abused, but that doesn’t mean we have the right to throw it out.  Pitting Jesus against “religion” is potentially dangerous.

All that being said, I understand the “heart” of the video’s message and agree with it. Christianity is first and foremost about the God who, in love, sovereignly reached out to wayward men and women for their salvation and joy. It’s not about what we need to do for God, but what He has already done for us.  Amen and amen.

I just think there are more helpful ways to go about accomplishing what Bethke and millions of other Christians really want: the faithful proclamation of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For more good thoughts on this, check out Jared Wilson’s blog.

First Things:

The original justification for the modern welfare state was that it would be a “safety net”—an exception to the rules of normal economic ebb and flow, designed to lift up those who, through some oversight, had “slipped through the cracks.” But we now find ourselves in a situation where the exception is becoming the norm; where the government providing emergency relief is turning into the government simply providing.

The midcentury compromise contained an unspoken background assumption: that most first-world citizens would never need such help, and that they would always be able to find gainful employment and contribute a modest portion of their income to welfare programs. With this assumption increasingly eroding, it is worth asking the question of whether, in a nation where 45 million citizens depend on the government to do something as basic as eat dinner, what kind of meaningful participation in public life can be preserved. A genuinely democratic form of government presupposes a certain level of independence and self-reliance on the part of its citizenry—without it, a managerial model increasingly takes over.