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Friday, October 31, 2008

Truth in Advertising - NOT

Something that I have found ... distasteful ... over this and most other election cycles is the simple fact that our "truth in advertising" laws don't apply to political ads. I'm not addressing here candidates or propositions I oppose or defend. I'm talking about simply being honest.

Where I live there are several controversial propositions on the ballot. I'm seriously disappointed by the fact that several are intentionally deceitful. One proposition, called "the Majority Rules proposition," sounds so democratic. The truth is that if it passes it will eliminate almost any possibility to pass citizen-initiated propositions. That's because, while it claims to operate on a "majority rules" system, it actually requires a majority of registered voters to rule on a proposition. If 50% of the registered voters don't show up, it can't pass. In this proposition, non-voters are counted as "no" votes. That's not actually "majority rule." Another is a "Stop Illegal Hiring" proposition that, as it turns out, actually eases the ability of companies to hire illegal aliens. One is a "Payday Loan Reform" proposition. It has been touting for weeks now that it will offer great reform to the payday loan industry here in Arizona. Day after day they trot out "hard-hitting" ads about how this "tough proposition" will root out the bad payday loan companies and make major changes to the industry. Nice! We want that. But wait! It turns out that in two years the industry will be outlawed from the state entirely. Huh? No one mentioned that in the ads for this proposition. And then you look at the "paid for by" tag and ... what? This proposition has been floated by and paid for by ... the payday loan industry. Now wait! That doesn't make sense! No, it doesn't. And when you read the proposition carefully you find that it "limits" the industry to charging more than 400% interest and running more than one concurrent loan to any given customer. Now that is hard-hitting reform! NOT! It's plain and simple deceit by an industry trying to secure its future in a state that is about to remove it. It is not truth in advertising.

Another proposition is clear enough, but the ads aren't. It is simply a "Freedom of Choice Act" where a law would be enacted that would prevent the government from forcing citizens to choose a particular health care plan. That's it. It insures our freedom of choice on health care ... you know, in case someone comes into office that tries to force a "universal health care" plan on everybody and limit our choices to that. Ads against it include one by the governor (who favors "universal health care") who says "It will limit our choices." Well, it will limit our choice to demand that everyone be part of universal health care, maybe. Somehow, it seems, women ought to have their freedom to choose to kill unborn babies untouched, but our freedom to choose a doctor should not be defended. That seems ... dishonest.

Advertisements for and against candidates are really hard to follow. One candidate in particular apparently ignores and stands on principles. Huh? Yes, one ad against him says, "He ignores principles." Another ad for him says, "He stands on principles." Oddly, both ads cite the same source ... the local newspaper. Now, people, really, he can't do both. He is either a man of principles or he isn't. Someone is lying. At the very least, someone is "shading the truth" (a euphemism for lying). One that is particularly disturbing to me is this series of attacks on several candidates based largely on their "support for a national sales tax." "Don't we already have too many taxes?" they complain. "It does away with corporate income tax," they claim. Well, yeah. It also does away with personal income tax, death taxes, and the like. The national sales tax is intended to shift the taxation situation from income to outgo, from what you make to what you spend. But they don't tell you that. They try to convince you that these people are simply trying to take more money from you and let those evil corporations off. The national sales tax idea may or may not be a good idea. It's merits and problems ought to be discussed. But misrepresenting it will not serve that process, and this is not "truth in advertising."

My real problem with the intentional deception that is political advertising is the simple premise that Americans are stupid. The notion is that we will not examine the issues, not investigate the candidates, not read the propositions. We will simply do what the loudest and longest commercials tell us to do. It smells like Hitler's "Tell a lie big enough and long enough and people will believe you." It feels like "You people are too stupid to figure out the truth for yourself, so just do what we tell you." Unfortunately, I'm afraid there are indeed too many people today who, brought up on a steady diet of TV instead of reading and learning, will do just that. I suppose, then, that I'm most disturbed by the appearance that these political liars have a genuine premise with which to lead the sheeple of America.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Tribute

I'll be traveling tomorrow -- a trip to California. It's not a pleasure trip. My wife and I will be attending a funeral. One week ago my wife's mother passed away. I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to my mother-in-law.

She came into this world on December 1, 1933 in Glencoe, Minnesota. Born Donna Mae Howe, she married John Sustacek (pronounced soos-ta-chek) in September, 1951. They moved to California in 1956 with two little children and stayed.

Donna was a "liberated woman." By that I mean that she was free of all the garbage that so many other women have picked up since. While so many today think that the only truly liberated woman is the one encumbered by the need to be a corporate climber, Donna had the most fulfilling job. She was a homemaker. Now, don't pass that off too quickly. She was a true homemaker. While John went off to work and provided the income for what was to be six children, Donna made a home. She sewed clothes, made costumes at Halloween, gardened -- growing fruits and vegetables -- remodeled and repainted, painted, stitched, fixed. She did what was needed to make a home. Beyond the practical, she made a home atmosphere. To this day she has a host of kids, now adults, who grew up thinking of her home as their second home, her as their adopted mother. Many of her girls' boyfriends would often return long after ending their relationships with her daughters just to visit "Mom Sustacek." This place was a home. While her grandchildren had homes and families, many of them still think of "Gramma's" place as their second home. Donna was a true homemaker and she did it very well.

Donna Sustacek was a truly remarkable woman. She was the product of an earlier generation. She was careful with their money while remaining generous to a fault. She would find deals at garage sales or second-hand stores for things she knew her daughters or her neighbors or her grandkids would love and snatch them up to give them. She loved people. She came from that older community mind when you cared about your neighbors and they cared about you. She took part in organizing neighborhood parties and providing meals for people in need. There was the annual 4th-of-July block party for which she would organize, decorate, and participate with vigor. In her last days, neighbors would come to her side or sing outside her window, her beloved friends to the end. The vast numbers of people whose lives she touched became evident when the family set about trying to notify interested parties about the funeral. There were old boyfriends that her daughters had dated and still kept in touch. There was an old girlfriend from her grandson's earlier dating. There were neighbors who had lived in other neighborhoods and never lost touch, friends and family throughout the country, and people from around the world.

A couple of years ago, Donna suffered a stroke. There were difficult times for her, but she battled back to become herself again. Donna was always a fighter. She would fight for her family, fight for her home, fight for her values. She fought the stroke. But in the months that followed, the doctors discovered cancer near her heart and lungs. A year after her stroke, she was again in physical trouble. There was pneumonia and cancer and the effects of cancer treatment. But she fought back again, and prevailed. Early this year she faced the fight against death again. Doctors were certain in April that she was not long for this world. Her family gathered to say goodbye. Of course, Donna was still a fighter. She stayed through May when I visited her when I went to my older son's college graduation. Though weak and being fed by a tube, she promised to remain until I could come back in June. She kept her promise when I came out for my son's wedding. Beyond "hanging on," she improved. In the months that followed she gave up the hospital bed they had brought into the house for her and, though weak, she continued to improve. In late September they bought a small RV because she wanted to go to her grandson's football games, but needed a place to rest at times. They planned to travel to Texas to see their newest granddaughter in early October. Then she was hit again with pneumonia. In the hospital, she suffered a heart attack. Then the doctors discovered the cancer had returned in force. It was wrapped around her heart. The doctors said she was dead ... her body just didn't know it. On Friday they stopped giving her water. She insisted on going home to die. They assured her she wouldn't survive the 5-mile trip. But Donna was a fighter to the end. She did make it home. She hung on desperately until every last one of her children made it to her side and said their goodbyes.

Donna Mae Sustacek died on October 23, 2008, almost a week after the doctors determined she was dead and longer than most say you can survive without water. I don't know what kept her going so long. Maybe it was that she was a fighter. Maybe it was her big heart. She lapsed into a coma five days before and went peacefully in the evening. She is survived by her husband, John, her six children, Michele, Margo, Maureen, John, Jeff, and Mindy, her twelve grandchildren, her four great-grandchildren, and the host of various and sundry people who will always think of her as "Mom Sustacek" regardless of their blood relationship with her. A wife, a mother, a grandmother, a true homemaker, a fighter, a neighbor, a seamstress, artist, builder, worker, cook, fixer of all things ... Donna was a larger-than-life woman. She will be missed.

It is said that there is no "expiration date" on people. It isn't true, you know. Everyone expires. If you, like me, believe in God, everyone expires when they're supposed to. It doesn't always make you feel better at the time. It doesn't make their passing immediately less painful. It doesn't make it pleasant. Still, it's good to know that our dear Mom Sustacek will always be dearly loved, fondly remembered, and went at exactly the right time. She left this world last week, but she will not leave our memories or our affection ... ever.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


This is not original. A friend of mine in the banking profession sent me this. I thought it was funny enough to pass on.
Dear Sirs,

I recently received a notice on one of my checks that said "insufficient funds." In view of what is going on internationally with banks at the moment, I was wondering if you could advise me. Does that refer to me or to you?


A depositor

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

World View

I know ... I've already whined about not wanting any more politics at my house. I know ... I've already voted. But that post was intended as humor. Besides ... I have a scoop. So maybe some of my readers who haven't yet voted might benefit from this information.

Overheard: "Most of Europe wants America to elect Obama."

At work, we recently had a visitor from Europe. Of course, he was fascinated by all the political flurry, so he was discussing politics with some of our people. That's what he said. I found it interesting. My first thought? "Hmmm, so why would Europe want us to elect Obama?" There are possibilities. There are many differences in viewpoints among Americans when it comes to voting, but one thing that almost all Americans have in common when they vote is a central motivation: "What is best for America?" Sure, often it is more correctly, "What will benefit me more?" And obviously we are not in agreement on what is best for America. Still, it is a benefit for America that is in mind. So ... what about Europe? Are they thinking, "Obama will be the best for America"? I thought that would be a bit odd, considering the amount of anti-American sentiment abroad. Rather than guess at the answer, I simply asked him. He told me what I thought would be the answer.

According to this European, most of Europe wants America to elect Senator Obama because it will be to the greatest detriment to America. No, no, that's not quite what he said ... but it was close. Actually he said, "If Obama is president, America will diminish its worldwide influence. America will stop being the massive international presence that it is. Europe wants to do what they want to do without America's input, and they believe that Obama will do that."

This makes sense, given that nearly everyone admits that Senator McCain is the leader in foreign policy expertise. It makes sense given Senator Obama's desire to "talk" rather than act. It is my feeling that if, God forbid, we had another terrorist strike on our soil, we'd get a resounding message from President Obama. "Don't you guys do that again! I'll give you such a severe talking to! Don't think I won't!"

Maybe America thinks that a diminished America would be a good thing. I don't know. I can't actually imagine it. But those outside America would love to see the last superpower go away. Oh, we don't have to fall. No. Just ... be quiet. And given the apparent absence of the United States in any biblical prophecy of end times, I would think that this might be disturbing to American Christians. Given American pride, I would think that this would be disturbing to all Americans. Or maybe not. Maybe a silenced America is good for America? I can't see it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Synod of Dort

Ever wonder where that whole "Arminianism versus Calvinism" thing came from?

John Calvin died in 1564. Then came Jacobus Arminius. Born in 1560, he became a professor of theology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in 1603 until his death in 1609. By his day, Reformed Theology was the theology of the Protestant Church, especially in the Netherlands. Arminius studied under Beza, Calvin's successor, and generally agreed with Calvin's positions. There were, however, a few points with which he disagreed. Primarily, he thought that Predestination and Unconditional Election made God out to be the author of evil. He argued that Election was about believers and was, as such, conditioned on faith (a position that has become known as "Middle Knowledge"). He questioned the Perseverance of the Saints but agreed with Total Depravity. However, he had promised to remain true to the doctrines of the Church and never taught publicly against them. He did, on the other hand, share his concerns privately with some of his students. These followers grew restless and, after his death, filed what is called a "Remonstrance." This was a formal statement of grievances for the Church.

In 1618 the Church called a synod in the city of Dordrecht to address the official grievances of the followers of Arminius. The gathering was known as the Synod of Dort. The Remonstrants listed five points with which they differed with Calvin's theology and the official doctrines of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands. Mixed in the fray were governmental issues. The students of Arminius were also concerned about an issue similar to "states' rights" and sought to decentralize the government. Another issue was what is called "anti-confessional humanism," the disagreement with Total Depravity and the certainty of the ultimacy of Man's Free Will. They wanted to eliminate confessions as the rule of the Church and replace it with individualism. This tended to confuse rather than clarify the questions.

The synod met with more than 100 church leaders in attendance from all over Europe and held some 180 sessions to discuss the issues. The Remonstrants were ultimately defeated and expelled from their churches. The resulting Canons of Dort became part of the confessional standards of the Dutch Reformed Church. The affirmation of the five issues that have since become known as "The Five Points of Calvinism" provided a coherent position for the Church. The model of the synod, in fact, was seen so favorably that it was the same model used by the makers of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646).

Two important points I see in this little historical account. First, the questions were asked and answered. I've been told by more than one person, "If they couldn't solve this in all this time, what makes you think you can figure it out now?" The notion is mistaken in two areas. In the first place, it was solved. The Church met, examined the issues, and came to a conclusion. The fact that some people don't like the conclusion doesn't mean that there is none. The other problem is this: The lack of an "acceptable conclusion" doesn't mean that we should either stop looking for answers or assume there are none.

The second point -- and very important -- is in those who point to the controversy and say, "See? You Christians can't agree!" The truth is that the primary source of this particular conflict was Calvin's Institutes of Religion, a four-volume work on the doctrines of Christianity. There is a massive amount of information in these volumes. To argue "You Christians can't agree" is to completely ignore the vast quantity of agreement. Arminius disagreed with three or four issues. The Remonstrants disagreed with five. Just five. Where else are you going to find a large group of individuals who agree on everything except five points?

The roar of the debate is sometimes loud. The apparent anger from folks on both sides of the issue is sometimes hot. The truth, however, is that, with the exception of fringe folk, both sides agree with the other on most issues, and both sides agree that the other side is likely in the fold, even if the other guys are slightly confused on a couple of areas. So when you go to debate the issues, remember that charity is important, that respect is required, and that there is far more on which you agree than you disagree. It might help to decrease the heat and shed more light.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

For Good

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly (1 Peter 2:19).

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:2-5).

And we know that God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
I've had a rough couple of weeks lately, so I'm putting these up for my benefit, likely, more than for yours. Something for me to remember. Oh, and any of you out there who is facing difficulties and hard times, maybe it will be a good reminder for you as well, especially on this day of worship.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Goal

I've heard this far too often: "Why do you Christians feel like you need to force your beliefs onto us?" I can imagine that this is often the feeling an unbeliever gets from us. We're adamant that this is the right thing, certain that Christ is the only way, and positive that our views and values are good for everyone. Now, that sounds arrogant ... and forceful.

Of course, there are two things missing from that perspective. The first is ... what if it's all true? You see, if it is true that human beings are sinners, destined for damnation, in need of a Savior, then we would be remiss in telling them ... all. If godly living makes for better living, it isn't arrogant to say so. If Jesus really is the only way, then saying it is true isn't arrogant ... it's true.

The other missing component is hinted at in the first. If it is true, then we would be remiss in telling them. That is, if the people around us about whom we care are in danger of God's wrath, in what sense would it be kind or loving to ignore it? Anyone who has ever lost a loved one and is fairly confident that they didn't go to heaven when they died can understand what I'm talking about. It's not vindication. It's not "I told you so." It's grief upon grief. There is the personal loss of that loved one compounded by the eternal loss. It is unpleasant ... and that is intended as an extreme understatement. So the primary motivation isn't "We want to hammer you with the truth." The primary motivation is love.

Lest you think I'm just pulling this rabbit out of a hat, you'll find the same thing in Scripture. In Paul's first letter to Timothy, he tells him to stay in Ephesus for a few reasons. One of them is to "charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:3). That is, one of his primary purposes in Ephesus was to correct false teaching. Paul is not unclear on the aim of this command:
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5).
The purpose for Timothy to correct false doctrine and those who teach it is love. In Galatians 6:1 and James 5:19-20 we are called not to merely correct errors, but to "restore" or "bring back" wandering brothers. It is not for vindication; it is because we care. Indeed, the hallmark of a Christian is love (John 13:35). The fact that it is often not true among Christians is not a contradiction to the veracity of the statement, but an indictment of those calling themselves Christians.

The goal is not to force our beliefs onto others. The goal is to defend the truth (Jude 1:3) because we care about those around us. Now, it is likely a given that those around us will continue to think of us as "forcing your beliefs on us," but you, Christians, remember that the mark of a true follower of Christ is love. Let that be your primary motivation.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jesus Doeth All Things Well

God has a variety of ways that he dealt with the needs of His people.

Take, for instance, the hemorrhagic woman. All she did was touch the hem of Jesus's garment. Without any apparent conscious effort on His part, she was healed. Then there was the man born blind. He corrected His disciples misconception. "Was he born blind because his parents were sinful or because he was sinful?" "Neither. He was born blind to the glory of God." And He healed the man on the spot. When Elijah needed sustenance, God provided daily food deliveries by birds. When that ran out, He provided just what Elijah, the widow, and her son needed to eat every day. Just enough.

Then there was the feeding of the 5,000. The disciples came to Jesus with a problem. "Send them away. They need to eat and we can't feed them." His remedy? "You feed them." "We can't!" they protested. "What do you have?" He asked. A boy's lunch ... that was all. So He blessed it and handed it to them ... and they had 12 baskets left over.

Most of my life has been the latter. I can't recall an instantaneous healing or a "miraculous" remedy. Instead, it has seemed, all my life, that Jesus has said, "You handle it." And when I've complained, "I can't!", He's simply taken what I had and used it to just get me through ... always, it seems, with a little extra left over.

It's not the most comfortable place to be ... always trying to solve seemingly impossible problems with inadequate means. On the other hand, I know, like the hymnist, that "whate'er befalls me Jesus doeth all things well." I guess I need to keep that in mind a lot.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Amending Marriage

More than one state is facing an amendment to marriage. What is really at stake here? First, marriage is on the chopping block. We already allowed the watering down of marriage from "one man and one woman for the purpose of procreation" to be "one man and one woman ... for apparently more or less recreational purposes" or something like it. The next step is "If it is primarily for feeling good, then who cares who is involved?" And if it is purely for good feelings, then clearly there is no need for commitment, for fidelity, for procreation, for any of that. In other words, all essential meaning is stripped from the word. "Marriage" has always meant the union of a man and a woman and, as such, has symbolized any union. It could be two companies that become one. It could be two pieces of a whole that become part of that whole. It could be the union of lyrics and music that make a song. But it has always meant "a union," where two become one. Should the meaning of the term "marriage" now change again to include same-sex "marriage," no meaning of "union" can be included (as all "marriage" becomes naturally soluble -- more so than today). Marriage, then, is at stake when we move from its longstanding and traditional definition of "the union of one man and one woman."

There is more at stake, however. In America, same-sex "marriage" is legal in 3 of 50 states. Of all countries in the world, it is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, and Spain. That's 6 out of approximately 193 recognized countries. In the U.S., then, it's 6%, and in the world it is slightly over 3%. So ... why is it that our national media seems to portray it as "normal," expected, universal, and those of us who are opposed are backwards and out of step? In fact, two very common terms are used among homosexuals to describe the two groups: "straight" and "queer." There is no ambiguity in the terms. "Straight" is normal and "queer" ... is not. Yet those who see it as not normal are viewed as "queer" in some sense. Why? Why is it that liberal groups on the fringes of Christianity and other religions have decided to create a theology that is more inclusive than has existed in Christianity since its beginnings both in Judaism and then in the first century and following? This kind of argument is the same kind of things we're seeing here in Arizona over Proposition 102. Two years ago a proposition was offered to restrict marriage to a man and a woman ... and to eliminate benefits for domestic partners. The measure was barely defeated, and it was never about marriage; it was about benefits for heterosexuals. Now they're arguing "We already voted on this!" No, we didn't. And it's the same kind of argument today. While an extreme minority argue that it's the norm, that extreme minority is represented as a majority and their use of the term "normal" makes it normal. "We've already decided this," they argue. "Why are you so out of step? "Christianity has always been inclusive," they contend. "Why are you trying to change it?"

What, then, is at stake here? Obviously the definition of marriage is at stake. Its longstanding and traditional definition has been edged further and further from the norm and now they're ready to simply boot it out of our moving car and call you who disagree "backwards" and "judgmental" for, you know, having an opinion. Marriage is at stake. But more than marriage, Christianity is at stake. First, the standard sola scriptura view that says that the Bible is our sole source for faith and practice will need to be thrown away because the fringe groups identifying themselves as "Christian" while arguing against any historical Christianity will become the mainstream. Already the media is confused about what Christianity teaches because some who name themselves such teach something different. Your Bible, then, would be basically useless. There is something "new" that replaces it -- our own opinions. Beyond that, those who would still hold to their Bibles as authoritative would be relegated to the outside. We would be "lepers" of old, separated as "unclean." We would be the "fringe," while normal becomes defined by the fringe. It is not inconceivable (because it has been suggested already) that we would even be viewed as dangerous to society.

Some think, "It's no big deal. Let them have their word. It won't affect me." It's a naive position to take. Redefining that which is "queer" as "normal" and that which is "normal" as dangerous is not a small item. Allowing an extreme minority to dictate to the rest of the world what they will and will not be allowed to think is not a small item. Redefining "evil" as "good" and "good" as "evil" is a definite effect. And don't think I'm being alarmist. It is, in fact, the expectation from Scripture (Isa 5:20).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Purpose of Church

I suppose I have a skewed view on some things. Okay, some would say many things. My mom used to say I am out in left field (well, she included herself in that), but I think it's more like right field. You know, the place that no one hits to. Today's "some things" is about the Church.
11 And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph 4:11-16).
This passage is the foundational one that forms my perspective of the purpose and function of the Church. I know, I know, it's not the normal one. The normal one is the idea that the Church exists to make converts. I don't see that here. I understand that evangelism is the command to Christians, but it seems to me that the purpose of church is "to equip the saints for the work of ministry." It is discipleship (Matt 28:19). (Notice that the Great Commission is not to make converts, but to make disciples.) It is fellowship (Heb 10:25). Indeed, Hebrews 10 says something similar to the Ephesians passage.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb 10:23-25).
Very similar. The goal here of gathering together is to assist each other in holding fast the confession of our hope, to stir one another to love and good works, to encourage one another. In other words, the goal is to build believers, to equip saints, to make each part work properly in the Body.

So why is it that churches seem to miss this? They seem to be fairly good at gathering congregants, but how about disciples? What makes a person part of a church rather than simply going to church?

Most churches are easy to visit. It's simple to come and go. Especially mega-churches. Who knows if you're there or not? Making people a part of the church is something different. There are, in my view, two primary things that make people part of a church. First, there is the connection of shared labor. Being fed is important -- vital. The primary purpose of Sunday morning service is the preaching of the Word. Milk is necessary at the beginning, but the author of Hebrews expects believers to move on to solid food (Heb 5:12-14). But believers are gifted by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:7) and expected to exercise that gifting in the Body. That's called "ministry." That's not just the job of the minister; it's the job of each believer, and it's the job of the church to give each member the place to function in that gift. The second factor is that of family. The highest hallmark of a Christian is love for one another (John 13:35). We are brothers and sisters in Christ. As such, there ought to be family ties between believers.

You know ... just like the first church:
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
(Oh, and note, by the way, who it was that "added to their number day by day." Are you sure that's the primary job of the church?)

Imagine that ... a church that 1) is devoted to the Word (the teaching of the Apostles' teaching, 2) fellowship, 3) meeting together constantly, 4) meeting each others' needs, and 5) worshiping together. That's not a church you're likely to leave easily. That's one I'd like to find.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Arminian Texts

There are certain texts in Scripture that are very popular among those who oppose Reformed theology. They like to trot these out as "proof" that the Doctrines of Grace are wrong. Here are some examples that even sound quite compelling:
Unconditional Election
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Limited Atonement
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1).

Irresistible Grace
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32)

Perseverance of the Saints
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt (Heb 6:4-6).
It seems to me, though, that trotting some of these passages (and more like them) will lead you to conclusions that you never intended to achieve. Is it safe to use these as arguments against what they are perceived to argue against?

That 2 Peter 3 verse is really popular. It "proves" that it is God's will that every human being come to repentance. There! It's clear! God doesn't simply will to save some. He wills to save all! There is a problem, though. If this verse is saying that God wills to save all ... why are not all saved? What in God's will cannot be accomplished? And if He cannot or will not accomplish His own will, well, we're in serious trouble. He's not Sovereign! Look, clearly, if Man's will overrides God's will in this case, then it is unavoidable that Man is the Sovereign in this case. And that is a problem. Are you sure you want to read it that way?

The 2 Peter 2 passage is just a lone example of a bigger set of passages against "Limited Atonement." These passages say such things as "all" and "the world." There are verses like 1 John 4:14 that say things like "the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." First Timothy 4:10 says that "we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." (Note: Doesn't it bother you that, if this is intended to say that Christ is the one who saves all people, it says "especially of those who believe"? I mean, if "all people" are saved, what is special about "those who believe"? That should be a hint.) There are lots of these passages. So, clearly, Christ's atonement is for all people! And, Houston, we have a problem. You see, if the atonement is for all people (as in "applied to all people"), then it is necessary that all people are actually saved. If Romans 5:18 ("Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.") actually means that Christ provided justification and life to all men, then all men are already justified. The only possible conclusion is that the Universalists are right and everyone is saved. Hallelujah! Of course, that causes other problems ... like the multitude of passages that say it isn't so. "No, no," they counter, "that doesn't mean that all sin is paid for and all people are justified. It simply means that they can be." Okay, that avoids one problem, but steps into another couple of difficulties. First, if you are reading those like they appear to read, then you must void the obvious meaning of "already accomplished justification" to change to a meaning of "potential justification." But if you can change their "plain meaning," haven't you voided your own argument? The other problem, of course, is that if you argue that it is potential justification rather than actual justification, you have just lapsed back into limits on the Atonement. If not all are atoned for, then the Atonement is limited. If all are atoned for, then no one can justly be damned. Hmmm, that is a problem. Are you sure you want to read it that way?

I've started you on the problems that occur with these passages. They argue more than you intend. The John 12 verse, for instance, is specifically cited to argue against the John 6:44 passage where Jesus says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." "There, see? Jesus says He'll draw everyone." Umm, okay, so why does He fail? If His actual intent is to actually draw "all men" meaning "each and every" and He fails, we have another problem.

The Hebrews 6 passage is really fascinating. It is "proof" that you can lose your salvation. It's right there in black and white! If you have [been saved] (to summarize the first part) and "then have fallen away", it's clear that you lose your salvation! How is there any question? Now, remember, I'm not making arguments here for the Reformed view. I'm pointing out the problems that occur with these passages. So don't try to offer "Well, it's not really talking about saved people" or some such. I'm taking the argument from the Arminian side. If that says that saved people who fall away lose their salvation, then it also affirms something else: "It is impossible ... to restore them again to repentance." If you are going to use this passage to argue that salvation can be lost, then you must necessarily argue that, once lost, it cannot be regained. Anyone who loses their salvation is permanently and irrevocably damned. (And remember, if you try to change the "plain meaning" of the passage at this point, you're simply indulging in that which you accuse those who already disagree with your understanding of the passage.)

There are lots of passages that anti-Calvinists like to trot out to prove that Reformed theology is false and their view is right. I only wish to caution here that you might find yourself proving things you don't actually hold yourself. Beware of the arguments you make in your defense; they may end up shooting you in the foot ... or worse.

Monday, October 20, 2008

In Trouble

I got myself in trouble the other day at the market. As I was doing some necessary shopping, I observed a woman who had figured out a brilliant system. She would move her cart to the end of an aisle and then send her son down the aisle to get what she wanted on that row. It was a breeze! She didn't have to maneuver through carts and kids. The stuff she wanted came to her!

I went over to her and commented, "Looks like you have this whole thing figured out. You just stand at the end and let your boy go do the work. Pretty smart!"

My error? I didn't take into account that it was a black woman to whom I was speaking. Had it been a white woman or a Hispanic woman or an Asian woman, I would have said, "Looks like you have this whole thing figured out. You just stand at the end and let your boy go do the work. Pretty smart!" I made the mistake of being totally color-blind.

She, of course, didn't appreciate it. I was insulting her. I was being a racist. I was inconsiderate and intolerant and very likely a clansman. "Don't be calling my son a 'boy'! Get away from me before I call the manager!"

"Ma'am," I replied quietly, "I'm sorry for failing to take into account that you are black. I thought of you as a person, and I didn't even think about you being black." I should have stopped there, but, after a pause, I had to finish my thought. "But it sure makes me wonder who is more racist."

She called the manager.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Where Wrath and Mercy Met

We sang a song in church a week or so ago. I can't tell you the title. There was a line in the song that spoke about the Cross as the place where "love and mercy" met.

I thought about that. It's true. Love and mercy met there. But I think of love and mercy as related already, so "met" doesn't seem as remarkable or appropriate to me. I mean, if you love someone, you will tend to show them mercy anyway. Love and mercy are already acquainted. To me, there were other things that "met" at the Cross, things more mysterious.

At the Cross, wrath and mercy met. That's a contrast. At the Cross, Christ received the wrath of God on my behalf, the wrath I deserved, so that I could be shown mercy. Wrath and mercy seem contradictory, but at the Crucifixion, they were introduced to each other (so to speak).

At the Cross, justice and grace met -- again, a contrast rather than a parallel. And it was so necessary. God had a "dilemma" to solve. In Him we find attributes such as love, mercy, and grace, but we also find things like justice and wrath. God intended to show us His mercy, but He also intended to show His wrath. He intended to show us grace, but He couldn't disregard His justice. So what was He to do? In Christ at the Cross we find the divine solution. Pour out on His sinless Son the judgment that I deserve and show me mercy and grace.

Sure, love and mercy were at the Cross. I am more amazed at the crossing of wrath and mercy, the junction of grace and justice. And I am so glad that He did it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The American Experiment

Don't get me wrong. I love my country. I think, in fact, that it is likely the best country in the world. That doesn't require, however, that I cannot find fault or that I must think that the country is perfect. I think, in fact, that there are some problems that our country has caused rather than solved. (Now, keep in mind here that I am speaking to American Christians, since we have a particular standard of "right and wrong" both in terms of morality as well as worldview. If you don't value the Christian worldview, this won't pertain to you.)

The American Experiment has some valuable assets, to be sure, but I contend that there are inherent errors that started at the beginning. Take, for instance, the Declaration of Independence. While we all find it to be a noble document, it must be considered by Christians to be ... well ... wrong. There is a list of things that the drafters of the document referred to as "self-evident." One of them was "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Nice thought, and Americans generally take it as true ... but the Bible disagrees. "There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God" (Rom. 13:1).

That, in fact, is basis of a key American problem. Those who live under other types of governments don't typically have the problem we have with authority. Henry James (1843-1916) provided a list of things that America had none of. At the top of the list was "No sovereign." The echo from the decade of the '60's was "Question authority!" The key to the American perspective has been individuality. Independence and equality are the primary "good" to America.

You can only imagine, then, the dilemma that occurs in the mind of the American Christian when we read, "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (Rom 6:16). Given the American ideal that no authority has rights over people, you can certainly see that a God who judges would be an unacceptable notion to Americans. In a society that values the individual above all else, you can easily see that dying to self would be not only unwise, but unwanted, even idiotic. "Me? Submit? No way!"

I love my country. I think it's likely the best country on the planet. Still, it isn't perfect. And some of the things that we value most, as it turns out, seem to be in direct opposition to God. How, then, do we make the "Gospel" a message that Americans would like? Be careful how you answer. If it removes Sovereignty or Lordship, it's the wrong direction.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Are We There Yet?

You'd think that if they can put a man on the moon, they could give me a device that would block politics from my home.

We here in Arizona have this really cool option of "vote by mail." In my case that means that I've already voted. Play your games. Throw your parties. Cast your aspersions. It doesn't matter. I've already voted. Except ... I still have to sit through all this interruption to life. I get phone calls from folks trying to convince me to vote their way. My TV shows get interrupted or canceled so they can bring to me, live, a debate between people about whom I've already made my choices. My mailbox is stuffed with junk mail from candidates and anti-candidates. I have voted and none of that matters anymore. You'd think that if they can put a man on the moon, they could give me a device that would block politics from my home.

Here's what I would like. I'd like a device that, when activated by early voting (or maybe apathy), my TV wouldn't show the debates between candidates. Instead, I'd get normal programming. Commercials for candidates and issues would be replaced with normal commercials or, better yet, no commercial at all! My phone would be fitted with a similar device that would simply reject phone calls regarding the political stuff. The mailman would get a notice not to put all that political stuff in my mailbox. Life would be ... smooth.

I'm already tired of the stuff. It sounds like two children bickering on the playground. "I voted for tax breaks." "Oh, yeah, well I voted for more tax breaks." "Uh-uh! Liar, liar, pants on fire! You voted for more taxes!" "Don't make me come over there and slap your momma." "Don't be talking about my momma. Families shouldn't be part of this." "Oh, yeah, then how come your momma wears combat boots she got in Iraq?" "Now you're going too far! Besides, you're not qualified to talk about my momma in Iraq." I want to put my hands over my ears. "Kids! Cut it out or I'm going to throw you both out of this car!" But, like a family on a car trip, I don't get the option of throwing these bickering children out of my car. They're occupying the airwaves and my answering machine and my mailbox and I don't care because I've already voted.

You'd think that if they can put a man on the moon, they could give me a device that would block politics from my home.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Alright, I'm probably a late-comer to this issue, but I recently became aware of FOCA, the Freedom of Choice Act. It is an Act introduced by Barbara Boxer (along with Senators Corzine, Murray, Lautenberg, Clinton, Cantwell, Jeffords, Lieberman, Feinstein, Sarbanes, and Mikulski) in 2004. It is a somewhat rambling piece (okay, "rambling" in my view) that comes down to a very simple point:
STATEMENT OF POLICY — It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.
Other provisions in this "little" Act would include the requirement that this law would override "every Federal, State, and local statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action enacted, adopted, or implemented before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act." So ... if you want (like South Dakota did in 2006) to pass a law regarding limitations to this choice, you would be denied. If you wanted to make it a rule, for instance, that minors obtain parental permission, it would be denied. The will of the people is irrelevant. If a doctor has a personal belief that abortion is wrong, he or she would be operating against the law to refuse to do it. The will of the individual is irrelevant.

Another stunning thing about this Act is the length it goes to give permission. It first goes by "fetal viability." Now, fetal viability isn't a preset value. Medical science today sees 24 weeks as "fetal viability," the point at which a fetus can survive outside of the womb. However, there have been cases of babies surviving outside the womb as early as 20 weeks (and, of course, those that don't survive outside of the womb as late as, say, 36 weeks). So ... where is the line? And if medical science improves, does it move? Nonetheless, this Act goes beyond "fetal viability." It says that abortion is allowed "after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman." Now, try to define "the life or health of the woman." Is it the emotional health? Mental health? Is the woman's "life" endangered if it would be an extreme financial hardship? Who determines if something is a danger to a woman's life or health? What would prevent the abortion of a "viable fetus" -- a baby -- based purely on a woman's "right to choose"? (Don't be deceived. There are those that make that argument. "Carrying a fetus is a medical procedure. No one is obligated to undergo a medical procedure.")

There is, of course, the serious concern from the political arena today:
Throughout my career, I've been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. ... I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president. -- Senator Obama
Is it any surprise that Robert George would say "Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States"?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Good for What Ails You

The New Deal

The New Deal was a product of the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted most of the components in his years in office. When the Great Depression hit, President Hoover struggled to fend off disaster. The economic crisis spurred a replacement of the Republican presidency and the Republican Congress. The New Deal, then, was an attempt to counter the Great Depression. The New Deal brought a series of short-term and long-lasting conditions that didn't exist previously. In the New Deal the government eliminated the gold standard. Gold reserves no longer backed the currency. The CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, was created to give jobs to unskilled workers. The Social Security Act started deducting money from employers and employees to pay for financial assistance to the elderly and handicapped. The FDIC was created to prevent further collapse of banks. The Fair Labor Standards Act created a minimum wage, set the maximum standard work week at 40 hours, and eliminated child labor. The Tennessee Valley Authority was instituted in 1933 to build dams to generate electricity. The National Labor Relations Act (later modified by the Taft-Hartley Act) assured workers the right to form unions. While the New Deal did focus on fiscal conservatism, its fundamental basis was largely Keynesian economics which holds that a government can encourage economic growth in the private sector primarily by spending and taxation. And while historians are basically unanimous in their opinion that the New Deal brought an end to the Great Depression, economists aren't so clear.

The Great Society

The Great Society was brought about by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He carried out measures that President Kennedy had tried to put in place but was stopped by a Congress that wasn't Democratically controlled. After Kennedy's death, a landslide for the Democrats in 1964 gave Johnson the power he needed to enact this plan. The two primary targets in this process were to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. The measures he enacted included things like the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which created the "Office of Economic Opportunity." The OEO was put in place to oversee community-based anti-poverty programs. Programs like VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), Food Stamps, and Project Head Start were created. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 allowed the federal government to put money into schools with a special emphasis on low-income and special-needs education and the Higher Education Act of 1965 allowed the government to make scholarship money available for lower-income students. Medicare/Medicaid were initiated to give medical coverage to seniors. To fight racial inequality, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. This prohibited hiring practices based on race. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 assured minorities the right to vote. Other things like the NEA, PBS, and NPR (along with other three-letter acronymns) were established in the Great Society. And there was a whole set of Acts passed that dealt with the environment ... all this amid the unpopular and expensive Vietnam War. History hasn't resolved the question of the effectiveness of the Great Society. Poverty still exists. The cost of these initiatives has been staggering. Medicare and Medicaid costs have increased and drained funds from Social Security to the point of nearly bankrupting both programs. But racism has radically declined and no one would argue that race should play a part in hiring practices or that race should be a factor in voting rights.

So ... who cares? Well, the last two times that we had a Democratic president with a Democrat-controlled Congress, we got the New Deal and the Great Society. Both offered solutions to your problems. Both operated on the belief that government was the answer. Both believed that it was best to take money from the people for their own good. Both tended toward a more socialist approach to life. And while both appeared to solve some problems, the long-term negative effects haven't stopped. So you decide. You can expect the same given a Democratic president and a Democrat-controlled Congress. In fact, we've been promised several similar things. So, are these wonderful solutions or at some point is the cure worse than the illness?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Abortion and Public Opinion

I was doing some research and came across a set of data from the Wall Street Journal that, frankly surprised me. It was an article about a Harris poll taken in 2006. The questions were about Americans' opinion about abortion -- specifically, Roe v Wade. Now, if I were to ask you before telling you the results what you thought they would be, what would you say? Based on the yelling and screaming offered in most media outlets today, I would have assumed off the bat that a majority of Americans were in favor of legalized abortion. Oh, maybe not a large majority, but at least a majority. Apparently I would be wrong.

The poll had some really fascinating results. In 2006 (the latest version of this poll), for instance, general support for Roe v Wade was at 49%, with 47% opposed. Now, 49% is less than a majority. It was, in fact, an all-time low. Back in the late 70's and again in the early 90's, support was up in the 60% range. No longer.

The poll results got even stranger when I dug into them. Harris asked whether people favored laws that made it more difficult to get an abortion. Some 40% favored "no change", but another 40% favored more restrictions. When they asked, "In general, do you favor permitting a woman who wants one to have an abortion in all circumstances, some circumstances or no circumstances?", I was surprised at the results. In almost a flatline response over the years, 26% to 30% favored "all circumstances." For "no circumstances" the figure ranged from 14% to 21%. The largest number, of course, was "some circumstances", ranging from 53% to 58%.

Why do these numbers surprise me? Well, I'm led to believe from all the public outcry that Americans are strongly in favor of abortion on demand. They want it legal. They want it available. And they want little restrictions. Oh, perhaps in the last trimester it wouldn't be okay, but they want it! Apparently the point has been missed. It appears instead that 1) overall support of abortion rights is slipping, and 2) what people really want is that abortion not be outlawed, but that it certainly be regulated. To put it another way, they don't want an unrestricted "woman's right to choose", but neither do they want no option for abortion.

I frankly don't know where most people stand on abortion. I believe that most who are opposed to killing babies in the womb see an exception in the case of a mother's life at risk. (Note: It is not abortions to which they are opposed; it is killing babies.) It appears that most who favor giving women the choice do not favor unconditional abortions. And the decline in the overall numbers who favor Roe v Wade is telling in itself. Maybe, just maybe, what we're being fed in the media isn't exactly accurate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

As Long As It's Not Me

I recently enjoyed a discussion with a visitor to this blog about God and evil. This post is not about God and evil. One thing he said (Funny ... I assume it's a "he." Could be a "she.") regarding God and judgment went like this: "‘Course it is never about them being killed—they have their spot assured in heaven. Easy to grandly wipe out 'the other guy.'" The suggestion was that we're perfectly happy to have others judged as long as it's not us.

The other day I saw a political ad. "Who is on our side?" they asked. The approach was this: Take money from the rich people and not from those with lower income. The arbitrary line that was drawn was $250,000 a year. This is appealing to most Americans. In 2006, the top 1% of American taxpayers made $388,806 or more per year. The top 5% made over $153,542 per year. So, there you have it. Something less than 5% but more than 1% of Americans would find themselves bearing the brunt of the heavy increase in government spending that will be required to meet the goals of universal health care and other programs we "need."

This is a selling point to Americans, apparently. As long as I get a tax break and new, better government programs giving me stuff I haven't earned but believe to be my right, what do I care about those who pay more? As long as I have my spot assured, it's easy to grandly wipe out the other guy, especially if he has been characterized as "evil" by the "have nots."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

But God

"But God" ... what a fascinating phrase. The phrase occurs in a variety of places under a variety of conditions for a variety of reasons in the Bible. Their purpose is obvious -- to contrast God with that with which the phrase is associated.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Gen 50:20).
The contrast here is simple. There is what they intended, and there is what God intended. They intended evil; God intended good. That's a contrast. It's also a point of relief, of comfort. Man plans evil and God plans good. God, in fact, uses the evil that Man plans to produce the good that God plans. What a relief! "But God ..."
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psa 73:26).
This verse contrasts the flesh with the spirit, the temporal with the eternal, the human with God. We are finite; He is infinite. And He gives life eternal. What a glorious contrast!

There are many more, but two of my favorites provide a similar, wonderful contrast:
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person -- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die -- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:7-8).

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved -- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:1-7).
"But God ..." Contrasted here is Man's lostness and God's incredible mercy. It contrasts "sinners" with God's love and Christ's death. It contrasts "dead in sin" with God's mercy and love.

One of our most common errors as sinful humans is to try to correlate God and Man. We make God lower than He is and make Man higher than he is. It's the only means, for instance, by which we can ever think of ourselves as "deserving heaven." It was the classic mistake of Israel: "Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness" (Rom 10:3). Bring God down to our level, and raise ourselves to His. This phrase, "but God," serves to keep us in place, to keep all things right. It contrasts God with us. It's a good contrast.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We Demand

Frankly, I'm getting tired of it. "It" is a full-on daily assault from WE, Al Gore's We can solve the climate crisis campaign. "To Our Leaders: Free us," the ad demands with images and music behind it. "Free us from our addiction to oil. Save us from $4.99 per gallon gas. Save our economy. Save us from this climate crisis. Give us truly clean energy. Use the wind. Use the sun. We demand that we use them. We demand that we repower America. There is a solution. There is no time to waste. We want a better future. We demand a better future. We the American people are no longer asking. Give us 100% clean electricity within 10 years." It ends with a "link" to the website.

What is it of which I'm tired? I'm tired of being told that there is a climate crisis when science still isn't quite sure of it. I'm tired of being spoken for. I wasn't aware that I was making this demand. Apparently every American is demanding this "100% clean electricity within 10 years." No one asked me. I'm tired of this entire concept of "we demand" without any reference in the slightest to how. Oh, sure, wind and sun, that's all it will take. Sign me up. Except I know that this is, first off, a lie and secondly it is incredibly expensive. Current technology does not exist to power America by these clean forms. The technology that does exist is phenomenally expensive. Did you know, for instance, that using current technology to harness the sun to power my house (and only my house) would cost $40,000 to install? One house ... $40,000. That's without transmission lines. And that's in the very small section of the United States that can actually use solar power. Extrapolate that out to include every house and every business and the vast system of transmission that would be required and we're not talking "cheap" or even "affordable" in our current economic climate. (And remember, the "demand" is not simply for "fossil-fuel" free energy, but "clean" energy, which eliminates nuclear, gas, coal, wood, solid waste, or any other "dirty" sources.)

Take a look for a moment at the cost of changing our power generating structure in America. According to the Energy Information Administration, we currently have a capacity for 1,075,677 megawatts of power. Of that, 977,711 megawatts are "unclean". (It may be more, since "other" includes some clean and some not so clean.) So how much would it cost to replace that power with clean, renewable power? Well, APS here in Arizona is building one of the world's largest solar-thermal plants here in the area of Gila Bend. They are spending $1 billion to produce 280 megawatts of power, enough for 70,000 homes. Now, let's see ... if we do the math, all we would need is about 3500 of these plants to replace the "bad" generation. And at $1 billion, well, that math is easy ... that would be ... oh, wait, that's a really big number. We're talking $3.5 trillion. The other cost to consider is space. The plant will cover 1900 acres. without accounting for transmission lines or boosters or the like, to generate sufficient power to replace existing sources, we would need to occupy 6,650,000 acres or roughly 10,390 square miles. No small area to consume.

Okay, so maybe that's not entirely viable. We can surely go to wind power as well, right? T. Boone Pickens is planning to build a 4,000 megawatt wind generator system. His expected cost is between $10 and $12 billion. Now, to use wind to replace the existing "bad" energy sources, we would need another 245 of these systems. (By "systems" I simply mean a field of wind generators.) That would cost somewhere between $2.45 to $3 trillion. (I can't find any figures on land use.)

There is, of course, one other option. Geothermal power uses the planet's internal heat to create electricity. Now, all we really need to do is take over Yellowstone National Park with its many geysers ... no, wait, that's not going to work. Okay, so surely we can just drill some deep holes and get there that way, right? Well, it's not quite that easy. Geothermal energy production has its environmental concerns. The fluids are often corrosive, and the process can make land areas unstable. Still, currently we are getting something like 8,000 megawatts of power worldwide from geothermal sources with the United states leading the way by producing some 1,935 megawatts. The DOE has calculated an average cost of $1.68 million for a geothermal plant built in America. Of course, experts estimate that, with enhanced technology, we could possibly produce 138,100 megawatts of power worldwide. Since America would need around 980,000 megawatts, that isn't going to help at all. Besides, estimates put the building of a 1,000 megawatt geothermal plant at $3 billion. Even if we could figure out how to do it, that would require nearly $3 trillion to replace the existing sources.

One thing about that commercial ... you know, the one that bugs me so much ... is that it includes a demand to "Save us from $4.99 per gallon gas." In the commercial, right there between our oil addiction and our economy, the commercial shows a counter with a rising price of gasoline for our cars. Now, what, in all this plan, will help with our cars? How will that help lower fuel costs? The truth is that we don't use a whole lot of petroleum to power our generators. Natural gas is by far the biggest source. So how will it help the rising cost of driving our cars if we were to manage to switch to other sources of electricity? But I guess I'm not supposed to ask questions like that.

"Give us solar power and give us wind power and give us geothermal power -- clean energy." That's the demand. Farther than that, "we want it in 10 years!" And don't get me wrong. I like clean energy and renewable energy and cheap energy. That's all good. But, the technology to do that is limited and the space it will take is much more than is currently used and the cost to accomplish it is massive. Still, we demand it and we demand it now! Listen, while you're at it, why not ask for some other useful impossibilities? You know, "a million dollars in every wallet" or "peace on earth" would be nice ... as long as no one asks "So ... how are we going to do that exactly?" or "Who's going to pay for that?" or other practical considerations.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Prop 102

I am not a real political pundit. No one really looks to me for political advice and I rarely make any political predictions. I'm no expert. So it was somewhat of a surprise to me when I realized I did make a prediction a couple of years ago and it has actually come true. Back in 2006, we here in Arizona voted on a proposition (Prop 107) that would have banned homosexual marriage and would eliminate "domestic partnership" rules. It failed by a margin of 48.5% to 51.5%.

Back then I wrote, "I suspect it will come back later to bite us. Polls suggested that a proposition to ban homosexual marriage would have been approved by 75% of the voters. Arizonans didn't shoot down Prop 107 because they want to legalize homosexual marriage. None of the 'No on Prop 107' arguments were predicated on 'legalize homosexual marriage' or the like. No! The push against Prop 107 came from the second line in the proposition that said, in essence, 'We do not have to recognize as married anyone who is not married.'" I knew then that if we wanted to take another stab at defining marriage to be between one man and one woman, the opponents would throw this back in our faces. "We already voted on this!" Not true, of course. We denied the call for eliminating domestic partnerships.

So now we're looking at Prop 102. I have never seen a clearer, more easily understandable proposition. Right or wrong, it is certainly unambiguous, certainly free of "legaleze."
Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.
Twenty words ... that's all there are. If passed, it will modify our state constitution. The polls have it leading slightly.

You know what the opposition is saying. "It's an anti-gay measure." No, it isn't. It doesn't address homosexuals at all. It simply defines one English word -- marriage -- using what the California Supreme Court recognized as "the longstanding and traditional definition." It doesn't say anything about domestic partnerships or any such thing. "We already voted on this!" No, we didn't. That never was the issue in that vote.

The law requires truth in advertising, but never let it be said that we should have truth in politics.

And to Governor Napolitano (and those like her) who are asking, "What's the point?" (there is already a law on the books that defines marriage as between a man and a woman), I do have an answer. The point is "Look at California! They had a law on the books. It was thrown out."

I was pretty sure in 2006 that this would be the approach by opponents. I was right. Sometimes I hate it when I'm right.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Fixing the Economy

There are so many "fixes" being thrown out for us in the economic world. "Lower taxes!" That hasn't helped. "Lower interest rates!" Neither has that. "Infuse more cash!" That didn't help. "Buy out bad debt!" That's not working. And no one seems to have a real good handle on what to do about it. McCain assured us "the fundamentals of our economic system are sound" which, of course, Obama pounced on. I don't know why. If "the fundamentals of our economic system" are that people need to buy stuff so companies need to provide stuff that people need to buy so companies need to employ people to provide that stuff ... you know, Capitalism ... then it would seem that this is still the case. So I don't know what McCain meant or what Obama meant. But even "experts," market folk who know this stuff, can't agree on either the cause or the fix for this economic problem.

I think I do know the cause. It isn't Big Business. It isn't Big Government. It isn't Corporate Greed. It is people. There is a word used quite often in the New Testament. It is translated in older English as "covetous" or, in the newer translations, as "greedy." It is listed with the common sins, the common failings of Man, the typical reasons that humans do not get to heaven (Eph 4:17-19; 1 Cor 6:9-10). The word means, essentially, "not enough." It means "desiring more." It is a standard sin, one, in fact, that the Roman Catholics classify as one of the seven deadly sins.

Americans have changed. Where there used to be a community that banded together to help each other we've shifted to a dog-eat-dog world where "what I want is what I need and you had better not get in my way." We shifted from a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrap view of the world to a "health care is a right" world. Imagine that! "Health care is a right." Where did it come from? Who gave it? Who imposed it? We've eliminated the possibility of "unalienable rights endowed by our Creator," so who or what endowed this right? Who or what maintains this right? Who or what will respond if this right isn't met? I want answers!

"So," you say, "you're saying it's not Big Business or Big Government or Corporate Greed? What about ..." and you'll give me your favorite argument or example. Don't misunderstand me. These entities are populated with ... people. These people are infected with the new American mentality. The new American mentality requires things like, for instance, equal pay for equal work. (Did you know that Jesus disagreed with that mentality (Matt 20:1-15)?) This mentality has long ago pushed past "privileges" and gone beyond "rights," pushing all the way to "entitlements." And those "entitlements" are broad. The new American mentality is hedonistic. "If it feels good, do it" is our national mantra. The new American mentality is "not responsible." "I am not responsible for anything that happens." If something goes wrong, it's the product's fault or the big company's fault or the government's fault. If there's something wrong with me it's the fault of hormones or chemical imbalance or a syndrome (named or unnamed). If I buy a house with money I don't have and will never have and then lose that house, it's not my fault. And if I have a problem, someone else had better fix it ... now! The old American mentality was a "free market" mentality. A laborer is worthy of his hire. In the original "Puritan work ethic" the idea was "I will do what I can to support my community." If a community needed shoes and I could make shoes, I'd be a shoemaker. That shifted to "I will do what there is a market to do." If I can get people to buy my widget, I'll make widgets. That has shifted even farther today. "There must be no poverty (and we get to define 'poverty') and I deserve more."

It's a funny thing about people. It seems that the more they have the more they want. Have you ever, for instance, met people who came out of the Great Depression? That was a different generation. They tended to avoid "more" because they didn't have it to begin with. The same is true in third world countries. While we "need" new window coverings every year, they are happy with a hole in the wall (literally) that serves as a window. While this lousy, three-year-old couch "needs" to be replaced soon, they're content with a dirt floor and a mat on which to sleep.

How did we get in this mess today? "Desiring more." It was wrong of lenders to limit their lending to "rich" people who could afford to borrow money. They had to loosen their standards to allow "poor" people to borrow money. Why? Because they "desired more." A place to live wasn't sufficient. Ownership was required. It wasn't merely desirable; it was needed. Oh, it wasn't solely there that the problem occurred. That was simply the symptom. "More" from Enron meant that they could manipulate the energy market in California. "More" to Wall Street meant that they could drive up oil prices by speculating on oil futures. "More" tells illegal aliens that they have the right to break the law to get what they want. And somehow "enough" never seems to rear its ugly head.

The original "free market" idea of Capitalism was based on the original mentality that took into account other people and encompassed an underlying morality. This underlying morality has eroded. It isn't the fault of George Bush. It isn't the fault of Bill Clinton. It isn't the fault of the Democrats or the Republicans or even Wall Street or a greedy banking industry. It is an erosion that has been occurring for a lot longer than that, and it is finally down to the bare rocks of "greed" and "me first." A "free market" seems, to me, to be a market that is free to succeed ... or fail. The voices from government and its leading wanna-be's seem to be that "accountability" and "oversight" are the key to fixing the problem. Charge the American people with the bill and let the government fix our problems. By no means should we allow big companies to fail. Frankly, a "bail out" is a band aid on a cancer patient. The problem is not with Big Business or Big Government or Corporate Greed. The problem is with the sinful humans that inhabit those entities. And the fix is not to shore up their failing economics. The fix is a spiritual revival.

As for you and I, Christians, remember:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction (1 Tim 6:6-9).

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Humor for Lexophiles

A friend sent this to me and it was worth it to pass it on to you. If you don't laugh, at least you'll have new insight into my character.

1. I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
2. Police were called to a daycare where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
3. Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.
4. To write with a broken pencil is pointless.
5. The short fortune teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
6. A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
7. When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.
8. The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a number on it!
9. The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.
10. The dead batteries were given out, free of charge.
11. A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.
12. A bicycle can't stand alone; it is just two-tired.
13. A will is a dead giveaway.
14. A backward poet writes inverse.
15. A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.
16. With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.
17. A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France, resulting in linoleum blownapart.
18. He broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
19. A calendar's days are numbered.
20. A boiled egg is hard to beat.
21. If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.
22. When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
23. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.
24. Acupuncture: a jab well done.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Changing Sins

Isn't it interesting how "sins" change? In the '40's, it was a "sin" for able-bodied men not to join the military. As a nation we believed it was right, noble, good to fight to defend our country and other countries, even if it cost us lives and comfort. Today it's a "bad thing", reserved for losers shortchanged by the system. In the '60's it was racism. We needed to treat all people equally. That changed in the '70's to treating certain groups with favoritism ... you know ... to make up for previous conditions. In the first half of the 20th century it was a "sin" to engage in sex outside of marriage and a "sin" to get a divorce. These, of course, have shifted from "sin" to "norm." "Sins" change, at least in the national view.

Here in the 21st century things continue to change. It's a "sin" to be boring. It's acceptable to have religious beliefs, but a "sin" to have them in public or even to allow them to shape your worldview. Well, if it's Christianity, I suppose. Some religions seem to get a pass from most people. And when did it become a sin to make money? It seems a universal belief (well, almost universal) that "rich people are evil" and it is mandatory that they be stripped of what they have. They must be penalized! Take what they have and give it to the rest! People used to aspire to be rich. Now we have politicians promising to take as much as they can from rich corporations (you know ... the ones that employ a lot of people) and rich folks (you know ... the ones that have worked hard to get where they are at) and give it to the rest of us ... the ones who work for the corporations and haven't managed to get rich on our own. That is offered as a selling point for a campaign, a promise without apology, a "good" thing.

Sometimes I don't think I'm following things at all ...

Ligonier Conference - Pg 3

In the comic strip, Fox Trot, Jason is a brainy little troublemaker who likes to aggravate his older brother and sister and likes to do math homework. In one strip, we see Jason outside with one of his friend (Marcus, I believe) getting ready to play football. "Go deep!" he tells Marcus. Marcus says, "Okay ... how do you correlate predestination with free will?" "Too deep," Jason replies.

It has long been the philosophical problem -- If God is sovereign, how can Man be free? R.C. Sproul tackled that problem on Friday night. He used the passage in Genesis 50:15-21 as his text. You may recall this story. Joseph had come out the far end of his rather lengthy trials as prime minister, so to speak, of Egypt. Because he was there, his family was saved when they encountered a 7-year drought. Then his father died. In Genesis 50, then, his brothers were afraid that, lacking the protection of their father, Joseph might retaliate. So they devised an apology. "Dad asked you to please forgive us." Yeah, fine. Joseph makes the classic, "Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament" response: "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Gen 50:20). In this passage, then, we see a parallel. On one hand you have the intentionality of the brothers -- evil. At the same time you have the intentionality of God -- good. "Will" -- volition -- is defined as "the ability for intentionality", and both are present in this sentence from Joseph.

The problem is this: If God is sovereign, then Man cannot be free. If Man is free, then God cannot be sovereign. That's where it seems to stand. However, the problem starts in its semantics. If you define "free" as "autonomy", then the problem remains. If the phrase "Man is free" means that Man is self-ruled, self-determining, responsible only to himself, then it would be a logical contradiction to argue that God is sovereign.

Now, lots of Christians try to weasel out of this dilemma. "God's sovereignty," they may say, "is limited by Man's freedom." Well, okay ... the contradiction is gone, but not the dilemma. A God "limited" is not sovereign, and we're back to a problem. Or how many times have you heard this in some form or another? "God saves as many as He can. He wants to save everyone, but He relies on Man to choose Him." Again, if God has limited His sovereignty, then God cannot be said to be sovereign no matter how we choose to couch the term. "Limited sovereignty" is not "sovereignty". The truth is, if God is sovereign, then Man cannot be autonomous. If Man is autonomous, then God is not sovereign.

The answer, of course, is not to minimize God. The answer is to put Man back in his proper place. It is true that autonomy for Man eliminates sovereignty for God. But what if Man is not autonomous? What if free will exists, but is limited? Ah, you see, now we have eliminated the contradiction. But do we still have "free will"?

If you define "free will" as "choosing according to your strongest inclination" and you allow for the possibility that God may (as sovereign) intervene in your inclinations, then we don't have a problem, do we? That is, if "free will" is "choosing without coercion" and God doesn't coerce, where is the problem? As an example, no one argues when they come to an intersection, "I don't have free will" because they cannot choose to, say, go "up". So if God should limit choices and still allow choices, is there not "free will"?

The question is too big for a lot of people, skeptics and Christians alike. Some choose to go the irrational path of limiting God. I choose to go the path of limiting Man. I don't see limited free will as "no free will." Do you see "limited sovereignty" as actual sovereignty?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Ligonier Conference - Pg 2

John MacArthur tackled one of the toughest questions Christians are asked today. You know the one. I probably don't have to say it. "If God is good, why does He allow such suffering and evil?" It has a name: theodicy - the justice of God versus evil. Lots of people struggle with this concept. Skeptics often see it as the "proof" that there can be no God.

Part of the problem is that so many Christians are ill-equipped to answer it. They try a variety of illegitimate responses. "Oh," they assure us, "it isn't God's fault. It's Adam's fault. He brought sin into this world." Okay ... so why did God allow Adam to do that? (By the way, most don't realize it, but God certainly did create creatures with the ability to make choices without the ability to sin. We call them "animals" and they make choices every day ... except they never violate God's law. He obviously could have done it with Adam.) "No, no," another group argues, "it wasn't Adam's fault. It was Satan! He's the one." So how does that help? Didn't God know that Satan would fall? Couldn't He have prevented that? And the problem is back in God's lap. Others have tried other methods of keeping God's hands clean, so to speak. One attempt is what is known as "process theology". In this one, God is "in process." The more He does, the better He gets at being God, but He hasn't arrived yet. He's getting better and better and some day, well, He'll be awesome! Or there is "openness theology" that argues that God cannot know the future because, well, it hasn't happened yet. So what happens in the future isn't God's fault. These, of course, simply strip off the basic nature of God and we're still left with the problem.

The answer, actually, is quite simple ... even if it's unpleasant to some. It's a simple, logical process:

1. Evil is. (Evil, in fact, is dominant.)
2. God is.
3. Therefore, evil is because God intended it.

In other words, to the question, "If God is good, why does He allow such suffering and evil?", the answer is "because He wants to."

"Oh, yeah, that's better," those others argue. "You've just placed all this in God's lap." Well, yeah, but it's not because I'm willing to do so; it's because God is willing to do so. While we're busy down here trying to save God's good name, He's busy writing down stuff that denies our efforts.
Thine, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O LORD, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all (1 Chron 29:11).

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me. It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand (Deut 32:39).

And the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD" (Exo 4:11)?

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth (Lam 3:38)?

I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these (Isa 45:6-7).

"Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker — an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!
Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?' or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands'" (Isa 45:9)?

Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use (Rom 9:20-21)?
And, oh, there is so much more like this.

I suppose if we were God's lawyers, we'd be shushing Him. "Don't say a word!" we'd advise Him. "This kind of stuff is too incriminating." It appears that God has no interest in worming out of the question. Instead, it appears that He is agreeing. "I am God ... and I allow evil." In fact, the last several chapters of the book of Job are God speaking in response to Job who has, in essence, asked, "If God is good, why does He allow such suffering and evil?" His reply, essentially, is, "What makes you think I have to answer to you?" And Job's reply, when it is all done, is "I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted ... Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:2,6).

In Scripture, God takes the responsibility for allowing evil to exist. It is for His reasons. We can know this because He says so. We can also know this by the circumstances in the Bible. For instance, the single, supreme evil committed by human beings was the crucifixion of God's Son. That, my friends, was God's plan. They meant it for evil; He meant it for good. And there are explanations as to what His reasons are or might be. Romans 3:5, for instance, points out that our unrighteousness demonstrates God's righteousness. Romans 9:22 says that He intended to show His power and wrath.

So the problem, you see, is not with God. Our "American experiment" of personal independence is good, but it hasn't served us well when it comes to thinking of a sovereign God. And our sin nature has elevated us to the "most high" when we needed to remember we are "creatures." God doesn't have a problem with His responsibilities. It looks like the problem is on our end.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

This Cup

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matt 26:36-39).
There have always been questions about this. What was Jesus praying about? What are the ramifications to "prayer" when Jesus asks for something that He doesn't get? What "cup" was He concerned about?

Of course, most of the questions are not as big as they seem. For instance, Jesus got exactly what He prayed for: "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt." Still, what was it that had Jesus so worked up? What was that "cup"?

Here's what I think. Jesus was about to go to the Cross. Certainly He was fully aware of the pain that would entail. "Come on," some might urge, "take it like a man!" Yeah, yeah, but I don't think the physical and emotional torment was in view here. I think Jesus had a specific cup in mind. In Scripture the term "cup" is used often in terms of life's situations. It is also used quite often in terms of judgment. In Psa. 116:13 it refers to "the cup of my salvation." Elsewhere:
God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another. For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams; it is well mixed, and He pours out of this; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs (Psa 75:7-8).
That concept is in many places. Isa. 51:17 talks about "the cup of His anger." Jer. 25:15 speaks of "this cup of the wine of wrath" from God. In Rev 14:10 we read of "the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger." (You know ... the origin of the lyric "He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.")

When Jesus went to the Cross, God Incarnate, the Holy One, took on Himself the infinite offense of human sin. The Infinite God bore the infinite wrath of God. Jesus's final cry was the "cup" that He dreaded but took anyway: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" It was the wrath of God He bore that was the cup He dreaded, the cup He drank, and the payment He made on our behalf.

Now that's something about which to worship.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Mind and Emotion

Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable condition where your feelings and your thinking don't match?

The bailout stuff serves as one of those for me. The Democrats, for instance, are adamant that there be compensation limits for company leadership that gets bailed out. For me, this creates the dichotomy of which I speak. On one hand, I feel the problem. You have corporate leadership who fly their "plane" into the side of a mountain. As they close on the certain collision, they are handed a "golden parachute", a hearty "thank you" for their good work and a large sum of money so that, even though everyone else goes down, at least they can land safely. No! It feels wrong! My mind, on the other hand, is back-pedaling. "Are you sure you want your government deciding who gets paid what?"

I get this in lots of places. I can feel the outrage over oil companies making big bucks because of market forces while we're all struggling to pay for their gasoline, knowing at the same time that I don't want the government to nationalize or penalize companies because they make money. I can feel the difficulties that people face with low income and no spouse and mouths to feed while struggling myself with the realization that simply handing them cash isn't the best way to help them. I can see in my mind the grand majesty of God's sovereignty and the comfort that provides, knowing that a parent who lost a child isn't immediately going to feel that "grand" because of God's sovereignty.

Someone once said, "If you're not a liberal by the time you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 40, you have no brains." I understand that. Feelings and thought are often in conflict. The question becomes, "Which one will rule your decisions?"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ligonier Conference - Pg 1

I went to the Ligonier Conference in Scottsdale, AZ, this last weekend. Ligonier has people that blogged it far better than I could, so I won't bother. I will, however, share some of what I saw over the next several of days.

The conference was from Sept. 26-27 and was titled, "Tough Questions Christians Face." We enjoyed three speakers: Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul. Oh, and the conference and the overflow were sold out weeks before the event, so it was full. I won't bore you with the details. Ligonier's bloggers offer a blow-by-blow account of each speaker and do it well. The link above is just to the summary and from there you can see detailed entries for each speaker and each question asked and answered. But I was interested in some things that I hadn't spent much time thinking about before (and some I had).

Ligon Duncan addressed the conflict between science and Christianity. Some argue today that science has eliminated our need for God. There are a few difficulties with this position. I see three most obvious areas.

First, science, by its nature, is always up for revision. That means that "the ultimate answers" will always be one step away. Even today, for instance, science is questioning the certainties of Newtonian physics. We were sure ... now we're not. So how does science actually answer life's ultimate questions? Well, by saying, "We're working on it" and never actually arriving. That's not a problem -- it is the nature of science -- but neither is it an answer.

Science is also quite sure that miracles cannot exist, an obvious conflict with Christianity. The problem here is that miracles have nothing to do with science. They are, by definition, outside of the natural. An illustration was used that I thought was perfect. At Christmastime, C.S. Lewis was in his office one day. Outside were carolers. A fellow professor stepped in to visit. The professor asked, "Aren't you glad to know that we're not as foolish as those carolers to think that someone can be born of a virgin?" Lewis asked, "Did you think that they didn't know that?" You see, miracles are not intended to be "scientific" and not intended to even be easily believable. Miracles and science don't mix -- by definition.

The third area that is so very obvious today is Evolution versus Creation. "Evolution," science tells us, "has disproved Creation." There are several problems with this idea. First -- and I hear this from as many Evolutionists as I do from Creationists -- Evolution has nothing to say about origins. Evolution is about how things got from "there to here," but it cannot answer how "there" got started. It doesn't even try. Science can't measure it. It's a matter of philosophy, not science. Second, try as it might, Evolution cannot account for things like personality or creativity. The vast gap between humans and the animal kingdom in matters of music, art, and so on doesn't correlate very well with "evolution". Finally, there is a faulty argument in there somewhere. The idea is that "if we can figure it out, it could not have happened by God's hand." In other words, rationality eliminates religion. What? The truth is that modern science owes its origins to ... religion. When the Reformation took hold, Christian intellectuals thought, "If God is rational, then His creation is rational and we should be able to study it." Indeed, if the universe is not designed, it would necessarily be "irrational" to some extent and science would expect to study chaos, not order.

The bottom line here is not that science and Christianity are at odds, however. The bottom line is that they are different. Science studies natural phenomenon. God is supernatural. The notion, for instance, of "Creation Science" is nonsense. A belief in Creation is a belief that "God created." Science cannot study that. Those who argue for "Creation Science" are fighting a losing battle. Think about it in terms we understand easily. A microphone does not pick up the light in the room and amplify it, does it? No, because a microphone is for sound. Your eyes do not see sound, do they? Of course not, because eyes see light. In the same way, science cannot say anything about God because science deals with the natural and God is outside the natural. Here's what Ligon Duncan said: "The nature of the object determines how it can be known." Or, as Christ said, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth."

Science has not eliminated God. It doesn't have the capacity.