Monday, December 24, 2007

Quote of the Week

Election season is upon us (if you couldn't tell by watching the news for 2 minutes). Candidates and the political parties would be wise to take the following admonition to heart -

"Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tough Questions

A pastor from the Mars Hill Church in Seattle recently asked his congregants to ask him any question they wanted. The questions, in turn, would be addressed in various sermons over the course of 2008. 893 questions were asked on the church's website and over 343,000 votes were cast to narrow the list down to the top nine questions, listed below. I was surprised about some of the questions, as well as what didn't make the top of the list. All in all, it seems to be a pretty interesting idea.
  1. Do you believe that the Scripture not only regulates our theology but also our methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not? (i.e. the regulative principle)
  2. What can traditional/established churches learn from 'emerging' churches?
  3. How does a Christian date righteously; and what are the physical, emotional, and mentally connecting boundaries a Christian must set while developing an intimate relationship prior to marriage?
  4. If salvation is by faith alone (Romans 3:28), then why are there so many verses that say or imply the opposite, namely that salvation is by works (James 2:24, Matthew 6:15 & 7:21, Galatians 5:19-21)
  5. How should Christian men and women go about breaking free from the bondage of sexual sin?
  6. Of all the things you teach, what parts of Christianity do you still wrestle with? What's hardest for you to believe?
  7. Why does an all loving, all knowing, and all sovereign God will into creation people He foreknows will suffer eternal condemnation? Why does Romans 9:20 feel like a cop-out answer?
  8. Why do you make jokes about Mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trenchcoats wearers, single men, vegans, emo kids and then expect these groups to come to know God in the same sermon?
  9. There's no doubt the Bible says children are a blessing, but the Bible doesn't seem to address the specific topic of birth control. Is this a black and white topic, or does it fall under liberties?

Monday, December 17, 2007


Borders book stores is giving away a controversial Christmas card reading “O come all ye faithless” with every copy of Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. Apparently, folks have become quite offended over the whole thing. Call me thick skinned, but I don't see this as an attack on Christianity, nor do I feel we need to boycott the store. It is an ATHEIST card given out when one purchases an ATHEIST book. It is not like the card is being given out with every purchase of a C.S. Lewis novel. I have to admit, however, that the card is rather witty on a certain level.

To call for a boycott is this circumstance undermines the integrity of this type of protest (which was used by Dr. Martin Luther King to protest racism). Some have also called for the boycott of the recently released movie, the Golden Compass. To an extent, I understand a boycott in this circumstance if folks feel movie producers are misleading movie-goers. Given the extreme comments by the author of the book that the movie was made from, it is hard to say that the whole purpose of the film or the book was anything other than to undermine belief in God. With that said, I will likely watch it on DVD to see what it being said about my faith.

Sometimes I feel that we as Christians are so quick to be offended...if not looking for ways to be offended. If we are so quick to fight, what does that say about our character or our God? It shows that He needs His creation to stand up for Him because obviously, He cannot do it on His own. We are called to give a defense for the hope that is within us...we are not called to be offended.

Maybe I am cranky this evening, but this is just my opinion and it is worth what it cost me to give it to you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quote of the Week

"What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?"

- Rhetorical question posed to theists in general and Christians in particular by Antony Flew after discussing horrors such as childhood cancer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Existence of God

I have been having an interesting conversation with an atheist on the subject of the existence of God -- specifically, if we are able to ascertain His presence from nature, the universe, and the moral law. He certainly raises some good points and has further inspired me to pick up a book or two by a few authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris. Other authors have also written retorts to these authors, including Allister McGrath, Dinesh D'Sousa and Michael Martin.

Perhaps I will find a few of these books in my stocking come Christmas...we will see.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Germany vs. Scientology

Late this week, German federal and state interior ministers declared the Church of Scientology "unconstitutional." Ehrhart Koerting, Berlin's interior minister, said Germany's domestic intelligence agencies would "continue gathering information on the legality of Scientology's activities in Germany so that a decision could be made on what to do about it next year." Here is a link to the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. were they posted a background paper on Scientology to justify the Country's criticism of the organization. One interesting excerpt says, "...Germany, as well as Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Israel and Mexico, remain unconvinced that Scientology is a religion."

I am not a big fan of Scientology, to say the least. With that said, it frightens me when a government has the right to say what is and isn't a religion. It is one thing to arrest leaders of a cult or religious movement when they break the law (see the case against Warren Jeffs). It is a whole different story to declare a belief system illegal or unconstitutional. As dumb or as great as an idea may be, let it stand or fall on its own merits. Protect the followers of a so-called religion if they are being abused, but let the free-flow of ideas take place. When we start to ban ideas, as much as they might be worth hating, that takes us down a scary road.

Other equally frightening cases in Germany, like this, are also floating around. As recently as last year, a European Human Rights Court affirmed Germany's ban on homeschooling (instituted by the Nazi's in the late 1930's). Part of the court's reasoning was that society has a significant interest in preventing the development of dissent through "separate philosophical convictions." The news story I link to above ends with the following: "The problem with entrusting the education of children to the state is, of course, that instead of parents “indoctrinating” their children with their own ideological and philosophical beliefs, they will be indoctrinated with those of the state – which is exactly why Hitler banned homeschooling in Germany in 1938."

Wow is about all I can say.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed his Mormon faith yesterday in a speech some say was reminiscent of the one given by JFK in 1960. You be the judge.

JFK 1960: While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida--the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power--the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms-an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space. These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues--for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

Romney 2007: ...America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership. And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family. Over the last year, we have embarked on a national debate on how best to preserve American leadership. Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America's greatness: our religious liberty. I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my Presidency, if I were elected.
JFK 1960: I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote...

Romney 2007: Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.
JFK 1960: ...I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith--nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

Romney 2007: Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.
JFK 1960: ...neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection--for it.

Romney 2007: There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution.

There are significant differences, however, between the two speeches. Romney seemed to want Evangelical voters to feel comfortable with his candidacy. I think he succeeded on this front. He showed were there is common ground with his beliefs and those of traditional Christianity (I loved this quote: "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

JFK, on the other hand, did not ever appear to intend to build a bridge in his speech. If the Romney speech was an act of him extending his hand to Evangelicals, one gets the impression that the JFK speech was meant to wag the proverbial index finger to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association (as one would do to a child when they did something wrong). See this quote: "For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril."

Both were great speeches and served their purposes well. Obviously, JFK managed to overcome the concerns of his religious critics. We will see if Romney is able to do the same in the days and months to come.