Saturday, May 11, 2002
And on the subject of morality and grace, lets look at this passage.
1 Peter 1:13-16 So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the special blessings that will come to you at the return of Jesus Christ. Obey God because you are his children. Don't slip back into your old ways of doing evil; you didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy. For he himself has said, "You must be holy because I am holy."
Most people, I think, completely misunderstand Christianity. I think a lot of people have the impression that Christianity gives a set of rules and if you just follow the rules you can go to heaven. This definitely is NOT what Peter says here. He isn't telling them, "Don't do evil so you can be saved."
His message is completely different. He tells these Christians to obey because they are children of God. His messge is, "You've been saved. Now you've need to act like it. You're holy now. You need to act like you're holy." That's the thing. Christians don't do good in order to be saved. They do good BECAUSE they are saved. That's what they were designed to do. We were designed to do good works.
Father, we love you Lord and praise you for sending your Son to die for us. We ask Lord that you give us a greater appreciation of that sacrifice. May we never forget what you've done for us and may we never stop working for you. In Your Son's name, Amen.
I received this e-mail today and thought it worth sharing. He's referencing this post from a few days back about Jerry Falwell and 9/11.
And here's what I wrote back.
After sending that response, it occurred to me that I hadn't addressed his other concern. That is, that when those who are meant to be proclaiming the Good News of Christ end up spending all their time talking about morality, the message of the Cross is lost. This is more dangerous, actually, then he lets on. I've been thinking about this anyway and may as well get this out in the open, though I plan on posting at greater length later. I think that one of the most dangerous lies that Satan tells people is, "You're a good person." One of the dangers of preaching lots of morality and little about the blood of Christ is that it gives some people the impression that if there living a pretty decent life, then they must be OK with God. This is a dangerous lie because it gives people an excuse to not repent. (Why should a "good person repent?) I'm working on some more thoughts on this subject and I'll get them out eventually.
Friday, May 10, 2002
I got this in an email several years ago. Found it while poking around my hard drive. Don't know its origins, but I liked it and thougt it worth putting up.
I never really wrote about this because I couldn't think of a good way to say this without being too blunt about it. Perhaps I shouldn't have been quite so squeamish. Either way, Christopher Johnson makes a very good point. He's the first person I've heard make this point in relation to the Church of the Nativity fiasco.
Yes, He is risen. Hallelujah!
Eugene Volokh has an excellent bit about money and speech. (Ok, so maybe just a little bit of blogging time.
Been kinda busy today. Had to clean house and get ready for some repair work. No time for blogging. Maybe later tonight, but then again, maybe not.
Thursday, May 09, 2002
Daniel Gordon has a must-read article about reporters at Jenin.
Daniel Urman reminds us that it is possible to overplay the poor performance of John Edwards on the talk show circuit last Sunday.
Let's take a look at Colossians 1:3-23
Anybody else get the idea that Paul was trying to make a point by his usage of language? Apparently believers in Colosse had bought into the ideas of their culture. Colosse was a big place for religious experimentation, much like our modern world. People there tended to take bits and pieces of many different religions and sprinke them together. This was apparently going on in the church as well. Consequently, Paul felt the need to take every possible avenue to remind them that Christ is all they needed.
The same lesson holds true today. May we never forget that Christ is preeminent in our lives.
Great Father, we love you above all. We thank you for sending your Son to die for us. May we never lose sight of the importance of your sacrifice. May we also remember to keep Him as the central focus of our lives. In Jesus's name, Amen.
Marci Hamilton has a message to the Senate Judiciary Committee: Grow up!
John Hawkins has this to say about the US and "special relationships."
I'll admit that sometimes I think Dick Morris is stark raving bonkers. This is not one of those times.
Does anybody believe she would occupy the West Bank if Arabs were not blowing up her cafes and temples? There is no moral equivalence between those who commit terror - the Arabs - and those who rank among its victims - the Israelis. The soldiers who occupy the West Bank have the same moral justification as the desperate rebels of the Warsaw Ghetto. Just because the Jews have the tanks now makes no moral difference.
Michael Kelly asks, "What would you do?
Yes, we have been a little disappointed, haven't we? You give a fellow a perfectly good peace process, not to mention the Nobel Peace Prize; award him much of the land he demands and a $90 million monthly budget; let him build an armed force on Israeli territory; and, finally (as America's former top negotiator, Dennis Ross, recently revealed in a remarkable Fox News interview), get both the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel to promise him all of Gaza and nearly all of the West Bank as an independent and joined Palestinian state, with a right of Palestinian return to that state, plus a multibillion-dollar reparations fund -- and what does he do? He goes to war against you. Yes, a disappointment to us all.
Disappointing? Yes. Unxepected? No.
Rush Limbaugh has a disturbing bit about kids, sex, and a former President.
Dave Kopel is fact checking Big Media about the second amendment.
Latest round robin discussion on the men who locked themselves into the Church of the Nativity with a bunch of monks (who are absolutely NOT hostages, how could you possibly think such a thing) is that they may be shipped to Canada. I wonder if anyone's asked the Canadians.
As memory serves, a deal was originally announced to ship them to Italy. The Italians resonse? "What you talking about Willis?" (Sorry, shameless Different Strokes flashback.) Apparently the Spanish have also been hit up to take them and declined. I heard on the radio that the Vatican and the EU were trying to pressure the Italians into taking them. (My question, why doesn't the Vatican or the EU do it if its such a great thing to do?)
Of course, I'm flabergasted that there would be this much argument about where these guys can or can't go. I mean, its not like there terrorist or anything.
Wednesday, May 08, 2002
Lileks had an interesting “Bleat” about comic books a few days back. Specifically, Spider-
He thinks he knows:
If Thor, God of Thunder, was indeed flying around Manhattan on a daily basis, what would this do to organized religions? Here’s a living incarnation of an ancient creed. Flying around. In broad daylight. Imagine the anguish: we’re all waiting for an incarnation to appear, and it’s THAT religion? Like, the God of SWEDEN? I would suggest that this would cause a meltdown in Western society, especially once Thor’s interviewed on TV.
Later he adds:
Legalisms aside, at some point we’d have to confront Thor’s manifest divinity:“I’m one of many gods, and we live up there, in the sky. Our leader is Odin, who’s your typical big fellow with a white beard. We’re the only gods up there, as far as I know.” People would come out of church, see Thor flying across the sky (with a hammer! A stupid HAMMER!) and feel this horrible pang of doubt.
Let’s break this down a bit. Is Lileks right? Would people’s faith be shattered if we suddenly met Thor (or some other mythical god) in the flesh? I’m afraid he’s right. Most people’s faith would shatter.
Now why do I think this is important to examine? Because people’s faith would be shattered for no good reason. Further, people’s faith is shattered all the time by things no where near as profound as the appearance of Thor.
Some of you are probably surprised. Do I seriously believe that the sudden appearance of a god out of myth has no affect on our faith? Let me be perfectly clear. This event would certainly change our world view. Among other things, it would blow away one of my arguments about what makes Christianity so important. (That being that while its central story may resemble some myths, Christianity points to a place and time and says the myth became fact at that point in history.) But, that argument is NOT Christianity, nor is it biblical, or actually important in the grand scheme of the Christian’s walk with Christ.
I certainly concede that Thor’s appearance would change our world view. (Not just the Christian’s either. It would be a big shock to atheists and agnostics as well.) I do contend, though, that whether or not Thor is real has no bearing on whether or not Christianity is true. Let’s think about this. The only way the truth of one fact statement is evidence of the falseness of another is if those two statements are mutually exclusive. The statements, “Thor is real,” and, “Yahweh is real,” are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, even if Lileks’s hypothetical statement by Thor really happened, “I’m one of many gods, and we live up there, in the sky. Our leader is Odin, who’s your typical big fellow with a white beard. We’re the only gods up there, as far as I know,” it still would not be antithetical to Christianity.
Someone may say, but doesn’t the Bible say there is only one God? And in fact, it does. Several times. But now its important to understand what we mean by the word "god." I would suggest that historically the word has often been used to describe someone with a great deal more power or ability than you yourself have. This would explain why, for example, men like Caesar Augustus could be worshipped as gods. The point of this is that while the same kind of language was used by pagans to describe beings they believed to be greater than themselves as we use to describe the one Being greater than all does not mean that the words mean the same things in these different contexts.
The Bible's description of Yahweh is of a one of a kind Being. If Thor existed for real, the fact that some people have considered him to be a god would not disprove Christianity. My faith is not based on word games. My faith is based on having found the New Testament account to be a reliable source of information and moving on to see that it describes Jesus being raised from the dead. The rest of my faith is built on that cornerstone. The existence of Thor or any other mythical character being proved to be real would not contradict the evidence of the resurrection. (As mentioned above, great men have often been worshipped as gods. The existence of Alexander or Augustus does not shake our faith. The only difference I see is that Thor would have more intrinsic power and actually be among us. His power would not be as great as that claimed for Yahweh, so that should have no effect. His being here in the flesh doesn't put him at a rational advantage of Augustus because very few people doubt Augustus's existence.) Nor should we be disturbed by Thor's statement that there was nobody else up there in the sky with him. (While we talk about Heaven being above, we know that to be a metaphor to describe that which we cannot otherwise explain.)
I can see no reason why the existence of Thor would have more effect on men's faith then the existence of Superman. But I don't think anyone would seriously argue that the existence of Superman would disprove the existence of God. (Nor would be likely to change our minds if we found out some primitive tribe called Superman a god.) I do think that many people would lose their Christian faith, however, if Thor were found to be real. I think that the reason why boils down to two things. The first is that many people don't really know what the Bible teaches and would simply assume, without thinking too much at all, that the Bible had been contradicted.
The second is dangerous to the serious believer. All of us sometimes waiver in our faith for no good reason. I don't think many people are rationally argued out of Christianity. For the most part, faith seems to be lost for emotional reasons that have nothing to do with the actual evidence. That is why faith is considered to be a virtue. It is often easier to stand up to intellectual criticism, which we can respond to rationally, then it is to deal with emotional shocks which rattle us and cause our capacity for rational thought to abandon us.
It is certainly true that things will come along which will force us to back up and reexamine the evidence. When new information comes to light, that is exactly what we should do. But if the new information doesn’t shed any actual light on the situation, rationally, our beliefs should not change. That’s really what faith is. Keeping on believing when you’ve gotten a nasty shock, but nothing has really changed to alter the basic facts of your beliefs.
As bizarre as it would be, suddenly seeing Thor in the flesh would be just such a shock. But if it happened as Lileks described, it wouldn’t be something that could shake the faith of those who understand the reasons for their faith. And if a jolt like that can’t knock us down, the everyday stuff should be easy.
P.S. to comic book fans. As far as I know, Lileks complaint that this issue was never discussed in relation to Thor is correct. However, changing comic book company's D.C. did briefly address this issue in Justice League of America #183 where the Earth 2 Wonderwoman declares that she believes in no gods besides the gods of Mount Olympus and "the only true 'God' whose nature remains unknown." Granted, that neat little sidestep probably wouldn't satisfy Lileks anyway.
Martin Roth pointed out this excellent article.
You ought to read the whole thing, but I wanted to point out:
One of the chief reasons why we have ceased to speak the truth is that we are fearful of the reaction of those around us. We have even fallen into the trap of justifying our moral stances by a secularist theory of ethics. We have contributed towards the gagging of God, perhaps because we are frightened of suffering.
Flashback -For my own thoughts about truth, click here.
On the rhetoric front, Jonah Goldberg made this suggestion on The Corner.
I know this is an old argument by now, but….Instead of the clunky "homicide bombers" or the historically slanderous "Kamikaze-Bombers," how about massacre-bombers. The definition of massacre is to kill indiscriminately and wantonly without concern for civilians or anyone else (which is the basic reason why Jenin wasn’t a massacre). So a massacre-bomber is someone who kills so indiscriminately that he kills himself in the process. The suicide is incidental. After all, no one doubts that if Hamas could inflict the same damage on Israelis, they’d be perfectly happy if the bombers got out alive.
Works for me.
Tuesday, May 07, 2002
Rush Limbaugh raises an interesting point. The Republican National Committee is suing to overturn the new campaign finance law. President Bush has effective control of the RNC. President Bush signed the bill into law in the first place. Anything wrong with this picture?
As usual, Martin Roth makes me think, and that's a good thing. Today's topic? Isn't it a bit strange that while worrying about the health of people in third world countries, we shell out enormous amounts of money to keep our pets well? And what does that mean for us as Christians? Martin doesn't really answer these question and wasn't trying too. It would be wise for us to think about them though.
Last week I allowed my accounting classes to turn in an extra credit assignment. They had to work a problem, but the problem was set in the context of a "real-life" situation. They were supposed to comment on the ethical situation involved. Basically, the case presents a scenario where someone has been asked by a manager to prepare a sales forecast for a product. The protaganist knows that if the company sells more than 25,000 units of product, an automated system will be more profitable for the company. This person has a friend who is a supervisor on the current manual process. Wanting to help her friend, and afraid people are going to lose their jobs, she lies to her manager about projected sales to make the automated system seem less attractive.
The scenario makes clear "Anna" has no authority in this decision making process and that her only job was to prepare the forecast. The students were asked to comment on whether the decision was ethical and whether they agreed with it. They were then asked to compare her conduct against a code of ethics given in their books.
The majority found the decision to lie to be unethical. Most of these people expressed very strongly that they would disapprove if the manager subsequently failed to at least consider the plight of his employees. Well and good. Many of them agreed with the decision. That is not the disturbing thing. (Some of these people had well thought arguments which showed reflection on the issue.) What was disturbing is that most of these students failed to even acknowledge in their response that the actual lie was an issue. Nor did they recognize that she was violating specific prohibitions in the stated ethical code. Instead, they basically adopted an ends justifies the means argument. "Her actions saved peoples jobs, what's the problem?" What bothered me was that few of these students seemed to have grasped the concept that your motives don't always justify your actions.
Perhaps even more disturbing was some of the conflicted answers I received. I had some students who listed in detail the portions of the ethical standards that had been broken, yet concluded, with no explanation whatever, that the actions were ethical. I also had one student who stated that the conduct was unethical, but went on to say that she agreed with the decision regardless.
I was, and still am, at a loss to know what to think about this. While it bothers me that people could condone the decision in this case, it bothers me more that they would do so without even thinking it through. I would estimate that 20% of my students failed to even recognize that the ethical quandry resolved around the issue of lying. If people can't even recognize an ethical issue when thrown in their face, what hope have we? I really don't know.
I haven't seen Spiderman yet, but Lileks has. Now there's a man who loves his Spiderman. You really ought to read his piece. I can't do it justice. There is this one line though:
We’re never as good as our myths, but surely it says something that our myths are good.
And perhaps that's the true appeal of Spiderman. He is a great myth. That and one fantastic morality play. That is, in the end, what story centered around the line, "With great power comes great responsibility." has to be. Spiderman has always succeeded there. Given the state of things, I think the Wall-Crawler came to the big screen just in time.
Much was made of the comments made by Jerry Falwell after the Trade Center attacks when he blamed various groups for the attacks and indicated that they were a punishment for different sins. Like many others I believed his comments were, at
I was reminded of my thoughts then because I was reading Lamentations today. That is also how I spent much of my time on 9/11. Specifically, I was thinking of this passage.
Lamentations 1:5 Her oppressors have become her masters,
The reason I bring this up is because this passage, like some others
Instead of the usual, my gripe with Falwell is not that he raised this possibility. My problem with him is that he assumes he knows why God is doing things. That shows an incredible amount of arrogance. We do not know why God does a great many things. Its not productive to run around telling people that this one sin is the thing that brought everything coming down in droves.
The problem is that we do not know the mind of God. Short of divine inspiration, we cannot be sure why God does anything. As the Almighty asked Job:
Job 38:33 - NAS "Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, Or fix their rule over the earth?
Lord God, may we be humble as we come before you and realize that there are some things we will never know until Messiah comes.
USS Clueless has a pretty good explanation of the VAT tax.
Not content with taxing their own citizens into oblivion, the EU is now going to try to force American businesses selling products online to collect their atrocious VAT taxes. My firm had a client that did some business in the UK. Keeping track of the VAT tax was one of the least desirable parts of that job.
As usual, Victor Hanson makes me think about things in a way that I hadn't before. You really should read this article and see if things don't make a little more sense in the Middle East than they did before.
Monday, May 06, 2002
Psalms 6 - O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak. Heal me, LORD, for my body is in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O LORD, until you restore me? Return, O LORD, and rescue me. Save me because of your unfailing love. For in death, who remembers you? Who can praise you from the grave? I am worn out from sobbing. Every night tears drench my bed; my pillow is wet from weeping. My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies. Go away, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my crying. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD will answer my prayer. May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified. May they suddenly turn back in shame.
I'd never thought seriously about what "space, the final frontier" really meant. This article by Glen Reynolds is changing that. I suggest you read it.
Dennis Prager has some interesting things to say about the proper use of violence.
The irony is, that at the same time these pacifist find themselves unable to distinguish between the attacker and the attacked on the ethical field, they have no problem identifying the violence itself as wrong. Which leads to his next point.
This of course, ties back to his previous point. It also reminds me of discussions in some of C.S. Lewis's books about morality. He warned that there was no such thing as a truly new morality, however people may sometimes take a few, or maybe only one, moral precept(s) and elevate it above all the rest. These people's view of the world then becomes skewed. In this case, the idea that peace is the supreme good has been elevated above justice, mercy, and human rights. All must be subjected to peace. The problem is that if you pursue peace while ignoring justice and mercy is that you wind up with none of the above.
This is a lesson we're going to end up learning soon. I just hope we don't have to learn it the hard way.
The more I read from Martin Roth about the state of Christianity in Australia, the more I'm convinced that our problems are largely the same here. Today, he asks an important question:
A quarter of Australian church-goers believe the Bible is the word of God and is to be taken literally. The Sydney Morning Herald seems surprised the proportion is so high. But what on earth do the rest believe?
I ask myself questions like this all the time. I don't have a clue what the answer is though. If you don't, at a minimum believe the Bible to be historically reliable and theologically correct, what's the point?