Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Opposition to Pro-Life Constantinean Cowboys

I like philosophical tweaks and I keep finding them today. I point you to the channeled voice of Christians who'd rather not offend than defend the rights of the unborn.

To attempt to define “life” or “where life begins” runs the risk of “Constantinean” thinking. This is perhaps the worst sort of thinking that ill informed Christian can do. As many highly respectable academics such as Cornel West have pointed out, Constantine was a very bad person who helped save the Roman Empire by ending the persecution of the Church. He also had the temerity to favor Christianity in some of his public acts.

As anyone knows the very act of agreeing with the Church meant Constantine was bad. It would have been better for him to allow the entire Empire to fall to barbarians than to have “saved” it by favoring Christianity. Some will prate about the culture that was preserved, but we see through such Western centered logic chopping. Who is to say that the pagans of the barbarian invasions were worse than the “civilized Romans?”

Who is to say that saving the works of ancient philosophy and literature were worth the temptations of power that occurred?

When the desire to support political leaders who agree with us (Constantineanism) is combined with Cowboy tendencies (acting without proper academic definitions) this Cowboy Constantineanism ends up pressing for action precipitously...

John Mark Reynolds

the Edge of Meteorology

I enjoy the work of Intelligent Design folks, but I also appreciate this philosophical tweak of them by analogy...

Once again, the proposed material mechanisms of meteorology might be adequate for making extremely short-term predictions. But the inability of atmohsphereic scientists to make accurate long-term predictions based on these mechanisms clearly demonstrates that natural processes alone are incapable of producing complex weather systems. Anything more than about 15 days out has all of the marks of being designed by an intelligent agency. Astronomers don’t seem to have a problem making long-term predictions based on the known laws of nature. In fact, I have a program on my computer called Starry Night that can determine, with absolute precision, the exact location of any heavenly body at any point in time - backwards or forwards! And not just natural objects like planets and moons, but man-made satellites as well. But the long-term behavior of earth’s atmosphere, on the other hand, continues to defy our pathetic attempts to describe it purely in terms of physical cause and effect.

Now some scientists, obviously driven by a dogmatic adherence to atheism, will claim that the edge of meteorology is not a failure of methodological naturalism, but instead demonstrates that some things in nature are too complex for us to fully understand; and since we lack the computing ability to process the enormous amounts of data required to model something as dynamic as the earth’s atmosphere, making accurate long-term predictions is next to impossible. But this is just a secular smoke-screen. If you have any lingering doubts as to how committed these scientists are to their godless ideas, I’ve heard some of them claim that even a tiny butterfly flapping its wings at just the right time and in just the right place can cause entire weather systems to self-organize. Can you believe that? Now that’s just plain silly! How can such a tiny, insignificant, random and undirected event ever create something as complex or destructive as a tornado? Give me a break!

In other words, Yes! of course God is in control. It's obvious, but we can admire his handiwork even more as we figure out how he does it....

update: contrition statement on the unfairness of this joke here...

Tommy Nelson talks about his depression

I learned a lot from Tommy Nelson's ministry for couples based on the Song of Solomon. But the ministry e-mails stopped coming for awhile. My wife and I wondered if he fell into some sin. Eventually we learned that he had stepped down due to health issues. It turns out his health issue was clinical depression/acute anxiety, video. I'm glad that this health issue is being discussed publically without spiritual aspersions being cast on those who might simply need selective seritonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) once a day.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

book report: Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Often we choose books, but sometimes they choose us. John Steinbeck's travelogue Travels with Charley: In Search of America emerged from a friend's basement as they packed to move and it ended up on our night-stand. Of course, it is a shame to throw anything of Steinbeck's in the trash. Sometimes we forget how a gifted writer can offer a stream of letters so intoxicating we feel like newly minted legal drinkers. How could we not have imbibed in something so delirious before? Yes Steinbeck is that good.

The premise of the book is a mid-life crisis. He has achieved his fame and fortune and has forgotten how real Americans talk and think in 1960. The cultural context for Steinbeck's journey was the nuclear threat from the USSR and the presidential election race between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. As he journeyed by ferry from the tip of Long Island through the port of my city, New London, up into the Northern tip of Maine he found few who would share their views on the political climate. Repeatedly he refers to the "taciturn" New Englanders. He did stop at a church in Vermont and was so impressed by the sermon that he never describes another church visit although mentioning it as a regular practice on his journey. I qoute in length one paragraph with a modern concern. The pleasure of reading a 50 year old book is the same as reading history, nothing changes. Steinbeck writes
The service did my heart and I hope my soul some good. It had been long since I had heard such an approach. It is our practice now, at least in the large cities, to find from our psychiatric priesthood that our sins aren't really sins at all but accidents that are set in motion by forces beyond our control. There was no such nonsense in this church. The minister, a man of iron with tool-steel eyes and a delivery like a pneumatic drill, opened up with prayer and reassured us that we were a pretty sorry lot. And he was right. We didn't amount to much to start with, and due to our own tawdry efforts we had been slipping ever since. Then, having softened us up, he went into a glorious sermon, a fire-and-brimstone sermon. Having proved that we, or perhaps only I, were no damn good, he painted with cool certainty what was likely to happen to us if we didn't make some basic reorganizations for which he didn't hold out much hope. He spoke of hell as an expert, not the mush-mush hell of these soft days, but a well-stoked, white-hot hell served by technicians of the first order. This reverend brought it to a point where we could understand it, a good hard coal fire, plenty of draft, and a squad of open-hearth devils who put their hearts into their work, and their work was me. I began to feel good all over. For some years now God has been a pal to us, practicing togetherness, and that causes the same emptiness a father does playing softball with his son. But this Vermont God cared enough about me to go to a lot of trouble kicking the hell out of me. He put my sins in a new perspective. Whereas they had been small and mean and nasty and best forgotten, this minister gave them some size and bloom and dignity. I hadn't been thinking very well of myself for some years, but if my sins had this dimension there was some pride left. I wasn't a naughty child but a first rate sinner, and I was going to catch it. pp.78-79
Even the unresponsive can appreciate the bad news before the good news. Without the bad news, the gospel is just news.

Charley is Steinbeck's dog. It's somewhat important to repeatedly read of Charley's visit with the bushes and trees as they drive around the country because Charley eventually suffers a couple bouts with a urinary tract infection which bring panic and distress to Steinbeck. The lightness of the story disappears as he rounds his home town in California and approaches the contentious New Orleans where desegregation is being enforced.

As he crosses the desert he stops to rest and notices 2 coyotes in the distance. His upbringing urges him to kill all such vermin when opportunity arises. But he no longer can rationalize it. As he lowers his gun he thinks
Then I remembered something I heard long ago that I hope is true. It was unwritten law in China, so my informant told me, that when one man saved another's life he became responsible for that life to the end of its existence. For, having interfered with a course of events, he savior could not escape his responsibility. And that has always made good sense to me.
Now I had a token responsibility for two live and healthy coyotes. In the delicate world of relationships, we are tied together for all time. I opened two cans of dog food and left them as a votive. p.214

This paragraph made me think of Christ's care for me. He saved me and he won't stop saving me.

As he records his impressions in New Orleans he doesn't mention Ruby Bridges by name but focuses his attention on the Cheerleaders, who twice daily screamed invectives at her.
The papers had printed that the jibes and jeers were cruel and sometimes obscene, and so they were but this was not the big show. The crowd was waiting for the white man who dared to bring his white child to school. And here he came along the guarded walk, a tall man dressed in light gray, leading his frightened child by the hand...
A shrill, grating voice rang out. The yelling was not in chorus. Each [cheerleader] took a turn and at the end of each the crowd broke into howls and roars and whistles of applause. This is what they [the crowd] had come to see and hear.
No newspaper had printed the words these women shouted. It was indicated that they were indelicate, some even said obscene. On television the sound track was made to blur or had crowd noises cut in to cover. But now I heard the words, bestial and filthy and degenerate. In a long and unprotected life I have seen and heard the vomitings of demoniac humans before...
Perhaps that is what made me sick with weary nausea. Here was no principle good or bad, no direction. These blowzy women with their little hats and their [newspaper] clippings hungered for attention. They wanted to be admired... These were not mothers, not even women. They were crazy actors playing to a crazy audience. pp. 257-258

He drove back to Long Island in a rush after this event. He was sick of the road. He wanted his home, his bed, his wife's company. But when he got into New York City he got lost. His humor shines through at the end, "Every evening is Pamplona in lower New York."

I am currently reading Ecclesiastes also. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun, and the making of many books there is no end. But few write good books. This is one. Enjoy.

more book reports
more on the African American experience

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bicycle evangelist

An article at the Ooze about a grandma from Virginia who
For the past eleven years Sherrie had been riding her bikes (she’s been through quite a few) across the country, from Florida to California and up into Canada, preaching God’s word. Raised a Methodist, she was now Pentecostal by choice and a speaker of tongues by election. Standing on street corners in small towns and big cities she preached a sermon of salvation from damnation through the acceptance of Christ’s love.

She rarely slept indoors and tried to coordinate her travels with the seasons, going south in wintertime.

Perhaps there is a future ministry for me...

video update of Korean Christian hostages of Taliban

Courtesy of Eugene Cho and Michelle Malkin and the Persecution blog. Pray for the believers, their families and their captors.

Loving our neighbors does not include torture

On a long 90 minute run this morning I got to thinking about torture, and it wasn't because I was barefoot. I was thinking in terms of slogans. I came up with stuff like:

No terror information is worth moral violation.

No terrorist information by terrorist methods.

Of course it's easy to criticize but hard to offer a replacement. What would Jesus do with captured partisans/guerrillas/terrorists? The principle he taught is to love our neighbors as ourselves. There is not special category for enemies, they are neighbors. Criminals need to expect consequences. Soldiers can expect certain rights when captured too. Somehow partisans though can't get no rights. But if we Christians expect human rights, then we should demand them for captured partisans. Partisan forces are more than an organized crime syndicate but less than an army. They are somewhere between criminals and soldiers. They also have information. Mafia members seem to betray their family without torture and with incentives, e.g. shorter time in jail and the witness protection program.

I don't believe in the need for torture. The ends do not justify the means. Fighting fire with fire is not the same as fighting evil with evil. Please forgive my country Lord and bring conviction and repentance. Let us love our neighbors as ourselves.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Camp Okutta and child soldiers

Camp Okutta is a charity trying to drive home the point that children are used as cannon fodder around the world and we don't seem to get it without a relateable context. So they provide a parody of a summer adventure camp commercial and an interactive map of the camp. The map has a registration booth which parents needn't bother with because the camp will kidnap at will when other campers/soldiers die. See a previous post on child soldiers here and here.

top shelf marriage proposal

HT: WorldMag Blog
This guy kills us all. It also gets 200,000 hits to his blog. So here is something beautiful...

Dispensational Theology: a short overview

An brief overview of Dispensational Theology by its adherents is hosted by Tyndale.

10C's #7 Adultery part b

Exodus 20:14 says "You shall not commit adultery."

Why is marital fidelity important to God? He spills much ink on the topic. Proverbs warns against it repeatedly. See Proverbs 5-7 with its compelling poetic imagery.
For example 6:25-29
Do not desire her beauty in your heart,and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; 26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,but a married womanhunts down a precious life. 27 Can a man carry fire next to his chestand his clothes not be burned? 28 Or can one walk on hot coalsand his feet not be scorched? 29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife;none who touches her will go unpunished. (ESV)

As Job pleads his innocence to his accusing comforters he says, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman." Job 31:1 (NLT)

It's clear that Jesus had precedent in claiming that "window shopping" was not better than actual extra-marital intercourse. In our current age we think that pornography is the new tar baby for men but people have always desired a fantasy. Photographic pornography is recent, but that's just a technology advancement. Our high brow art museums are full of erotic paintings and sculptures. Technology allows new variations on the theme too. Boilerplate romance novels offer fantasy affairs. But books are old technology. In the previous post I mentioned Second Life bigamy. Wired Magazine has a recent article about an Instant Messenger affair based on misrepresentation that led to snail mail, virtual affairs, and, eventually, a murder. [Caution, this article's language is not for the religiously sensitive.]

But why is fidelity so important to God? One key is found in Ephesians 5: 22-33
Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, 23 for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband. (HCSB)

Jesus will not be unfaithful to his bride the church. In 2 Timothy 2:13 we learn If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (NKJV)
Adultery gives a false representation to the world of the faithfulness of Christ.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

10C's #7: Adultery, part a

You shall not commit adultery
Exodus 20:14

Contrary to the claims of some, God is indeed concerned about sexual ethics. But he is also concerned with the concept of fidelity as a whole. Adultery is an issue of the heart. Fidelity in our earthly relationships demonstrates our fidelity to our heavenly relationship. There are many examples of this in God's dealing with his people. See a list here. Hosea and Ezekiel use the metaphor of adultery over and over to contrast God's faithfulness and Israel's unfaithfulness. Jesus demonstrates that fidelity is the issue, and a serious one, in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.

5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 5:30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell. NET

What is wrong with "window shopping?" Jesus considers it very wrong. Adultery is idolatry. It moves the focus of worship off God. Adultery serves the self. Adultery is not about love. God is love.
I don't think our modern culture offers unique opportunities for adultery, just new technology. I've read articles about the virtual world called Second Life where real world spouses takes virtual world spouses, often with consent of the real one. Does consent make it not adulterous? God defines the sin, not the sinners. It's the definition I'll throw various attempts at infidelity against and see what sticks in this series.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

book report: Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum

In those moments of our pride when we think that we, humans, are good at our core, we are fortunate to have historians who will gladly and easily show us otherwise. If the Bible isn't enough for skeptics then histories such as this by Anne Applebaum easily suffice in the confirmation of the complete depravity of our souls. I encountered her book as I perused the library's shelves for Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. His history wasn't there but her's was and I wasn't disappointed. Gulag: A History won her the 2004 Pulitzer prize for non-fiction.
The Gulag provided the communists labor that a Communist economy can afford, slave labor. The horrific irony is that even at starvation rations and abundant exploitable resources the high cost of enforcement, guards, negated any economic contribution. Unfortunately, Stalin only knew how to throw good money after bad. The corrupted reasoning assumed more prisoner workers would eventually bring a return on the investment. This partly explained the arbitrary arrests and quickie trials which condemned so many to a grave in the tundra, the taiga or the desert steppes. The fate of those who survived might be even worse as most sold their souls as informers or prostitutes for more bread or less work or a warm bed. Those who died in the crowded cattle cars that spent days en route to the far away camps may have fared the best.
The novelist Vasily Aksyonov - Evgeniya Ginzburg's son - penned a tragic but horribly plausible scene in his trilogy, The Generations of Winter, describing what happened when a man and his wife encounter one another after both have spent years in concentration [Soviet -ju] camps. He immediately notices that she looks too healthy: "First tell me how you managed not to become ugly... you haven't lost weight!" he says, knowing to well all of the ways in which it was possible for women to survive in the Gulag. That night, they lie in bed far apart, unable to speak: "Melancholy and grief had burned them to the ground." p. 518

The Gulag also had a step-sister in punishment, exile.

In fact, Stalin's aim, at least in deporting the Caucasians and the Tartars, was probably not revenge for cllaboration. He seems, rather, to have used the war [WW2-ju] as an excuse to carry out long-planned ethnic-cleansing operations...
There were, by the war's end, 1.2 milliong deported Soiet Germans, 90,000 Kalmys, 70,000 Karachai, 390,000 Chechens, 90,000 Ingush, 40,000 Balkars, and 180,000 Crimean Tartars as well as 9,000 Finns and others...
Many have also described hos the Chechens were taken off the Studebakers, and placed into sealed trains: they were not only deprived of water, like "ordinary" prisoners, but also of food. Up to 78,000 Chechens may have died on the transport trains alone.
Upon their arrival in their designated place of exile - Kazakhstan, central Asia, northern Russia - those deportees who had not been arrested separately and sent to the Gulag were placed in special billages, just like those that the Poles and the Balts had settled, and were told that an escape attempt would bring a twenty-year camp sentence. Their experiences were similar too. Disoriented, removed from their tribal and village societies, many failed to adjust. Usually despised by the local population, frequently unemployed, they rapidly grew weak and sick. Perhaps the shock of the new climate was greater: "When we arrived in Kazakhstan," one Chechen deportee remembered, "the ground was frozen hard, and we though we would all die." By 1949, hundreds of thousands of the Caucasians, and between a third and a half of the Crimean Tartars were dead...
Perhaps "genocide" is not the proper term for these deportations, since there were no mass executions. In later years, Stalin would also seek collaborators and allies among these "enemy" gropus, so his hatred was not purely racial. "Cultural genocide," however, is not inappropriate. After they ad gone, the names of all of the deported peoples were eliminated from official documents - even from the Great Soviet Encyclopdia. The authorities wiped their homelands off the map...
In the end, these nations did "reappear" after the death of Stalin, albeit slowly. Although the Chechens were allowed to return home in 1957, the Tartars could not so so until the Gorbachex era. They received their Crimean "citizenship" - their legal right to residence - only in 1994.
The operation rid the USSR of what he thought of as "enemy" social structures: bourgeois, religious, and national institutions that might resist him; educated people who might oppose him. At the same time, it also preserved more "units of labor" for future use. (pp. 428, 429, 430)

Prisoners in the camps found solace and protection in sub-communities. There were political, criminal, ethnic, military, and religious groups. Some religious women absolutely refused to work for the "Soviet Satan." They were eventually marched to their firing squad (p. 244).
The late 1950s also saw the arrests of the first groups of Soviet Baptists, who would quickly become the largest single dissident group behind barbed wire, as well s members of other religous sects. In 1960, the dissident Avraham Shifrin even encountered a group of Old Believers, followers of the older rites of the Orthodox Church, in a punishment cell in the political cap at Potma. Their community had emigrated to the virgin foress of the northern Urals in 1919, and had lived there in complete secrecy, until a KGB helicopter discovered them fifty years later. When Shifrin met them, they had become permanent residents of the camp punishment cells, having refused categorically to work for the Soviet anti-Christ. (p.529)

As always, I look for myself in these novels. I know that our blessed freedom in this Republic will not last forever. We live in a country that now practices torture and listens in on private conversations without warrant. Little by little we become like those who hate us. Perhpas some day I will end up in a camp. Will I retain my piety? Will my faith come after my self-preservation? God help me. I want to be someone who would starve to death before compromising in a punishment cell eating punishment rations arm in arm with fellow believers. I have written book reports before on life in the Gulag, Solzhenitsyn's novella and Herman's personal account. I come away from this book as from these others, traumatized. I think it was traumatic of Ms. Applebaum to confront the horrors over and over again as she conducted many interviews and read many secret memoirs. I agree with her that looking away only brings the next atrocity closer.
The more we are able to understand how different societies have transformed their neighbors and fellow citizens from people into objects, the more we know of the specific circumstances which led to each episode of mass torture and mass murder, the better we will understand the darker side of our won human nature. This book was not written "so that it will not happen again," as the cliche would have it. This book was written because it almost certainly will happen again. Totalitarian philosophies have had, and will continue to have, a profound appeal to many millions of people. Destruction of the "objective enemy," as Hannah Arendt once put it, remains a fundamental object of many dictatorships. We need to know why - and each story, each memoir, each document in the history of the gulag is a piece of the puzzle, a part of the explanation. Without them, we will wake up one day and realize that we do not know who we are.

I think a Bible student would know this without histories, but books like this confirm what the Bible keeps saying, we are sinners in need of a Savior.

Friday, August 17, 2007

10C's #6 Murder, part d

I want to add one small addendum to the prohibition of murder commandment. Yesterday, I made my position clear that I believe there are exceptions to this in the context of defense of the innocents and enforcement of the law. However, left at these two conditions, certain Christians have felt justified in vigilantism. Specifically, some believers felt the protection of the unborn justified their assassination of abortion doctors. I think the 6th commandment leaves no room for vigilantism. Vigilantes are a law, judge and jury unto themselves and operate out of any prescribed order. Civil disobedience that results in the maiming or murder of others is no longer civil and has become evil.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

10C's #6 Murder, part c

You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13)

Is the taking of life a nuanced and conditional situation? Are there occasions when killing is not sinful? It seems that God recognizes a distinction in Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds man's blood,
his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image. (HCSB) Is this Orwellian double speak? God also commanded complete destruction of different tribes within the Promised Land, without mercy, not even for infants. I understand from the Scripture that the length of our lives has been predetermined. Job complains in chapter 14
1 "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. 2 He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure. 3 Do you fix your eye on such a one? Will you bring him before you for judgment? 4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! 5 Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. 6 So look away from him and let him alone, till he has put in his time like a hired man. (NIV)

Perhaps the resolution is the principle of God's inclusion of man as an instrument in the accomplishment of His will. There are abundant capital crimes in the Pentateuch. God is completely able to end the lives of offenders without aid, yet he commanded his people to join in the working of justice. Several times, though, he simply did things independently with plagues or earthquakes or avenging angels. He reminds us that he doesn't need us to accomplish His justice, which is a comfort for victims when the offenders seem to walk away free. Believers also can pursue hope in times of tragedy when young lives are snuffed out seemingly unjustly. God determined the length of their days already. This knowledge prepares us. David writes,

Psalms 39:1-6
1 I said, ";I will guard my ways
so that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle
as long as the wicked are in my presence."; 2 I was speechless and quiet;
I kept silent, even from [speaking] good,
and my pain intensified. 3 My heart grew hot within me;
as I mused, a fire burned.
I spoke with my tongue: 4 "Lord, reveal to me the end of my life
and the number of my days.
Let me know how transitory I am. 5 You, indeed, have made my days short in length,
and my life span as nothing in Your sight.
Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor. Selah 6 Certainly, man walks about like a mere shadow.
Indeed, they frantically rush around in vain,
gathering possessions
without knowing who will get them. (HCSB)


Psalms 90:12-17
12 Teach us to number our days carefully
so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. 13 Lord-how long?
Turn and have compassion on Your servants. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with Your faithful love
so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us rejoice for as many days as You have humbled us,
for as many years as we have seen adversity. 16 Let Your work be seen by Your servants,
and Your splendor by their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us;
establish for us the work of our hands-
establish the work of our hands! (HCSB)

I digressed.
Things are clearer for those who lived in Israel 3000 years ago, but what of God's family today? Are there killings allowed for God's children now?
Last week we watched a retelling of a true story called The End of the Spear and its companion documentary, Beyond the Gates of Splendor. Both are about the martyrdoms of missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador in the 1950's. Both were excellent. Both were from the perspective of one of the children of the martyrs, Steve Saint. Elisabeth Elliot also lost her husband in that attack. The tribe was known to be violent and murderous and the men brought guns with them. A key line in the movie in regard to using the weapons is "We are ready for the afterlife and they aren't." The missionaries didn't defend themselves. Their wives ended up moving in with the tribe and making many of them ready for the afterlife, the change in their hearts changed their violent ways. The missionaries demonstrated the principle of Jesus, turning the other cheek. Jesus allowed himself to be unjustly murdered. For the Christian, self-preservation does not seem a justifiable reason for murder.
But what if we are able to protect someone? If I have the means to protect my children from one intent on harming them and that means is deadly force, will my use of that be murder? It's not in the courts of man. But what about the court of God? There is no proof text. Perhaps the pacifist will tell me that my children also have a secure eternity so I shouldn't kill their attacker. Then what if I saw a suicide bomber walking toward a crowded market. If I yelled out, the bomber would detonate and kill many innocents, of whose eternities I have no knowledge. But if I were a trained marksmen with a sniper rifle I could prevent the mass murder and maiming by the explosive-wearing assassin. Is that murder?
The pacifist would answer that no one is innocent. We are all guilty sinners. Also, the bomber is innocent until the bombs are activated. The sniper gives no time for the bomber to repent or the bomb to misfire. It is unjust to convict someone before a crime is committed. However, the courts of man provide for conviction based on intention. No one walks around with bombs strapped to their bodies innocently.
Finally, what if the means of the murderer against innocents is warfare? Can justice be brought by Christians, even if only cogs in a great war machine? Is the Christian shooting in the trenches and more guilty than the Christian making lead bullets or the Christian refining steel that will be used in war instruments or the Christian writing software that controls those instruments or the Christian farmer who feeds that soldier? No Christian is an island. Even conscientious objectors reap the benefits of those who fight on their behalf. Does the outsourcing of killing exonerate the pacifist?
I conclude their is a distinction between murder and killing. I also recognize not all believers agree with this. There is no proof text. Hence I will apply what I studied at work church yesterday, Romans 14, and peacefully disagree with my pacifist siblings and continue to support our soldiers in harm's way on my family's behalf.

an unanticipated risk of barefoot running

There is a reason beginning barefoot runners need to get off the grass and onto the road, dangerous vegetation. I'm suffering the effects of two such species simultaneously, poison ivy and prickly pear. Poison ivy between the toes is analogous to an athlete's foot fungal infection, itchy and uncomfortable. The microscopic prickly pear spines however take a long time to dissolve into the sole of the foot and result in a reasonable runner taking too many days off for pain free running conditions to return.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

10C's #6 Murder, part b

You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)

Here is a technical note from the NET
The verb רָצַח (ratsakh) refers to the premeditated or accidental taking of the life of another human being; it includes any unauthorized killing (it is used for the punishment of a murderer, but that would not be included in the prohibition). This commandment teaches the sanctity of all human life. See J. H. Yoder, ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’,” Int 34 (1980): 394-99; and A. Phillips, “Another Look at Murder,” JJS 28 (1977): 105-26.

The difficulties lie in the nuances. Some of the nuances are teased out in Numbers 35:16-34. Accidental killing, manslaughter, results in exile to the city of refuge but is not a capital offense and is protected from legal revenge killing. What a mess. Intent discriminates the two. In Numbers it is described as hostility or enmity (v.22).
Jesus elaborates on this in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:21, 22
Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire. (ASV)

According to Jesus, none of us who have been angry at someone else are more innocent than murderers. He brings it close to home, literally. Families are places especially ripe for anger. My brother and I used to beat each other up daily. There was alot of anger in our relationship. For what it's worth, we are great friends now. Jesus isn't calling anger or outbursts of insults "murder," but he is saying that anger and words do as much violence as sticks and stones. The first victim of the violence is the perpetrator. Anger cripples the soul. Outbursts of rage are often half-truths that weave a corrupted perception of reality by both the accuser and the receiver which can leave both in need of healing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Presidential Candidates and their churches

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney's adherence to Mormonism makes some question his gullibility. And on the Democratic side, Barak Obama's racist, anti-Semitic, and illogical pastor makes some question his wisdom. Newsmax has a scary first person report from a Sunday service with Obama at his church.
My take is that generally, people are able to compartmentalize extremely well. Relationships are so important to humans that we will wear the special Mormon underwear or nod at a racist screed even when we disagree or don't care if it maintains important relationships. Hence, I think a good leader could belong to dumb organizations or have dumb relationships. But the bravest or stupidest will choose principle over community. Our current president is popularly accused of the latter.
Since my current preference could be irrelevant after tomorrow's Iowa straw poll, I'll share his website now, Mike Huckabee, a consistent pro-life candidate. He was a Baptist pastor for a few years before he entered politics.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

caring for your missionaries

It turns out a pair of my friends who do "member care," which means they help take care of missionaries on the field, have a blog about member care, called Core Member Care. I hope you all will visit their blog and encourage them or be encouraged.

sin, death, no prayer: thoughts on 1 John 5:16

John has an interesting insight in his first letter chapter 5, verse 16.
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (NIV)

To questions clamor for our attention. What is the sin that leads to death? What's the deal with not praying for someone?
Firstly, what is the context? Who is this for? Brothers/family of Christ. This is a family matter. All of us adopted into God's family have a new citizenship and are commissioned as ambassadors to this broken world. Perhaps verse 17 could be rewritten as, "All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to ambassadorial recall (death)." In the political lives of our countries, ambassadors are sent to represent their sending country's interests. Sometimes, the ambassadors are such obnoxious guests in the country they are sent too, that they must be recalled. Some do such a wonderful job, that their job security is independent of which political party is in power. However, even those who do well miss their homes and are eager to return and to hear, "Well done." Not all recalls are for poor performance, but not all ambassadors receive a medal on their return.
In light of this concept, are there examples of early recalls due to poor representation in the New Testament? I can only think of two occasions. In Acts 5, a couple in the newborn church seek more acclaim than they are due, by averring a donation of all their proceeds from a land sale, when they were actually holding back some for themselves. The problem wasn't the amount but the lie. Peter confronts them individually, and they both lie and they both die.
1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. 3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." 9 Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. (NIV)

This couple was recalled for their wicked precedent. The only other incident I can think of in the New Testament is noted by Paul in his first letter to Corinth, chapter 11. Paul refers to the deaths euphemistically as "sleep." I think only believers' deaths are called "sleep." He blames their untimely naps on their irreverent approach to the Eucharist.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. (NIV)

Illness and death are judgments from the Lord (v. 30). But they are judgments of mercy, their sleep protects them from the coming judgment on the world (v. 32).

I think these examples illustrate wrongdoing among believers that result in their early recall in an act of merciful judgment. They illuminate John's concept of sin that leads to death.

However, can there really be things we shouldn't pray about? My reading in Jeremiah this morning turn up plenty of examples. Jeremiah's commission was to warn the Southern Kingdom, Judah, of their impending judgment, similar to the judgment they witnessed in the Northern Kingdom. The judgment is due to their unfaithfulness to God. [The imagery God uses to illustrate their unfaithfulness is frankly coarse and graphic. It's at least a PG-13 book.] In 7:16 God tells Jeremiah, So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. In 11:14, Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress. Finally in 14:11 Then the Lord said to me, "Do not pray for the well-being of this people.
God's point is their judgment is guaranteed, don't waste your breath. I think John is merely echoing God. The sin in Jeremiah is idolatry, a violation of the second commandment (links to my 6 recent posts on that one). John must have this in mind as he concludes his letter 5 verses later with this, Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. v. 21 (NIV) Were Ananias and Sapphira committing idolatry? Were the Corinthian communion partakers idolatrous? No. Their sins stand on their own. Don't lie to God, don't worship Him irreverently. Doing so can lead to the believer's early recall. John's point may include the avoidance of syncretism. Don't blend worship of God with other idols. And don't pray for those guilty of such things for why try to hinder God's merciful judgment on them?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Pill and abortion

Perhaps you never knew this. Now you do thanks to Pro-Life with Christ

Introducing her topic, the "Medical Consequences of Contraception," Dr. Kraw began by stating that she refrains from using the word "contraception." This is because it implies solely the "prevention of conception," whereas in reality many so-called contraceptives result in a myriad of other harms, including abortion.

As a practicing endocrinologist (hormone doctor) at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Kraw focused mainly on the effects of hormonal birth control. Artificial hormonal birth control works by introducing artificial estrogen and artificial progesterone (progestins), at 4 to 10 times the dosage naturally produced by the body. These dangerously high levels trick the brain into thinking that the person may be pregnant and cause ovulation to stop.

The pill also prevents conception by thickening the cervical mucous so that the sperm can't reach the egg. If this doesn't work, the pill prevents the implantation of an already fertilized egg. This occurs when a new human person has already been conceived, Kraw stated, but after the artificial hormones have thinned the uterus lining. "So rather than sort of snuggling into a nice nourishing uterus to continue development," she explained, "the uterus is hostile and the embryo is discarded."

Barefoot racing results

I had an exciting sprint triathlon on Thursday. i finished in 1'20", number 37 out of 52, but it could have been faster. The 300 yard swim went really well. I was done in 6:42. But I had troubles on the 12 mile bike ride. I rode the only recumbent of the race. On lap 2 I threw my chain, but that was a quick fix. However, on lap 6, as I was climbing a gentle rise my left calf cramped up solid as a rock. I pulled over and massaged it out somewhat and resumed riding at a tentative pace. I finished the last mile and a half and stretched it out even more before running. The cramp didn't return on the run. It was a little tender, but I ran the 3 miles just under 27 minutes. I only stepped on one pointy rock too.
Friday I rested and ate extra brown rice at dinner.
Saturday morning my legs didn't want to flex at all, which was a problem since I had an 11.6 mile race. I finished that in 1'51", number 217 out of 319. There was one other barefoot runner, Rick, who's been doing it for 10 years. I ended up with a 9:37 minute per mile average, but at the 1 mile split I was under 8 minutes, and at the 5 mile mark I was just under 45 minutes. My calves loosened up well before the race, but at mile 9 my right calf was getting really tight. I did get one blister behind my big toe and split skin behind two of my toes. Only a couple sharp rocks out there. I take a lot of comfort that I came in 2nd in the barefoot division. If the humidity was less and the sun cooler, I think all of us would have turned out better times. It's not ideal racing weather. Many kind people set up water stations and turned hoses and sprinklers on us. The evil hill at mile 8 however, was devoid of shade or water. By then I was more often on the sidewalk or grass than asphalt. The race begins and ends at Ocean Beach, so I took a nice chilly dip afterwards. This free race also included soda, raw clams on the half shell, potato chips, bananas and clam chowder. It was all delightful and refreshing.
Only 2 and a half months until my first (barefoot) marathon.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

great article on Christian marital conflict

I wish I couldn't identify with Mahaney's episode...but I love that the solution lies in James 4.

After dinner, when Carolyn and I were alone, she humbly appealed: “Lately, I feel as if you have not been keeping me informed of various plans like you usually do.”

I wish I could tell you that I responded with humility. I wish I had heard her out and then humbly evaluated her critique, appropriately suspicious of my own heart and eager to learn from her observations. But I did not. Instead I began to question her, and rather quickly my approach came to resemble that of a prosecuting attorney. I was being misrepresented and this injustice must be righted.

Carolyn was merely trying to preserve intimacy and communication in our marriage, but in my pride I quickly became angry. Before long I had moved beyond disagreement and (since no one else was honoring me) begun to honor myself. I actually said something like, “Dear, it’s tough not to admire how effective a communicator I have been in our marriage.” I followed this up with A Brief History of Our Marriage According to C.J., featuring a number of illustrations portraying me as possibly the most communicative husband of all time. And although she expressed appreciation for what I had done in the past, Carolyn was not persuaded.

My arrogance was pronounced and my anger was escalating; but Carolyn chose to serve and not sin. In my prideful state, that was simply unacceptable. So to my shame, I made several remarks intended to provoke her to join my sinful party. I wanted her to have something to confess as well. But Carolyn wasn’t playing my game, and we ended the conversation in disagreement.

Did I then go to another room, fall to my knees, open my Bible to James 4, and repent? No, I went to our bedroom, sat down, opened my new Sports Illustrated, and dove in. But I wasn’t reading the articles. I was imagining my wife coming into the room and saying, “Love, you really are most incredible husband in all of world history. How could I have possibly criticized you in any way? Will you please forgive me?”

That’s when God, in his kindness, began to convict me. I began to see that I had brought cravings right in the front door with me that evening—cravings for my home to be primarily (if not exclusively) a place of refuge and relaxation, rather than a context in which to serve. I wanted a hassle-free evening. I wanted to be lavished with attention, affection and approval. And I’d received correction instead.

My passions were warring within me, and when they weren’t satisfied, what did I do? Because I coveted and could not obtain, I fought and quarreled. Because I desired and did not have, I sought to drag my patient, loving wife into the mire with me. In the final analysis, I was railing against God and his purposes in my life for that evening.

When the Holy Spirit clarified my sinful cravings, I saw not only that the situation was more serious than I had thought—I saw where the source and cause of this conflict truly resided. It wasn’t complicated. The problem was within me!

Understanding conflict is simpler than we think, for God’s Word makes it clear that cravings underlie conflicts.

Harry Potter predictions

I read The Deathly Hallows and my predictions were all wet. I guess the predictions reveal more about me than about JK Rowling. I'm not sure it's worth a book report. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the series. My favorite book was The Order of the Phoenix because it hit some major emotional soft spots in me. I think readers who don't identify as outsiders, outcasts, or rejected will not connect with the books like I did. All the scenes of separation from father figures were very emotional for me. Is the series a Christian series? No. Can the series use of the self sacrificial hero motif be employed as a touchstone to introduce the gospel? Yes!

10C's: #6 Murder, part a

Exodus 20:15 You shall not murder. (NIV)

As a parent, I now understand why this commandment comes after honoring your parents. Sometimes we parents think what Bill Cosby once said to his children, "I brought you into this world and I can take you out!" We laugh at this but the Lord did provide parents the option of having their children killed by the community for insolence. Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Notice it wasn't to be done in a blaze of anger, but through a judicial process. God takes honoring our parents seriously. He also takes the job of killing seriously too. After the flood God tells Noah,
Whoever sheds man's blood,
his blood will be shed by man,
for God made man
in His image.
Genesis 9:6 (HCSB)

God gives the reason for the sinfulness of murder and the necessary response to it.