Monday, April 27, 2009

The Difference Between Grace and Karma

This is great.

Rolling Stone: Don’t you think appalling things happen when people become religious?

Bono: It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between grace and karma.

RS: What’s that?

Bono: At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, you put out what comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics every action is met by an equal and opposite one. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I have done a lot of stupid stuff. I would be in big trouble if Karma is going to finally be my judge. I am holding out that Jesus took my sins to the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

RS: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe that.

Bono: The point of death is that Christ took the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven.

Rolling Stone, one of the worst cultural perps in our world right now, opens with one of the most hackneyed and false salvos possible, and Bono responds with, well, grace. I'm not Bono's biggest fan, but this is great stuff.

HT: Salvo Blog

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hate Speech Police

More and more hate crimes laws are being woven into the fabric of our legal structure and even our societal assumptions about what crimes are the really heinous ones. If two people are murdered alongside a road, one is a WASP and the other is a female Mexican immigrant, one murder is much worse than the other. Thankfully, Congress is ready to help us broaden our current myopic understanding of what counts as a hate crime. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

This month, Congress has an opportunity to deal with this challenge by adopting the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

A top priority of the Anti-Defamation League, this legislation would strengthen federal hate crimes laws by authorizing the Department of Justice to assist local authorities investigating and prosecuting certain bias-motivated crimes. The bill would also provide authority for the federal government to prosecute some bias-motivated crimes directed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Current law does not provide sufficient authority for involvement in these cases.

The “mark up” of this piece of legislation actually happens this Wednesday (April 22nd) and will present to Congress, the Senate and President, legislation that explicitly includes speech against sexual orientation as a hate crime. According to one report, it includes all 30 (yes, there are 30!) sexual orientations recognized by the American Psychological Association. Ironically, many of the behaviors based on those orientations are currently against the law in most, if not all, states. Politicians have never let such ironies stop them before.

The ever clear-minded Huffington Post contained an opinion piece…wait for it…supporting it! The argument proffered is full of postmodern language about the maintenance of power structures and the evils of what children are taught in their homes about people who are different than them. And in case you thought that all people could be hateful, the article make it clear that, “Hate crime exists at one end on a continuum of privilege.”

It is incredibly convenient to support a piece of sweeping and horrific legislation like this one, and in one quick sentence exempt most people (including yourself) of the crime. Only “those guys” are guilty of hate, because we have simply defined hate as an attitude and act shown from the powerful to the disenfranchised.

Another inconvenient falsehood perpetrated by this kind of legislation is that things that are not crimes become crimes. Literally, it is not a crime to think something, and it is not a crime to say most things. The clear application sought by it supporters is that this kind of hate thought legislation will be applied to religious organizations and churches. It can become a crime to speak truths and beliefs taught by religion, thus making the State the arbiter of speech and acceptable belief.

Another crushing and obvious irony to all this is that hate crime and hate thought legislation is more often than not supported by those who espouse the virtue of “tolerance.” In reality, their agenda is the crushing of any thought and belief different than their own, and because they don’t have a leg to stand on in public debate and analysis, they force their views on everyone else through laws and the courts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Book Review Blog For and By Pastors

Another pastor and I have begun a blog dedicated to books for pastors reviewed by pastors. Take a look!

Pastor's Books

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Truth, Arrogance, and the Wisdom of Deepak Chopra

Lee Strobel has a wonderful apologetics site full of videos and information on the basic questions regarding the truth of the Christian faith. In this video, Greg Koukl debates the ever evading Dr. Deepak Chopra regarding religious truth.

As is standard for Chopra, his only fall-back position to facts and arguments is that because other people think differently about religious matters, they must not be any truth to the matter. Don’t bother me with facts! I know a guy who thinks differently than you do, and you are arrogant for not being a relativist!

What bothers me the most about this argument is that it seems to have a hold on a large and growing number of people, even thought is it so thin you could drink tapioca through it (I don’t know what that means). Part of the problem our culture has when it comes to debate is that there is a point of view out there (a dominant point of view) that believes differences are evidence for relativism and that dissent from relativism is arrogance. In a fatal twist of irony, this is the most arrogant and tyrannical belief possible to hold.

For instance, if I believe it is true that “Jesus is the only Son of God,” and I believe that because of an objective source (Scripture, God’s existence, etc.), then I make my appeal to you through another “truth maker.” In addition, I make, or ought to make, my claim humbly. I did not make my belief true, therefore I am in a position of humility with regards to it. In other words, I assent to the truth and provide good reasons for you to do so as well.

On the other hand, Chopra and others like him do not believe there is a “super-human” standard for truth, and thus have made themselves the makers and bearers of truth. If Chopra believes “all religions are ways to god,” then his only standard for that truth is himself. In addition, that makes him infinitely arrogant. As a result, his reply to anyone who holds to any kind of objective truth is one of arrogance.

The Christian worldview has hold on the truth, not because we are that smart, but because God has revealed it to all of us. And that makes us infinitely humble in all the right ways with regard to the truth.

Stem Cell Debate Over?


While on the show with Michael J. Fox, Dr. Oz describes how useless embryonic stem cells are and how useful adult stem cells are. The video cuts short the whole discussion, but for the objective student, there is a growing amount of information to support his argument.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Should Doctors be Made to Practice Against their Conscience?

President Obama has recently announced his intent to reverse what is commonly called the “conscience clause” for medical professionals. Officially, the Provider Refusal Rule, allows a medical practitioner to opt out of procedures they personally find immoral and distasteful. Their conscience can be their guide in their practice, and for many, that means their religious views will come into play.

Enter the standard drum-beat of public vs. private morality. Stanley Fish wrote a column on this issue for the NY Times in which he invokes Hobbes’ political theory in order to support the view that doctors should be bound by law to carry out what the law requires. If we allowed each individual doctor to practice according to their conscience, the public order of law and morality would be on the brink of disorder. According to Hobbes and Fish, Law becomes the public morality, and each of us in society is bound by our kinds of social contracts to abide by those laws.

Fish’s argument has some fatal flaws to it. I agree, for example, that because premeditated murder is against the law, all citizens are bound to not commit premeditated murder. And if they do, they should be punished. In this way, murder has a tight legal force behind it and our society has contracted to abide by it.

The provision of abortion has no such tight legal force around it. Where the universal prohibition of premeditated murder is on the books, no such universal provision for abortion exists. There is no law stating that all doctors are bound to provide abortions. So Fish’s argument stands with murder – it fails with abortion. If any doctor (or any set of doctors) refuses to provide abortions, they violate no laws, and certainly do not even rise to the level of violating a social contract.

Secondly, Fish doesn’t even raise the question of the status of the fetus. And he doesn’t, because to do so is to make the social contract theory he enjoins work against him. If a fetus is human or potentially human, then abortion is murder or tantamount to murder, thus we have a universal law agreed upon by our society protecting the fetus against abortion. Fish’s argument might just commit suicide.

And thirdly, he assumes an ethical breech between private and public morality. In making a silly emotional plea, he tries to take your emotions and wrap them around a bad conclusion.

But should patients be asked to add to the problems they already have the problem of having to figure out (if they have the time) which providers will be willing to treat them? When a professional hangs out his shingle doesn’t he offer his services and skills to the public and not just to members of it who share his morality?...

The force of these questions depends on assumptions the proponents of the conscience clause do not share, chiefly the assumption that obligations vary with different contexts and that one can (and should) relax the obligations of faith when one is not in church.

I wonder if Fish holds these private ethical values of his loosely when he enters the public square, especially one that on the whole, disagrees with abortion on demand?

Support the Conscience Clause

Be Heard Project

And Another Try...

Like clockwork every Easter and Christmas, someone in the main stream press has to make another effort to tell us all how old, outdated, irrelevant, and irrational Christianity is. Newsweek is the latest culprit with their cover proclaiming our nation is no longer "Christian." It grows ponderous and repetitive to deal with each of these rehashes, so we don't always do so here. But posted on the First Things blog is a great treatment of the selective journalism and poor quality that is Meacham's article.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mediums and a Gospel Message?

Shane Hipps is the recent author of two books on how media and mediums change the way the messages are conveyed. The interview below is specifically in regards to his book, Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith. I have not read the book, but the few minutes of the video below are provocative.

He goes after the fairly conventional notion that though mediums change, the message stays the same, and concludes, ostensibly with McLuhan, that the medium is the message. On several levels, I find this a very important reality for pastors and churches to reflect upon. We often swallow and use technologies without reflecting first on what they are doing to the message. What happens to a sermon when it is simulcast? What happens to community when more and more of it happens “on-line”? What happens to worship when it is programmed like a Yani concert? And so forth.

On another level, I am curious about how deep his conviction goes. Is his argument that we need to scale back our reliance on technology and be much more cautious? (He is a Mennonite pastor, so that is entirely possible.) Is he traveling down a path where the message of the Gospel itself becomes a little fungible and begins to change in significant ways? (He wrote a book endorsed by Brian McLaren, so that is also possible.)

In any event, enjoy the brief provocation.

HT: Out of Ur

Apologetics Study Bible

I was given the Apologetics Study Bible for my birthday, and though I haven’t read every single word (I received it yesterday), I have spent a lot of time reading articles, text notes, and the editors’ explanation for the way they put it together. I have to say I am extremely impressed. I am impressed by the wide array of philosophers who contributed articles throughout the text, and I am impressed with the annotated bibliography on different apologetic issues. I was also impressed, reading through several biblical texts, on the focus of the textual notes. They really did focus on apologetic issues and, where I read them, handled the text well.

A “bonus” feature for me was a set of comments called the Twisted Scripture notes. At several important places, the editors stuck a brief note on how this particular verse of set of verses has been taken out of context and used to justify some pretty bad thinking. If there is any kind of draw-back for me, it would be the Holman translation, and only because it is brand new to me. Now I have a new translation to get used to.

If you are looking for a new and useful study Bible, I highly recommend the Apologetics Study Bible!