Thursday, March 31, 2005

I am a man of unclean lips from a people of unclean lips...

In Toronto, Canada, an allegedly drunk driver with a taste for trickery failed to foil a police breathalyzer machine after stuffing his mouth full of feces. "At the station the man grabbed a handful of his own waste "and placed it in his mouth, attempting to trick the breathalyzer machine," the arresting officer said.

Notwithstanding this tactic, the machine registered two readings of more than twice the legal blood alcohol limit.

On a lighter note...

"Young boys like to flush toilets for whatever reason," says Shawn Smith, the President of a local ball park in New Hampshire. Apparently they are planning a "synchronized flush" of 103 new toilets at the stadium with the help of little league players. The flush is reportedly "advised in order to clear any impurities out of the system."

What a relief.

I would simply like to note in passing that young boys flushing the toilet has not been the experience of my wife and I with our three children under age eight..

TNIV naysayers beware...

AFP reports, "Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe praised former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher as a "man-woman" who could resolve issues..."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Homosexuals Protest Focus on the Family

Religionjournal.com reports A gay rights group called "Soulforce" plans to protest outside the Colorado Springs, Colo., headquarters of Focus on the Family. The article reports that the group has no interest in a proposed "panel discussion" on the Bible's view of homosexuality. "For Soulforce, the debate about the worth, dignity and spirit evident in the lives of gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered people is over," the group said in a statement.

Evangelicals do not suggest that homosexuals lack worth. They have great worth because they, like all people, are created in God's image. Evangelicals do not suggest that homosexuals lack dignity; they have equal dignity with all human beings. Indeed, the Christian critique of homosexuality is built on the foundation of this very assertion, for without such dignity, there is no meaning or gravity to sin.

Evangelicals need to do a better job of teaching and communicating the idea of sin and the gospel to homosexuals. Too often homosexuals get the impression that among evangelicals, homosexuality is a special unpardonable sin, making their case hopeless.

The fact is that homosexuality is no different than any other sin. Christians have a quite an extraordinary explanation for the origin and nature of sin. They teach that sin comes from the heart, from an inner disposition to sin inherited in all mankind as a result of the fall of our race in Adam in the garden of Eden. This includes not only homosexuality, but stealing adultery, fornication, murder, gluttony, covetousness, gossiping and any other category of sin you can dream of.

Homosexuals typically justify themselves by saying that "I can't help it, I was born this way." Christian's already know this, and we really don't care, because every person is born with the unfailing disposition to sin. That is the curse of our race. Some people are born with pride, but it doesn't do any good if they defend themselves by saying they were born that way. It would no good for an adulterer to complain that he can't help himselfbecause he has an insatiable lust for sex.

One might ask, "If God made me lime this, then why would he punish me." But the point is that he saves sinners like you. He doesn't punish them, but declares them innocent and puts the penalty that your sin condition deserved in the back of Christ at the cross, as though he had, in modern terms, taken the punishment of lethal injection for us.

The point of the gospel is that Christ died for us when we were sinners, when we were helpless and dead in our sin, when we were trapped in our sin and unable to escape it and gave up hope of ever being any different. It is that sort of hopelesseness that is the precursor to understanding of the extraordinary and unlikely claims of the "good news" that Christian orthodoxy professes: through the gist of faith, Christ declares us not guilty and then makes us into something we are not by the same sovereign power that spoke DNA into being in the immeasurable past.

He delares us not guilty of being a homosexual, or a cheat, or a cad, or an adulterer, or a backstabber, or a self righteous person, etc. when clearly, by all human terms, we are guilty not only of particular offenses, but even more profoundly of these conditions.

Christ does it by his power and his mercy; and it is particularly illustrative of his power to exercise it in the places where we comprehend that we are powerless to change. He does it through faith, which is the humble disposition of our heart toward God which recognizes our utter reliance on him alone while, at the same time humbly and gladly acknowledging that such such recognition and reliance merit nothing before him, but are themselves his most gracious and surprising gift.

I am not a homosexual, but I am not better than a homosexual. I am no less a slave to sin than a homosexual; the only difference is that my pet sins are different. I am no less culpable nor am I in any less need of the gospel.

We need not to deny that adultery or cheating or pride or homosexuality are sins. Christians accept them as such and entrust ourselves to the God who saves sinners.

We are all in the same boat, and it is maddening to me that so often homosexuals are left out of the boat as though their sin is different in character than anyone else's. It isn't.

Church Discipline for Judge Greer?

You have no doubt read that Judge Greer has withdrawn his membership from Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Florida. The St. Pete Times reports that William Rice, the pastor of that congregation sent Greer a letter which, among other things, stated, "I am not asking you to do this, but since you have taken the initiative of withdrawal, and since your connection with Calvary continues to be a point of concern, it would seem the logical and, I would say, biblical course."

In other words, "Please go away, because I have no idea how to deal with you."

Rice said said he "offered to meet with Greer" but instead received the judge's letter withdrawing his membership. Pastor Rice's seeming implicit criticism of Judge Greer for failing to meet with him is strange since it is precisely the "biblical course" he recommended.

Stranger still are the
comments of James A. Smith Sr., executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, who told Baptist Press, "It appears that Judge Greer has chosen to remove himself from the loving care of a biblically sound church rather than to submit to the biblical obligation to exercise his public duties in a manner that is consistent with his Christian faith. This is regrettable for Judge Greer because he could not be better served than to be under the teaching of Dr. Rice."

But how is it that withdrawal from the church is a "lack of submission" when the pastor suggests it as the "biblical course?" Smith added, "I believe that other Southern Baptist churches would be well-served to follow the model of Dr. Rice in the manner in which he has dealt with this difficult situation."

In other words, if you believe that someone is breaking God's law, write them a letter and ask them to take the "biblical course" and just leave the church.

What is really supposed to happen in the case of Biblical discipline is that the shepherds of the church are to confront open and unrepentant sin. They are to do so personally, and then "take it to the church" if it is unresolved. Apparently, instead of private confrontation, Rice chose to publish a column in The Florida Baptist Witness Online challenging the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. The article was published online March 14 and in its print edition March 17, the same day the church received Judge Greer's resignation.

Church discipline of a sitting judge regarding his decision in a controvertial case raises many interesting biblical issues. Unfortunately, those issues will never be probed in this case because of the flaccid response of the church to Judge Greer. In any such proceeding, Judge Greer should have had the right to defend in bilical principle that he has fulfilled his obligations as a civil official.

This case typifies the increasing irrelevance of the organized church. If you disagree with something, just leave and go somewhere else. Don't worry, no one will censure you for doing so. Besides, who cares what the church thinks; everybody has their own opinion. What we are witnessing is the dilution of ecclesiastical authority.

Judge in Schiavo case faces death threats

The Washington Post Reports that Pinellas County Circuit Judge George W. Greer faces a "sea of death threats" from disability rights groups. The article quotes the president of one of these groups going by the name "Not Dead Yet." It remains unclear whether the group's unusual name derives from a flattering description of disabled persons or whether it is simply a statement of disappointment over Judge Greer's current status.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Headlines

This Just in...
Parents Not Talking to Kids About Sex (Mar 28, 2005) (Focus on the Family)

I've heard of tough congregations,, but this is ridiculous...
Prominent Eritrean Pastor Disappears in Asmara

Did we fight the Vietnam war to end persecutions of Christians?
Christian Persecution Persists 30 Years After the Vietnam War (ReligionJournal.com)

Why are you "unchurched?"

Christianpost.com reports that the Barna Research Group, which analyzes trends in the U.S. Christian community, recently found that one-third of Americans remain “unchurched” despite national efforts to increase attendance. It also notes that this proportion "has changed little" during the past five years. If you are "unchurched," I would be curious to know why.

"Eye for an eye..."

The New York Times reports that the Colorado Supreme Court has reversed a death sentence for a defendant because some jurors referred to Bibles in their deliberation as to whether to grant him life in prison or the death penalty. The artucle reports that the judge instructed the jury, "that each juror must make an "individual moral assessment," in deciding whether Mr. Harlan should live. If that is the standard applicable in Colorado, then I don't see why a juror couldn't consult any text, whether the Bible or any other book she would regard as a moral guide that would assist his or her individual moral judgment. If the state of Colorado wants to rule out jurors bringing religiously guided moral judgments to bear on death penalty verdicts, then it needs to change its law to tell the jurors exactly what factors must be considered. You cannot reasonably ask jurors to use "individual morals" and then expect them to disregard their religious convictions. Let the legislature set the standards for this review rather than the judiciary.

Speaking of sociopaths...

Following up on the last post, here is a story from The Daily Orange bearing the headline: "In between alleged murder and arrest, student attended class." Syracuse police said that earlier Wednesday the student allegedly strangled the mother of his four year old daughter, stuffed her body in a suitcase and dumped it. His professor commented, "There was nothing unusual about his presence, nothing unusual about his actions. The only time he missed class was for basketball games, so he was a student who did attend regularly." Consider the pathology of sin. Is this behavior fundamentally any different than the rest of us? Isn't it basically a human tendency to carry on as though one can live with impunity after engaging in culpable conduct?

Monday, March 28, 2005

"Lord have mercy on me, a sociopath?"

Check out this review of a new book by Martha Stout titled: “The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us.” The title is almost reminiscent of the self righteous Pharisee who prayed, "Thank you, Lord that I'm not like that tax collector?" Interestingly, the reviewer, Norman Rosenthal, complains of "Stout’s overly sharp division of the world into sociopaths and people with consciences," noting, "In my experience, a substantial gray zone lies between the two." Might this reasonably lead the reader to ask whether we all might be the sociopath next door? http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/journalgazette/news/editorial/11244377.htm

And I thought a bishop would recognize that Christ's death atones for sins...

This in from TheIowaChannel.com (KCCI): " A published report says a high-ranking Church of England official wants Prince Charles to apologize to the ex-husband of his fiancee Camilla Parker Bowles." The report further explains, "Bishop David Stancliffe said church rules dictate Charles must atone for committing adultery." (emphasis added). I know Charles is in line to be king, but surely atonment is too much to ask even of this sovereign. Perhaps a half-hearted apology might demonstrate Charle's advocacy of the "limited atonement." http://www.theiowachannel.com/news/4321674/detail.html

And what does the secular moon tell us?

The U.S. Naval Observatory's Astronomical Applications Department says that Easter is determined by the "ecclesiastical moon" as defined by church-constructed tables to be used permanently for calculating the phase of the moon. http://people.howstuffworks.com/easter1.htm
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