The Presbyterian Church (USA) has defeated a move -- for the third time in 12 years -- that would have allowed partnered gay and lesbian clergy....
Sixty-nine of the Presbyterians' 173 presbyteries, or local governing bodies, voted to rescind a church rule that requires clergy to be abide by ``fidelity in marriage ... or chastity in singleness," according to the denomination's news service.
Michael Patton has written a very helpful overview of sola Scriptura and other views of the authority of Scripture. I completely agree with a fundamental point he makes that many misunderstandings and abuses of sola scriptura can be cleared up with an accurate definition. Here's how Michael defines it:
Belief that Scripture is the final and only infallible authority for the Christian in all matters of faith and practice. While there are other authorities, they are always fallible and the must always be tested by and submit to the Scriptures.
I came across a new book, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, on Challies blog a couple of weeks ago. He posted one of the prayers and it affected me as a cry of my heart and mind, and as an instruction and aid in prayer. I've been incorporating the prayers daily in my prayer and Bible study, and I have to tell you they are feeding my soul, guiding my thoughts in prayer, instructing me, and building me up as I approach God. They are rich in theology and a full-bodied understanding of God. I highly recommend this book. Here's one I appreciate:
Save me entirely from sin. I know I am righteous through the righteousness of another, But I pant and pine for likeness to Thyself;
I am Thy child and should bear Thy image, Enable me to recognize my death unto sin; When it tempts me may I be deaf unto its voice. Deliver me from the invasion as well as the dominion of sin. Grant me to walk as Christ walked, To live in the newness of His life, The life of love, the life of faith, the life of holiness.
I abhor my body of death, Its indolence, envy, meanness, pride. Forgive, and kill these vices, Have mercy on my unbelief, on my corrupt and wandering heart.
When Thy blessings come I begin to idolize them, And set my affection on some beloved object – Children, friend, wealth, honour; Clean this spiritual adultery and give me chastity; Close my heart to all but Thee.
Sin is my greatest curse; Let Thy victory be apparent to my consciousness, And displayed in my life. Help me to be always devoted, confident, obedient, Resigned, childlike in my trust of Thee, To love Thee with soul, body, mind, strength, To love my fellow-man as I love myself, To be saved from unregenerate temper, hard thoughts, Slanderous words, meanness, unkind manner, To master my tongue and keep the door of my lips.
Fill me with grace daily, That my life be a fountain of sweet water.
Update: One of my Facebook friends just told me about the CD of music based on the prayers and devotions. And it's on iTunes, too. Here's Challies review of the CD.
Sometimes apologetics and apologists have a questionable reputation. Stuffy, rigid, overly-serious, uptight, angry, geeky, and the like. If you're trying to do apologetics with youth, such perceptions are a death knell. So if you work with youth, take this very technical and precise little test to see if you're the "good cop" or "bad cop" youth worker.
I like the conclusion: "The best youth leaders I had growing up were a hybrid of both. Able to
be an adult and keep things moving in the right direction but not
afraid to laugh and admit how fun a life spent with God can be."
Greg interviewed Mike Licona Sunday about the resurrection myth claims in pagan religions that some critics use to dismiss the Biblical resurrection claim. But there is really no comparison or basis to do so when compared carefully.
Gary Habermas has a helpful article that explains the fundamental differences between these other stories and the Biblical claim.
One of the fundamental points is that these other accounts should be put to the same test of reliability as the Gospels - and they're not even in the same category of literature when examined. First, these stories tend to be late - a century or more after the lives of the individuals claimed to be resurrected. Just as is claimed by critics of the New Testament who believe the records are a century or more after Jesus' life, that is more than enough time for legend to grow around the kernel of a story and no eyewitnesses are around to verify or deny the claims. Second, the claimed testimonies are subjective and private, not open to verification by contemporaries. Third, most of the reports don't actually involve resurrections and the supposed parallels aren't really there. Fourth, most of these accounts contain other historical inaccuracies, as opposed to the Bible, which has been confirmed many times by historical and archaeological evidence. Fifth, the textual evidence for the stories is questionable and minuscule compared to the New Testament evidence.
Habermas points out:
[N]on-Christian resurrection claims have not been proved by the evidence. Any of several naturalistic hypotheses is certainly possible and, in some cases, one or more can specifically be postulated as a probable cause. Simply to report a miracle is not sufficient to establish it, especially if that miracle is then going to be used to support a religious system. And to answer a question posed at the outset of this essay, non-Christian religions cannot use their resurrection claims to provide evidence for the system in question if these claims are themselves unsubstantiated.
He suggests that the same scrutiny and skepticism directed at the New Testament claims should be equally applied to these non-Christian resurrection claims. It seems that even the barest examination reveals significant differences in the quality and kind of claims. These other resurrection stories cannot be used to dismiss the claims of Jesus' resurrection because there is no comparison.
I watched "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" last night and enjoyed it very much, was very affected by the ending. But I am uncomfortable with what I think the moral lesson might be, the way it was constructed, the basis of its appeal. Maybe there was no moral appeal to the movie, but if not intentional I think there's one that might be inferred and it's not a mature one. (Spoiler alert-I'm discussing the ending.)
The Nazis have their son taken in the gas chamber, inadvertently in the group of Jewish prisoners herded to their deaths. And the father, who firmly believes in the good goals of the Final Solution and that Jews are not "persons" is now affected by his own methods. He cared not a whit for the Jews he killed, but is now distraught that his son is killed among them. My guess is that many people with a conscience would observe this tragic twist and think that the father would now recognize the evil of his actions now that he has lost a child. Essentially, it's the moral lesson of "how would you feel if it happened to you?" While that may be a useful appeal to a child with an undeveloped conscience, it's not a very well-developed moral appeal. It trades on self-interest, rather than concern for others. It asks for someone to make their moral decisions based on their own feelings rather than thinking of others. It doesn't ask someone to put themselves in someone else's shoes, but asks them to put others in their shoes. It doesn't challenge us to think beyond our own feelings for the feelings of others. It doesn't base the moral rule on objective goodness, but subjective feelings.
I don't think this kind of appeal is the same thing as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That is an appeal to think beyond ourselves, to think of others as well as we think of ourselves. It's not an appeal based on self-interest, but to think beyond ourselves.
If the moral appeal of the movie was a sort of karma, what goes around comes around, then that reduces again into self-interest. We shouldn't do bad things because bad things will happen to us. So in any way I can think of it, the moral message is a subjective appeal. While there be a stage of moral development where that is appropriate, it's not ultimately what morality is about.
And I doubt that in the case of the Nazi father that his feelings about his participation in killing Jews would have changed because he inadvertently killed his son. Here's how he could have reasoned to divert the blame away from himself. He might have thought that if the Jews were not such dangerous, despicable creatures he never would have been forced to exterminate them and place his son in proximity to the danger he was caught up in. He could easily blame the Jews rather than himself because his view of the Jews is so ingrained.
I think it was a very good movie and the ending is powerful. But if the movie was attempting to make a moral appeal, it was badly grounded and badly reasoned.
Lately when I hear public crossfire-type discussions on the issue of same-sex marriage—discussions that have filled the airwaves since the unfortunate incident at the Miss America pageant—traditional marriage wins on the merits, but the other side wins the rhetoric game.
It’s time we stop letting others frame the debate in terms of “tolerance,” “fairness,” “equality,” and “compassion,” in a way that pushes us into defense mode trying to neutralize the loaded language, but never really gaining any ground for our side.
The fact is, decent Americans are the ones being bullied here, citizens who are people of conscience, overflowing with tolerance in the classic sense, but are being pushed around and oppressed because they disagree with the extreme views of the minority. Instead of making the case for traditional marriage, maybe we should also point out what's really going on behind the rhetoric that appeals to fairness and equality.
It was an advocacy and argumentation class at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication. Every student, whether pro-life or pro-choice (I think the professor said that maybe two were pro-life), was required to argue against my position.
I began the debate by defending two contentions: 1) That the unborn is a distinct human being from the moment of conception and 2) That abortion is unjust discrimination that disqualifies a group of human beings from the human community based on an arbitrary quality or characteristic (either the unborn's size, level of development, environment, or degree of dependency).
The nice thing about this event was I had a measure of control over the discussion since I was the guest speaker. I didn't use that control to be unfair, though, but it did give me a chance to respond to each argument without interruption.
As expected, the students brought up the usual "hard cases" of rape, incest, and life-threatening circumstances. But, as I pointed out to them, abortion for those reasons amounts to less than 5% of all abortions (according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute – Planned Parenthood's research group). So, I offered them a deal: I'll agree that abortion should remain legal in those "hard cases" if they agree it should be illegal in the 95% of other cases where abortion is performed for social, economic, and emotional reasons (not that that is my goal). No one took me up on the offer. They wanted all abortions to be legal, regardless of the reason (which is really the status quo).
Basically, every argument I heard that morning in favor of abortion either assumed the unborn was not a human being or disqualified the unborn from the human community based on some arbitrary quality. That's why I chose to refute those two points in my opening arguments.