September 29, 2006

Stem Cell Wars: Inside Stories from the Frontlines -- A Fictional Account of the Political Landscape

What I think about Stem Cell Wars: Inside Stories from the Frontlines has everything to do with my own presuppositional framework. I believe in the sanctity of life at every age and stage, so I hold the human embryo in high regard - as an image bearer of our Creator - an image bearer at the earliest stage of life. But what I think about the book also has EVERYTHING to do with the author. In the coming days (probably weeks) I will be posting many quotes from this book, showing how Eve Herold has little grasp on the foundations of the arguments - and even the arguments themselves - of those who identify themselves as prolife.

The soldiers on this side of the conflict also insist that therapeutic cloning, or the cloning of patient-specific stem cells, is no more than a prelude to the wholesale cloning of human beings. (p.40)

This statement is fraught with confusion. The soldiers, as she refers to them, are people like myself who understand that the cloning of embryos through the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer is reproductive cloning. Therapeutic cloning is a term that allows proponents of embryonic stem cell research to avoid calling it what it is: embryo-destructive research. It's very similar to the use of the word "pro choice." We, opponents of ESCR, are not worried that therapeutic cloning is a prelude to cloning human beings, we believe it IS the cloning of human beings.

Contrary to what many anti-cloning activists want us to think, therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning are two very different things. Reproductive[emphasis hers] cloning is the creation of an exact genetic copy of an entire organism. (p. 49)

Contrary to what the author seems to think she understands, there is only one kind of cloning. The term 'therapeutic' simply means that the created embryo is targeted for destruction for research purposes. In fact, advocates of cloning ought to abandon the term 'therapeutic' in the sense in which they are using it and rather call it research cloning. But I digress.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer is the process in which "an exact genetic copy of an entire organism" is created. Each of us were once at the embryonic stage of development, and so the process does produce exactly what Herold says it does not.

Those of us who view all cloning as reproductive cloning do not believe that scientists want to grow 6 year old children from which to harvest body parts. For Herold to assert that that is what we believe is at best, confused, but is probably just evidence of her own politicizing of the issues. She and others of her ilk need prolife conservatives to look as ridiculous as possible. But this would not be of our doing - this is their caricature.

Therapeutic cloning, which is also referred to as nuclear transfer, is a technique for creating embryonic stem cells that are genetically matched to a patient. (p. 49)

Wrong again. Therapeutic cloning is not a technique for creating stem cells, it is a technique for creating embryos from which stem cells can be harvested.

If our goal was to create a reproductive clone of Sandra, the embryo would at this point have to be transferred into a women with the hope that a pregnancy would result. But in therapeutic cloning, this never happens. (p. 49)

Again, it is all reproductive cloning. But now Herold wants us to believe that geography is the determining factor for human rights. The intention for therapeutic cloning is to never implant an embryo, but destroy it. This statement of Herold's is the worst in philosophical fallacies and is undeserving of the publisher's ink.

So the claims of anti-research activists that scientists are pushing to develop cloned embryos into fetuses and then harvest their body parts are pure nonsense. What scientists are interested in are these primitive, undifferentiated cells that only exist in the first few days of cellular division. (p. 49-50)

Again, Herold is either willfully ignorant or woefully ignorant. Those of us who are against ESCR would not say it as she has stated. We believe that what scientists are pushing for, to harvest the stem cells from the so-called "early embryos" is akin to the harvesting of the body parts of adult humans. We believe this "harvesting of parts" is real, but is intended to occur in the first few days of life - not from 6 year old children stored in pods in some underground scientific lab. (Far worse, it would be under our noses in university labs) Herold, while acknowledging in other parts of the book that prolife advocates hold a high view of the embryo, forgets that we're still talking about the embryo when we are concerned about the harvesting of parts - i.e. stem cells.

One of the less publicized but still critically important outcomes of therapeutic cloning is the ability to clone the cells of patients with genetically based diseases. Cloned cells that care the mutations for......

Herold makes the same error again. Cloning is not about cloning cells of patients. Somatic cell nuclear transfer is the cloning of the patient at the embryonic stage from which stem cells are harvested. To state that this is the cloning of stem cells is in error.

Stem Cell Wars is a book full of misrepresentations and misinformation. To understand what prolife conservatives actually believe on these issues, go to Do No Harm or The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

September 28, 2006

When I stand before God. . .

When I stand before God, I will not be standing with my family, friends and fan club (trust me on this one, I’m 45 and fan-less).

I will stand before God alone.

There will be no husband extolling my virtues as wife and mother. There will be no children singing my praises – (well, there might not have been any in the first place, I have on occasion been accused of being the wicked witch of east, even though everyone knows she expired when Auntie Em’s house fell on her). My friends will not get the chance to excuse my weaknesses.

It will be the Lord and I.

I need to love and nurture my family. I need to treat others as I want to be treated. I need to live my life as a testimony to God’s very real gift of mercy and grace.

But more than all of that - I need to slow down and stop doing for God and spend some time with God - my mouth shut and my heart open.

It’s a wonderful way to get back in touch.

September 27, 2006

Teen Mother Choices

One week ago today I attended a small dinner held by Teen Mother Choices. You have probably never heard of it but that’s not indicative of its worth to the kingdom of
God. Teen Mother Choices is a non-profit organization that is probably one of the best examples of being God-with-skin-on to girls between the ages of 13 and 23 who find themselves pregnant and choose to keep their babies. Please take time to look them up on the web - you’ll be encouraged to see how God is using them to help young women build a life for their children and themselves.

Back to the dinner - Nigel Cameron was the guest speaker and it is really something he shared that night that I wanted to share with you. He spoke about the fact that if you were pro-life in the 20th century, you need to be pro-human in the 21st.

I’ll repeat that – “if you were pro-life in the 20th century, you need to be pro-human in the 21st.”

We have somehow lost the definition of what it truly means to be human in the quest to be gods. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it - embryonic stem cell research where we destroy one life – howbeit ever so small and fragile – on behalf of another, allowing the ends to somehow justify the means.

There has been a passionate call to protect the earth in the wake of the Green-house effect. Can we as Christians do any less than answer the call to protect the embryo in the wake of scientific research?

September 26, 2006

High court nears flash point on several fronts

After having the pleasure of hearing Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline at AUL's Annual Gala last night, this article seemed worth pointing out.

The battle over a woman's constitutional right to medically end her pregnancy has convulsed the nation for more than a generation. But since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1992 decision to reaffirm Roe v. Wade, at least one thing has remained constant: If pregnancy threatens a woman's life or health, she can't be prevented from seeking a legal abortion.

That assurance is now on shaky ground. When the U.S. Supreme Court reconvenes next week after its summer break, justices will be asked to decide whether health risks alone should guarantee women access to controversial late-term abortions, typically—though rarely—performed when pregnancies have progressed beyond 20 weeks.

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Martha of Bethany

Luke 10:38-42 has come to be known as the passage that provides women with 2 role models to choose from: Mary or Martha. Many womens groups and societies within the church depend on this perceived dichotomy, believing that as long as they aren't imposing their preferences on each other, this schizophrenia can be honored. But let's look at the text:

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Clearly, Martha did welcome Jesus into her home, an action necessary to facilitate the the learning situation for Mary...but it was not just for Mary. I hesitate to suggest that the welcoming of Jesus into her home was predicated upon Martha having the gift of hospitality. I am not even sure we can say she had that gift considering that it served as a distraction to what Jesus described as "the good part." In a fallen world, it's true that our gifts and talents can be used in ways that do not benefit the Kingdom, but I don't believe we can look at this text and conclude definitely that Martha had the gift of hospitality.

We even see in John 11 that Martha has been experiencing the renewing of her mind as she converses with Jesus on the death of her brother, Lazarus.

Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:21-27

This Martha, able to articulate a clear understanding of the resurrection and a biblical christology, is not the Martha of Luke 10. Truly, she has experienced a renewing of the mind. The content of her faith has been elevated to a place of importance that it has not known previously.

Hospitality should not be an end unto itself, but should always be for the purpose of bringing people into a closer relationship with God.

September 23, 2006

Women’s Ministry and the Church Ladies. . . You know who you are

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was invited to be a part of something called The Mary-Martha Missionary Circle. I was a Bible/Theology major at Moody, with friends who loved to talk philosophy and ethics over pizza while playing Monopoly with a spinner (back in the day all games in the student halls had the dice replaced with spinners – there was something lost in the translation – but that is another blog. . . ). My college major did absolutely nothing to prepare me for my encounter with the ladies of The Circle. Picture "Children of the Corn" meet Women of the Wheat.

I was positive I stepped into a cult meeting or an alternate universe. Unfortunately, I was wrong on both counts.

There was no mission or vision statement – no slogan, no by-laws or anything akin to a handbook. Instead there was a group of women with cosmically related/mutated DNA with an innate distrust of outsiders and an obsession with cleanliness being next to godliness.

The “Marthas” had taken over The Circle’s leadership that year during the summer elections. Their meetings started on time with a short devotional, then a practical lesson on homemaking, the reading of the latest missionary newsletter, and a desert made from scratch – all in 59 minutes and 32 seconds.

During refreshments, I went and sat out on the porch swing and listened to the conversation floating out the screen door. It became painfully obvious that this was a club I wasn’t going to be joining. But I made myself go to the next three meetings and then gave up – until after the next summer’s election when the “Mary’s” took over and I got a personal invitation to try again.

Well, this time around it was mostly a different crowd, with a just few of the previous group. Relaxed and casual was the name of the game - same general agenda – just more conversational and yes, much longer.

Warily approaching one of the only ladies not in attendance either year, I found out that the changing of the guard had been going on like this for some time, with each group waiting for their turn to do things their way. I never did join The Circle - I realized that I was half-breed – part Mary and part Martha.

It wasn’t until later that I came to see that Martha didn’t stay a “Martha” and this whole labeling of church ladies was insane and unfair.

And with that – I challenge Sarah to blog on “The Bethany Sisters” – how ‘bout it Sarah?

September 22, 2006

Christian Epistemology: Bioethics Under God

A great piece was posted today at The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, one that should not go unnoticed. CBHD Director, C. Ben Mitchell, offered some excellent commentary on religion, the public square, and epistemology.

When it comes to the public debates in bioethics, like most of my colleagues, I argue for the common good. Yes, as a Christian, I have an epistemology that is informed by divine revelation. But when I’m on NPR, I can’t expect listeners to share my epistemological commitments. So, I make arguments that will be as persuasive as possible, whether or not one believes the Bible to be true.

The only thing I would add to this is that when he or anyone else makes arguments on NPR or in similar settings, in a way in which a non-Christian can entertain, he is not doing so in a way which compromises Christian epistemic commitment. To the contrary, such arguments depend on biblical Christianity. In this sense, if there is no God, the God of Scripture, there can be no absolutes -- therefore, no truth....and no science.

My Age is Showing and Other Reasons to Repent

My husband was a youth pastor for about 24 years and I worked along side him for a lot of it. I spent a good majority of my time working with music. Early on in our ministry it was helping students with the one or two Sunday night services they were put in charge of annually. Later it was working with high school worship bands who led worship weekly for youth group and the one or two Sunday morning services they were put in charge of annually.

I want to go on record that while I enjoy playing (keys and vocals) with most bands, putting them together and “running” them was never my thing – let alone working with students that probably had not mastered their guitars, drums or their vocal chords.
I wish I could tell you that it all went incredibly smoothly and a worshipful and fun time was had by all. It wasn’t.

What I can tell you is that what God calls you to do, He equips you to do. In my case though, I was assuming the equipping part would come easily and naturally. It came instead with bumps, starts and stops, hiccups and lots of bruising, both the ego and physical kind. (You’d be surprised with the number of dented shins and pinched fingers that happen during the set-up and take-down of the average band.)

I really can’t even begin to "guesstimate" what if anything the kids learned from me. But I can tell you that every rehearsal I found myself their student.
More than once, I couldn’t think of one good reason why I didn’t like whatever it was that they were proposing – except that it had never been done like that before. . . which wasn’t a good enough reason at all.

The kids taught me a lot about honesty, perserverance and hope. They taught me to look for the potential instead of just seeing the problem. They taught me that a style of music which incorporated polka, swing and big band can be uplifting and glorifying to God. They taught me to re-think my stand on hymn arrangements of piano and pipe organ. And they tried to teach me joy in the moment – alas, I am a slow learner on this one.

I know that I am better musician because of the kids – but more importantly I would like to think that I am a kinder, gentler, more hopeful Christian because of the kids.

September 21, 2006

NOW Seeks to Impose Morality

Christians are often accused of imposing their beliefs on the rest of society. Today's press release reveals the hypocrisy behind that charge. National Organization of Women president Kim Gandy said,
The FDA's inexcusable delay in approving this safe drug, and then denying it to young women—despite recommendations for approval by two FDA advisory panels and major medical associations—reveals the agency's failure to uphold its mandate to make scientifically sound decisions.

Well, even if the safeness of something were not in dispute, this does not logically necessitate the rightness or morality of it. This is NOW's first error. Secondly, and in corrolation to this, something might be scientifically sound, but that does not necessitate that it is ethical. Same error. Finally, to suggest that an action or behavior is inexcusable directly implies that it is unethical.

So NOW ethics are important???

Putting Devotion Back into Devotions

I was a church kid who spent a lot of time playing church. One thing in particular was unfathomable - personal devotions. It included reading the bible, something called meditation, and then praying. It was a task to be marked off every day. The bible reading was ok - there are some very cool stories in there. I usually ended up memorizing instead of meditating. And the praying thing - hmmmmm - it was either a shopping list or a sedative.

I came close to leaving the church altogether because people were lying through their teeth during testimony time OR it was too pickin' hard and I was not smart enough to get "it."

I finally met Jesus at a youth camp right before I went to college. My parents tried to convince me that this was nothing more than a re-commitment. But I knew it was the real thing. I wanted to read my Bible - all of it. I wanted to pray. I wanted to know God. I already knew a lot of stuff about Him. But I wanted to know Him. I am still getting to know Him.

I have used various methods over the years to keep my relationship with God fresh and growing. Sometimes it has been exceedingly difficult to find help and encouragement.

Earlier this year I took a new position a different non-profit organization. The new job "stupidity factor" was high. My husband took a senior pastorate at a cool church 10 months ago and so I am still in the newbie stage there as well. My two oldest daughters both got engaged and are getting married next summer (yes, that means two weddings 6 weeks apart). I needed a new approach to my devotions because I found myself very needy - and I found my devotions very desparate and stale.

I found The Fellowship of St. James and their Daily Devotional Guide. I highly recommend it. There are morning and evening devotions with versicle and then a daily chapter to be read "whenever" - it sounds tiresome - but it is anything but that. But don't take my word for it - check it out - and then let me know what you think.

September 20, 2006

Because my cat thinks she's a dog....

...evolution must be true.

I just finished reading a news report on "little Lucy" just now and, once again, I was completely enthralled by the logic.

Here it is:
1. There are apes
2. There are humans
3. Therefore, anything that looks like a blend or blur of the 2 must be a missing link.

4. Is there no 4th, 5th, or even 6th alternative option?

Yet, even the article uses the term "probable," likely in recognition of the fallaciousness of the argument.

I can't resist, this just reminds me of my cat. She's very pretty and very smart, but that doesn't make her the missing link between my Tabby and my 8 year old. She also says "out" and will role over and do other tricks. Does that make her a dog? Or a missing link between cats and dogs?

Ponderings: Ontological Dignity

1. Human life begins at conception (geography notwithstanding) because:

2. All the genetic material a person has or needs is present at conception, barring any defects

3. All humans have been created in the image of God, therefore

4. All humans have dignity – they don't get dignity, they aren't given dignity, they don't keep dignity. It is inherent to having been created in God's image. It is, a corrolary to the "I am" statements in Scripture.

I call this a corrolary because we have been created in his image, so dignity becomes something of a communicable (communicated) attribute...we are like God in having dignity...unlike an incommunicable attribute (like omniscience, omnipresence, etc) attributes that aren't communicated to humanity.

September 19, 2006

'Stem Cell Wars:' The Moral Status of the Embryo

Eve Herold's Q&A points out effectively that the debate over embryo-destructive research is, indeed, all about the moral status of the embryo.

So they’ve also had a long-term strategy: to focus on defining the fetus at any stage as a person. Obviously, taking the life of a person is considered murder, and if the fetus could be legally defined as a person, abortion would have to become illegal. At the same time, new technologies were pushing the envelope. The RU 486 pill, which came along in the late 1980s, could terminate a very early pregnancy, so anti-abortion groups adapted their language to include protection of the embryo.

Meanwhile, the emergence of in-vitro fertilization threw everyone a curve ball. All of a sudden you had embryos existing outside of a woman’s body, where no pregnancy could be said to exist. But right-to-life groups had already become entrenched with an absolutist view of the embryo—that it is just as fully human, and has exactly the same rights, as you or me.

So is human-hood dependent on pregnancy? I have always understood that what distinguishes a human from other species is genetics, not geography.

September 18, 2006

'Stem Cell Wars:' More of the Campaign of Confusion

I admit - I have not read the book yet. Only today did I see the press relase for Stem Cell Wars: Inside Stories from the Frontline, written by Eve Herold, director of public policy research at the Genetics Policy Institute. But I did order the book from there is a review coming from Flash Point.

The press release describes the book as providing a persuasive case for embryonic stem cell research. Any book endorsed by Ron Reagan I guess we should all run out and buy. Also, it "reveals numerous untold stories about the stem cell policy wars, including:"

....and this is where it gets interesting...

"-- What the anti-stem cell research activists don't want you to know: that embryonic stem cell research could go forward full steam ahead without there ever being another abortion."

I would love to know exactly what the auther means by this. Is this to suggest that the author is prolife? Or is she equating embryo destructive research with abortion? I can't figure it out from such little information, and from what is probably a terrible choice of words.

"-- How social-conservative organizations are turning the U.S. into a second-tier nation in scientific research."

Ah yes, unfettered science....that's how America stays at the techno-top. Being the Superpower of scientific research is apparently the higher value, over and above the treatment of research subjects, i.e. very small, defenseless people.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read this book. Stay tuned!

September 17, 2006

Weekend Update

A busy weekend this has been, but also full of tremendous blessing.

Yesterday I spoke at The Center for Women's Leadership Enrichment's Doing Ministry in the 21st Century workshop in Hillside, IL. Speaking on worldview associated with three 20th Century age categories, it was an informative and encouraging time. It was thrilling to see so many women's leaders interested in growing their ministries beyond the status quo, realizing that ministry to women is not one size fits all. Knowing your audience including the way the audience thinks and believes is key to effectiveness of any ministry.

Today I was at the home church of Jill Stanek of Will Co. IL Right to Life. There I spoke on the relationship between abortion and bioethics and how they are both dependent upon a solid argument for the human dignity of all persons, grounded in the imago dei. A thoughtful discussion was pursued by many in attendance on the role of worldview as it pertains to the public square. I was encouraged to see a core group of believers who recognize that you can't just put the name Christian on top of something and it suddenly is so.

September 16, 2006

Proverbs 31 Women. . .

Yesterday I spent some time on Evangelical Outpost getting caught up on reading some earlier posts. If you haven’t been introduced yet – I strongly encourage you to pour yourself a mug of your favorite drink and plop yourself down in front of your computer screen and get acquainted.

The Proverbs 31 Woman post caught my eye and held my attention long enough to read Joe’s perspective on an article about the dangers of marrying a career woman. I anticipated a lively debate in the comments. Yikes! There was some blood drawn on every side of the discussion.

Without getting into the particulars, (because you should read it yourself) I wanted to comment on the tone of the comments. This is something that has been with the church as long as the debate about the spirituality of sisters Mary and Martha – exactly the same, only different. (Sarah has some good things to say on that topic, so I will leave that to her in a future blog.)

Part of the issue involved is a question of semantics – everyone seems to have their own working definition of “career woman” – no pun intended - with each individual shading the definition just a tad. That right there is enough to cause a train wreck.

It seems to come down to the validation of my opinion riding on the devaluation of your opinion.

If God is as big as we all seem to think He is – can’t we trust Him enough to work in and through the people sitting across the table from us? Somehow I think we have lost sight of the fact that the position of THE Holy Sprit has already been filled. We don’t need to take pot shots at each other because we are traveling down the same road with slightly different baggage.

I was a stay-at-home mom. Some days it was fun and easy and some days it was not-so-fun and difficult. But even with my staying home, Dave and I chose to send our kids to public school. We did so with the understanding that we would be very active in their classrooms and PTA. We did so - not because we were lazy but because we determined that was best for our family. We take full responsibility for that choice.

A home-schooling mom from our church had been misled about our family’s education choice. She thought she recognized a kindred spirit in me and went on to share that she wept for the church kids who were forced to go to public school because their parents were not in-tune with God’s will for families. That was just as offensive as public school parents saying that home-schoolers are legalistic control freaks when it comes to their children.

I have dear friends who are home-schooling their children and it is a wonderful testimony to God’s leading in their family. I also have dear friends who teach in the public schools and chose to educate their children there and have had a phenomenal impact on the schools and their districts. Isn’t this a little like God’s divine plan for Peter and Paul?
Same Gospel – different divine strategy plans.

Women need to start at the core issue – new life in Christ. And then we need to stop being so judgmental about the paths each of us choose to take. Finally, we need to be supportive and open and give God the opportunity to allow us to learn from each other.

September 14, 2006

3 Generations: Baby Steps to Worldview Thinking

This weekend I will be presenting at a women's ministry leadership workshop on the what I describe as the 3 core generations of women that are in the church today. They are the Legacy generation who were born between 1900-1936, the Modern/Churched generation, born between 1937 and 1971, and the Postmodern/Unchurched generation born between 1972 and the present day. As you can see, I've taken taken some liberties in not dealing with the generations referred to as Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Millenial, etc. I believe within these 3 periods in 20th-21st century history, we can get a solid glimpse at the lives of women in our midst. We can know and understand - and even appreciate - them a bit more by understanding some of the bigger-picture influences that occurred during their lives. Posts in the next few days will explain further this breakdown with the highlights that help to define these generations.

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September 13, 2006

The 'World' View with Rosie Colored Glasses

Not exactly demonstrating the level of intellegence of a higher being, Rosie O'Donnell fumbled around political theory and theology yesterday on ABC's The View. In a discussion with co-host Elisabeth Hesselbeck on how the funding of radical Islam is a danger to the free world, Rosie declared
Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have separation of church and state.

I don't even know where to begin, there is so much to unpack in this comment so clearly rooted in ignorance. Obviously those Christians interested in intellectual honesty in the public square, those courageous enough to be honest about their presuppositional framework, these-according to O'Donnell-are the radical Christians that are just as threatening as radical Islam.

The applause Rosie received from this declaration was equally as frightening, apparently a captive audience of hollywood political theory. Taken in by the antics of Barbara Steisand and Alec Baldwin (who, btw, I find to be extremely funny - such a shame he's a liberal) what more can I really expect?

Here's the bottom line...the church and government are separate spheres, but people cannot help but to bring their beliefs and presuppositional frameworks with them as representatives of the people, and Christianity is no more a system - and no more radical - than the atheism that steers the ACLU or the feminism that steers Hillary Clinton, Rosie O'Donnell, and NOW. I'll deal with their philosophical materialism in an upcoming post.

Pass me some of that theology!

I believe that theology is missing in Women’s ministries – heck, I think it is missing all over Christendom. Which is more than sad – it is dangerous.

We have become a fast-paced, consumer driven society with bigger, better, more expensive ‘schtuff’ being produced daily. I say that to say this – we are used to getting what we want, knowing that if we can’t afford or don’t want to spend big bucks for the REAL thing – there is probably a cheap knock-off available. This is affecting our culture. This is affecting the church.

Some of today’s practiced Christianity is really a cheap knock-off. Yes, the gift of salvation is just that, a gift, no purchase necessary. But there is an investment after accepting that gift—a time investment of exploring and learning about that gift and its Giver. And what’s more, there is a framework in which to do that exploring and learning—theology.

Instead of embracing the foundational framework, we have allowed a smorgasbord approach, a buffet, if you will. What we don’t like or think is too strong a flavor for cultural taste buds, we put back and choose something a little more bland, a little less offensive—not understanding that we are diluting the very truths that led an innocent, but willing sacrifice to the cross. We settle for the knock-off without batting an eye. We cheapen the Gospel.

The Gospel is powerful, dynamic, and life changing. Presented and lived out in lives of full devotion, there is no stopping it. But lately we are afraid to let it be what it is—we don’t want to offend people, we don’t want to seem intolerant. But most of all, I think we are afraid—afraid that the Gospel message cannot stand up to debate. It can change lives in a “spiritual” sort of way as long as “thinking” is not involved. Faith is the antithesis of intellect and science. Put the latter two on hold, and voila – the former magically appears. That’s why we all need to study theology – for knowing and adopting a framework that withstands intellectual investigation.

Yes, I agree with Sarah in her post three days ago that we should not wait until that crisis forces us to face the fact that we neither really know God or our faith. But I also agree with Patricia Raybon – that one of the benefits of studying theology is more trust and more love. The God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow is trustworthy. Studying theology will only help cement that into our little pea brains. And knowing that God is trustworthy can only deepen our love for Him and for each other.

SOOOOOO—pass me some of that theology!

September 12, 2006

Grateful to be a part of Flash Point. . .

This is not a mutual admiration society blog - it is rather something like "iron sharpening iron." I met Sarah eighteen months ago when I took a position at The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. I happen to be a shallow person who judges others by what books are sitting in their book cases. Let's just say that I was blown away by the phenomenal range of titles on her office shelves. I knew we would be friends by virtue of the fact I wanted to borrow quite a few of them. :)
Seriously, we found ourselves discussing authors, theology, our families, theology, my warped world view, theology, and. . . slowly but surely our friendship turned into a mutual mentoring thing.
And while we found out that we both are square pegs when it comes to today's Women's Ministries, we realized that neither one of us had any solutions to the problem of square pegs trying to fit where only round pegs seem to belong. And that bugged the heck outta both of us. So we are on a journey to find and encourage other women who don't easily fit into what Sarah calls "a one size fits all" ministry mindset.
Sarah and I don't agree on everything. In fact some days, we have to agree to disagree. We come from different places on a wide variety of topics. But it's because we don't believe in or practice cookie-cutter Christianity that we have both grown in our personal relationships with God through this friendship.
Now we're looking to invite others into a small community where questions are encouraged and explored. Well, that and friendships of the "sharpening" kind develop.
Anyways, I'm just grateful to be a part of Flash Point.

September 11, 2006

My Gut Reaction to the 9/11 Anniversary

My closest friends have a severe distaste for my use of puns, so let me get this one out of the way quickly.

My gut reaction to the high view of human life posited during this 5th year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist strike on U.S. soil is refreshing...yet inconsistent. Given that we live in a culture of death that regularly disregards the dignity of human life from it's earliest stage, and also in the womb, it's refreshing to see so many people care about the loss of human life. At the same time...America is complacent and needs an anniversary, a series of movies, a memorial service, to retain the memory of the horror that took so many lives. We wonder about this complacency whenever something disasterous occurs. And we rightly predict that it won't take long to move back into our zones of comfort.

The complacency and the disregard for human life go hand in hand. If nothing really matters...if there is no God, if there is no truth....if life begins only when someone chooses to give birth, then nothing else matters exept moving forward, or rather moving normalcy/complacency.

September 10, 2006

An Argument for Studying Theology: Patricia Raybon, Today's Christian Woman

The feature article of the current issue of Today's Christian Woman is about the role that prayer plays in our lives. It's a good article on the topic, showing how prayer changes the pray-er, not necessarily the circumstances being prayed about.

Patricia Raybon is a wife and mother as well as a journalism professor at the University of Colorado. She also has 2 daughters, one of which is a convert to Islam. About her conversion, she says,

Her conversion to Islam has challenged, humbled, and even broken me. But God used it to help me admit I didn't know enough about him or my faith. When she left the church, we argued constantly about religion. In truth, I didn't know enough basic Christian theology to even argue for it. So I set out to learn. And the more I studied, the less I debated; the more I trusted, the more I loved. I don't have to arm wrestle my daughter back to Jesus. I love her-and let God handle the rest.

Thankfully, Raybon has moved ahead to the study of theology. I'm terribly sorry that it took her daughter's conversion to Islam to motivate her to do so. If she had been equipped to understand and defend her faith, was able to give a reason for the hope within her (1 Peter 3:15) it's possible things would have turned out differently. Raybon admits that she didn't know enough about her own beliefs to give an answer to her daughter.

In this same quote, Raybon undercuts herself - and perhaps the study of theology - by saying that the more she studied theology, the less she debated and the more she loved. "I don't have to arm wrestle my daughter back to Jesus." Perhaps this just means that because of the debating with her daughter at the time of her conversion to Islam she doesn't have the relationship that would allow for the discussion to continue. I wish the article was clearer about this, because it actually seems like she saying we shouldn't offer arguments for our faith and against opposing worldviews. On whether her daughter becomes a Christian, I agree with her that it's up to God. But this is not to the neglect of human involvement. God may choose to have Patricia be the instrument he uses to bring her to faith.

The point I'm making is that we need to be studying theology before there is a crisis, before there is a need. Women should study God as an act of worship, not as merely an activity to accumulate knowledge. In and of itself, without an opportunity for immediate application, studying theolgy - studying God - should be viewed as an act of worship. The application may be immediate, the application may come later...but the renewing of our mind is an ongoing process of sanctification.

Let's not wait til we need to know who God is or what our faith is about, the time is now.

September 7, 2006

A Challenge to Evangelical Women's Ministry Leadership

If the average man is going to be interested in Christ at all, it is the dogma that will provide the interest. The trouble is that, in nine cases out of ten, he has never been offered the dogma. What he has been offered is a set of technical theological terms that nobody has taken the trouble to tranlate into language relevant to ordinary life.

These are the words of Dorothy Sayers from Creed or Chaos? The richness and depth of her words are a challenge to Christendom today. I cannot help but to savor the truth of her message, because I know first hand the relevance of doctrine-dogma-to the ordinary life. I also know, first hand, how theological foundations have been deemed irrelevant to the work of many in ministry today, especially women.

Sayers says of man (and woman), "Unless he believes rightly, there is not the faintest reason why he should believe at all." In 1997, during a time of hopelessness, I asked why I should care to believe Christianity above anything else. I was seeking truth, I was seeking God.

I don't know who will ever see this blogpost. Likely 2 or 3 will read it and it will then disappear into the vast wasteland of internet chatter. My hope is, especially, for women in ministry everywhere to recognize the importance of doctrine for their ordinary life, and the lives of the women to whom they minister. I hope the Women of Faith and the Extraordinary Women organizations move forward with ministry that cares not to promote compartmentalization, but will show the relevancy of doctrine to the every day lives of women. I'm not so proud to believe that this post will accomplish this feat, but heck, it's a start.

A new and dear friend recently said to me "I don't know what it is with this rush to application" because, she continued, "you've got to have something to apply!"

September 6, 2006


You've heard it said before. A pastor, a friend, someone active in evangelististic ministry. "You don't need seminary, I had it, it really doesn't make that much of a difference in the practical ministry I'm doing today."

I'm not arguing that all people in ministry need to have a seminary education, or even seminary level knowledge. What I am arguing for, however, is that before we can do "practical" ministry, we must have something to apply. When concerning ourselves with the lives, and ultimately, the beliefs, of others, we must be concerned with our own.

I bring this up because I was struck today with the realization that I often hear this articulated by both men and women, that we shouldn't get so "heady," we should be dealing with the practical needs of people and not worry ourselves with the -ologies and the -isms.

(I want to know who decided what is considered "practical" ministry and when they did this, because I don't remember being invited to the table.)

Ok, the reason this epiphany is so important is because when men - the ones who are usually seminary grads - say this about the role of their education in their current ministry, they don't realize that they are probably in some way utilizing a lot of what they learned in seminary in their present ministry.

Ok, that might not be entirely true, but I think it's a reasonable assertion.

Here's the interesting point: the women I hear say this about the role of seminary level learning are not seminary graduates (though some of their husbands are) and often lack a great deal of understanding about their own set of beliefs. This is significant because I believe these women to be taking their cues on the role of the intellect vs. "practical application" in ministry from none other than their seminary spouses. Yet, when they live out their ministry of practical application, working usually at the level of the lowest common denominator, they are doing so without the first hand seminary experience that belongs to the man in their life.

Seminary degrees aren't usually a two-fer, and theological education cannot happen by osmosis, I don't care how close the pillows are.

The impact of this is profound. When women of an anti-intellectual persuasion do women's ministry (or children's ministry, or anything other ministry), arguing for their ministry of the practical over and above anything the slightest bit thoughtful, they do so because they've often seen this attitude and behavior modeled for them by the people who have the intellectual resources to return to. What remains for these leaders is something like a body without a skeleton.

When I hear "practical application" argued for by those without the framework for taking women beyond where they are currently at, I get worried because for many, that's all the farther they will go. Their ministry will remain intellectually stagnant. When I hear "practical application" argued for by people who have a knowledge base to rest it on, I am relieved.

September 4, 2006

The Church in the Workplace: How God's People Can Transform Society

Though I don't normally celebrate Labor Day except to enjoy a holiday from work, this year I am thinking about the day as something of a sabbath, a time of rest from the five-day routine.

Writing about what he refers to as the "extended church," C. Peter Wagner ruminates about the spirituality of work. He concludes chapter 1 with the thesis, Yes, there is a church in the workplace-we are that church-and what we do in the workplace is just as much ministry, service to God and even worship as what we do on Sunday in our local church.

Perhaps taking cues from Dorothy Sayers, it is refreshing to see more and more Christian writers with view of life that is not defined by compartmentalization, but sees God's purposes in every area. Sayers wrote, is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God. (Creed or Chaos? Sophia Inst. Press, 1974, p. 73)

This view of work is not intended to elevate one type of work over another, but is simply to recognize that all that is work calls us to function according to the nature of our creation. Having been created in God's image, we are creative beings. As Adam and Eve were purposed to cultivate the Garden, we can appreciate that all work is service to God. In a sense, we can understand work as one of God's communicable attribute. What does this say about our call to excellence?

September 3, 2006

Welcome to Flash Point!

Bringing awareness to important issues facing society, and especially women, describes the work I've been doing the last couple years. Flash point exists to continue that work, not only to inform believers, but to respond to the people whose ideas conflict with the Christian worldview, yet have a firm hold on the heart of our society.