February 25, 2008
So as I'm celebrating my 38th birthday today, suddenly the idea of achieving a Ph.D. in systematic theology or ethics doesn't seem that far out of reach, especially with God on my side. Because of where I've been, nothing really seems all that impossible, and with God, nothing is. So in ten years, as I continue to write on this blog, remind me where I was 10 years prior.
February 24, 2008
I never cared to read Obama’s Audacity of Hope, but I recommend you do as it is helpful in understanding the nature of his political aspirations.
Negative Campaigning & Partisan Politics
For those of you fearful of being accused of “negative” or unnecessary “partisan politics,” check this out. Obama hopes that the weight of such accusations are stronger than your own convictions. He writes,
Perhaps my greatest bit of good fortune during my own Senate campaign was that no candidate ran a negative TV ad about me. This had to do with the odd circumstances of my Senate race, and not an absence of material with which to work. After all, I had been in the state legislature for seven years, and had cast thousands of sometimes difficult votes.” (chapter 4, page 132)
This “good fortune” is unfortunate, but seems to be continuing.
One of the messages we hear from Obama is that the focus on what divides conservatives and liberals are really small and incidental issues, and that they should be abandoned for the sake of unity. The notion that taking a firm stand on conservative convictions amounts to nothing more than partisan politics is condescending and philosophically fraudulent because it seems that the issues he thinks ought to be abandoned are those that typify conservatism—I don’t see any concessions coming from him.
Obama’s Postmodern View of Truth
A look at his childhood reveals how he has come to understand truth, and that his political views are really an extension of his religious views, thus his religious beliefs are clearly being communicated in the public square. Speaking of his mother, he says that
In her mind, a working knowledge of the world’s great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. (p. 203)
She’s not entirely wrong, but to what end does this knowledge serve in her mind? We should understand the teachings of other religions, but not embrace them all as equally valid.
In our household, the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology. On Easter or Christmas day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and the ancient Hawaiian burial sites. But I was made to understand that such religious samplings required no sustained commitment on my part…Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its wellspring, just one of the many ways…(p. 204)
And yet for all her professed secularism, my mother was in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I’ve ever known. She had an unswerving instinct for kindness, charity, and love, and spent much of her life acting on that instinct…Without the help of religious texts…she worked mightily to instill in me the values that many Americans learn in Sunday school; honesty empathy, discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work. She raged at poverty and injustice, and scorned those who were indifferent to both. (p. 205)Christianity is not just about values, nor is it about “personal values,” it is about ultimate truth. This obviously escapes him as he clearly emulates this state of “spiritually awakened” he attributes to his mother. Kindness, honesty, and hard work values that can be seen in the day-to-day life of an atheist. These behaviors should be seen in all believers (fruit), but the presence of these does not make one a Christian.
But it was my mother’s fundamental faith—in the goodness of people and the ultimate value of this brief life we’ve each been given—that channeled those ambitions. (p. 206)
Obama knows that this sort of religiosity is empty as he states that the dilemma his mother faced was passed on to him—that he had “no community or shared traditions in which to ground [his] most deeply held beliefs.” But Obama never really convinces himself—or me—that he has fully embraced orthodox Christianity. I’m not suggesting that he might not be a believer (nor am I suggesting that he is), but he offers several statements that suggest his system of belief outright rejects the historic Christian faith.
Almost by definition, faith and reason operate in different domains and involved different paths to discerning truth. Reason—and science—involves the accumulation of knowledge based on realities that we can all apprehend. Religion, by contrast is based on truths that are not provable through ordinary human understanding—the ‘belief in things not seen.’ When science teachers insist on keeping creationism or intelligent design out of their classrooms, they are not asserting that scientific knowledge is superior to religious insight. They are simply insisting that each path to knowledge involves different rules and that those rules are not interchangeable. (p. 219)This is almost unfair to Obama because the flaws here are so many and so obvious. His argument suggests that science doesn’t start with presuppositions or pre-understanding. The truth is, science does not operate in a vacuum, outside of the influence of personal bias—and brute facts simply do not exist. Obama’s political philosophy is clearly seen in this statement as he falls into a Rawlsian trap, that moral assertions in the public square can never be grounded in religious reasons because of the pluralistic nature of our society. For religious reasons to have a bearing in the public square is to infringe on the freedom of nonreligious persons according to Rawls. This is where secularism gets some of its philosophical footing, as if it is religiously neutral, as if it is even possible for any idea or philosophy to be religiously neutral. Religious neutrality is a myth and reasons asserted by anyone in the public sphere eventually find their way back to a religion or worldview.
Another statement that impugns Obama on his claim to Christianity is his postmodern hermeneutic that pits certain passages of Scripture against others. It’s reminiscent of a feminist hermeneutic in that he is filtering the biblical text through his experience. Pitting verse against verse, he states,
I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union…nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount. (p. 222)
Its unclear how he determines that the Romans passage is “obscure” or how the Sermon of the Mount is to be understood in isolation of Romans or any other area of Scripture. But it is clear that Obama, despite his great spiritual notoriety, is no theologian.
Finally, Obama’s view of Scripture is best understood in his own words.
When I read the Bible, I do so with the belief that it is not a static text but the Living Word and that I must be continually open to new revelations… (p. 224)
This statement is clearly problematic. While we may refer to Jesus as the Living Word, we must accept the Scriptures as unchanging in meaning and intent, though we as fallible humans may not always understand what read. We cannot confuse our inability to always discern the meaning of the text with God revealing new meanings unrelated to the text. The Bible was written by men in time and space with specific messages, not with ambiguous and every-changing purposes. To be generous, it’s unclear exactly how far Obama wants to take his method of interpreting Scripture, but it is safe to say that he has kept the door open for interpreting Scripture according to experience. His is a faith of values and experience, not of knowledge.
The hype over Obama in the last year has been about nothing—literally. His campaign could be an episode of Seinfeld. He’s gone to great lengths to be not only the candidate of change, but the candidate of charisma….so shallow that it might actually work to win the general election. This is more of an indictment on the American voters than it is on Obama, unfortunately. But realize that he is equally a product of this shallow society. What are the dangers for America if he is to become the most powerful leader in the world? An increase in access to birth control, fewer parental rights, tighter restrictions on religious expression, higher taxes, naïve foreign relations that put America at risk……
February 21, 2008
Because Colin is a high school student, I especially want to encourage him to probe this issue at a deeper level. So much more can and should be said by him on the role that worldview and presuppositions play on everyone, including individuals in the public square. Political philosophy must be studied alongside religion and moral philosophy-and sometimes it is impossible to differentiate between the two. In his own words, he leaves a clue that he may have a minimal understanding of the role worldviews play: "While religion naturally informs the ethical beliefs of our legislators, religious doctrine must never be established as law."
Two questions need to be asked at this point. How can legislators not allow religion to inform the legislative process if their ethics are naturally informed by their religion? What constitutes a religion? The answers to these questions reveal that there is much more religion in the public square than people care to admit, it just isn't Christianity. The truth of the matter is that there is ultimately no problem with religion as long as it is not of the evangelical brand.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 20, 2008
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 19, 2008
So when I read opinions like the one in today's Daily Herald, I yearn for the righteous philosophers who cannot stand in support of such fallacious argumentation, even if it flies in the face of their own views of ESCR.
It is often said that 2 wrongs don't make a right...and in this case a bad arguement doesn't correct an a bad perception. In "Church Immorality is Issue, Not Science," the writer is attempting to build a case for ESCR by pointing to the failures of the Roman Catholic Church. I agree with the writer that the church has serious issues to address, but it's a serious error to adopt church doctrine (I.e. An embrace of ESCR) because they have erred in another area.
The second argument the writer makes is appealing to her own illness as a way to somehow justify the killing of other people...yes, I am speaking of embryos. It is science that proves that from the moment of conception there is a new member of the human species that requires nothing more added to him or her to be more human. He/she has it's full genetic make-up and simply needs to be allowed to mature, not become something else. The is science which finds its basis within the Christian worldview, not an encyclopedic use of the Bible.
Appealing to one's own circumstance or situation is not a proper way for justifying certain moral positions. It may be the reason for beginning an investigation, but is not the source for knowing right and wrong.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 18, 2008
1. Single moms - engage them where they are at on their schedule. For them, money is tight and their schedules even tighter.
2. Wives of military personnel - during this time of war, does your church provide any assistance, whether financial, spiritual, etc to come alongside these ladies? Many of these women, some who are widows now, are very young and need to know their Sovereign Lord like never before.
3. Domestic abuse victims - don't be shocked if you discover that there are some among you. Create a culture such that women aren't trying to live up to an image or an ideal, rather to develop a relationship with God and a community of believers. Through this there is help and healing.
4. Students/career women - How is your ministry reaching them? Develop coffee shop discussion groups and book clubs that meet at times convenient to these women. For some, meeting away from the church may offer a sense of ease in joining the group.
5. Teach absolute truth. Don't cave to postmodern ideals of "what's true for me may not be true for you." People today, including women, need truth to grasp because the world they live in glamorizes those things once believed to be harmful. Teach on the problem of evil so that they can see God's work in the midst of this chaos.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 17, 2008
For those whom Sunday morning is primary to their Christian fellowship and spiritual nourishment, this is an important and precious time for them. Their time is short during the week, perhaps because they hold down full-time jobs or transportation issues prevent them from participating in mid-week gatherings. For some, their life just isn't conducive to those things that are culturally church. Unbelieving spouses often make things complicated such that Sunday morning is the only time these women can make it to church. For some, even Sunday morning church attendance is a rarity.
Let's not be "business as usual" on Sunday morning. Pay special attention to the women you don't normally see because it's possible you will miss an opportunity to minister to them in very real ways. See if your church can make women's bible studies a part of the Sunday school curriculum. Navel-gazing on Sunday morning could cause you to miss someone with a real need for fellowship and learning that she doesn't otherwise see during the week. And because of the event-driven nature of women's ministry, the women you only notice on Sundays may have the propensity to feel left out.
It's a complicated world we live in, and the pretty faces in the pews on Sunday don't do well to reflect the things really going on in their lives. And you won't have a clue what is going on unless you are reaching out to these women. So leave the last minute plans for your next event for your next meeting, or take care of some of those things in email. Look around and see those you don't get to see during the week, find out why...and see where God takes you in each others lives.
February 15, 2008
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
Just like the absence of philosophy in the public schools, the evangelical church needs to do more than spoon feed their people...they need to be taught to think logically about their faith, the world they live in, and the issues they face. Being a Christian necessitates a change, not just in eternal perspective, but in everyday living. If we want to influence the world for Christ then we need to make sure that our churches are producing people of influence, not just people with a claim to heaven.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 14, 2008
We are so past the point of needing to address the role that philosophical/theological presuppositions play in the minds of Darwinists. They aren't even attempting to argue science, rather they are playing a political game intended to further marginalize evangelicals. So let's look closer at the claims of these materialists...and recognize what is a matter of philosophy-not science-on their part.
The latest issue of Salvo magazine sums things up well:
"Scientific naturalism is a philosophical position that assumes an entirely materialistic origin to the universe-a faith claim for which Darwinists have no proof whatsoever..."
Though Intelligent Design doesn't out of logical necessity preclude the possibility of evolution, it does counter well what is the prevailing notion in the public arena-that God is dead and Darwinists are purely objective observers...and that is their fatal flaw.
Beginning with the idea that the material world is all that exists has the Darwinist (philosophical materialist) in the field of philosophy and theology, not science. They simply cannot observe what happened first unless time travel is now also possible.
So while Darwinists are dabbling in philosophy, they need to ask themselves how it is that they can know that only the natural exists. Such an assertion is not only a claim to universal knowledge, but is the epitomy of arrogance and political correctness - not to mention just plain foolish.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 12, 2008
You can't take your family to a museum unless you are able to refute evolutionary theory. You have to use great caution when your doctor tells you that you've miscarried and offers you drugs normally used to carry out an abortion (see today's news). And since people aren't really people until they have grown to some certain yet unspecified age (somewhere between birth and 5) experiments on human/animal cybrids will become more and more acceptable.
Until fear and respect for the Trancendent enters the hearts and minds of those responsible for the propogation of philosophical materialism, human dignity and the Christian worldview will continue to be assaulted. What's worse than this, though, is the fact that Christians have handed the external world over to secularism grounded in a darwinism. I realize this is the easiest way out in the short term, but since souls are at stake now and in the future, we need to engage these ideas at every level.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 11, 2008
Dorothy Sayers, Creed & Chaos (Why Work?)
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 10, 2008
What struck me about this program is how the natural implications of the industry were viewed so casually, the emptiness of the children created by what our culture has said is a valid and even ideal family model--single parent and child. Regrets were not communicated by the mothers or donors of these young people, but the offspring certainly felt cheated out of a part of their own identity.
Is it really any surprise that the children of anonymous sperm "donors" are forced to address the decisions made for them by their mother and sperm father? We're not surprised--we've always understood the implications associated with reproductive technologies that make the marital union unnecessary. And Oprah and her guests didn't seem surprised--they too have understood the implications, but they are not looking for a corrective for the industry, they just want to change the rules of the game. In hindsight, each of us sees and knows that fatherless children lack a substantive piece of their life. And now we have to contend with the issue of childless fathers, those who regret the literally hundreds of donations many of them made at sperm banks and wonder where their children are.
It was also said on the program that up to 30,000 children a year are born by this manner of conception. As a society we've been terribly worried for our children with deadbeat dads, now our society is electing to make this paradox the norm--fatherless children and childless fathers.
February 8, 2008
Shocking, isn't it? Well that's the message being touted at the upcoming National Young Women's Leadership Conference: What's At Stake in 2008 sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation. Are we really going to sit back and watch our young women be influenced by lifeless feminism, or are we going to take a stand for the important place of young women in our culture and bring them a message that considers their best interests and protects them and their children, encouraging them professionally and their own involvement socially?
FeministCampus.org states that the conference is to take place in Washington D.C. on March 8-9:
Topics will include Get Out Her Vote (GOHV), Birth Control Pricing, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (Fake Clinics), Global Reproductive Rights, and more!Again, as I noted last year, this event is driven predominately by bioethics..and completely in opposition to our prolife views. 'Fake clinics?' Yes, it's a political event - I see they're wasting no time so that they can reach young women before the election in November with their message of reproduction.
But shame on us for abandoning these young women to feminism. What the heck is the evangelical Christian community doing to make a place for young women? I'm not talking about making compromises in doctrine, I am talking about entering the 21st century and seeing the leadership potential in both genders and encouraging young women in their quest to fulfill the creation mandate. And what are we doing to teach our young women about 'reproductive responsibility' or the creation mandate? If we keep these discussions among the middle age crowd, we'll lose the battle entirely. Our young women are begging for a movement that recognizes and appreciates their contributions to society and to the church. The time to act is now, let's stop talking about what women can't do in the church and talk about how God wants to use women in church and culture. Then we might not have to worry about "abstinence sucks" campaigns.
February 7, 2008
One of the speakers was Arab American News publisher, Osama Siblani, who spoke on "Church & State: Freedom of Religion." One of Siblani's claims stated that of the many presidential candidates, many are bringing religion to the forefront of many issues and using it as a tool to sway voters.
He also stated that after September 11, religion was suddenly thrown back into politics...I don't believe we are practicing separation of church and state; I believe we are witnessing the abuse of religion in politics.
He may actually have a point. I've seen more religious activity coming from the left than ever before-because they know that there is a religious left that they need to address. There has been more "God-speak" on the left than on the right, primarily because each side is held to different standards, but that's a topc for another day.
It is, however, unclear what Siblani's point is...if he is talking about everyone or if is making the charges commonly asserted against the Christian right. Whatever he means, he has opened the door to hypocrisy. Take note of what else was reported about what he had to say:
Siblani went on to discuss the diversity of religion that exists in the U.S., stating, 'We need to use it as a tool to reach out to those around us. Islam should be used in th US as an asset, a way to build bridges with the rest of the world.'This comment leads me to believe that he is well-aligned with the religious/political left of the US that asserts faith as a matter of political expediency, not as a matter of truth. This reveals a level of blatant hypocrisy that is permissible in our culture. It seems that, with diversity held as the highest value, that the concern isn't really about the separation of church and state. It is a movement to separate Christianity and its influence from the public square.
February 6, 2008
'I can take a woman, in the biggest trouble she has ever experienced in her life, and by performing a five-minute operation, in comfort and dignity, I can give her back her life'These are the words delivered by Canadian abortion provider Garson Romalis on Jan. 25, at the University of Toronto Law School's Symposium to mark the 20th Anniversary of R. vs. Morgentaler. The thrust of his speech is to show how, even after two attempts by two separate individuals to murder him, he is still committed to the work of providing abortions. Recounting his internship at Chicago's Cook County Hospital in Ward 41, the septic obstetrics ward, he discusses the cases of septic shock from illegal abortions and the ones that resulted in death.
Providing abortion services can be quite stressful. Usually, an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy is the worst trouble the patient has ever been in in her entire life.
Abortion and abortafacients have come to be viewed as redemptive, saving women from the consequences of decisions that have predominately been their own. In this sense, it has become an idol, ironically opposite of the life-giving nature and work of our Creator.
HT: David Mendez
February 4, 2008
What do we know about Obama? Like Clinton, he is a slick communicator...lots of sentiment and no substance. Even his followers agree. Tonight on tv they all said that he's a great communicator and inspiring, but were clueless about his positions on issues. This isn't entirely his fault, liberal America wants this kind of leader. Obama fits well into the irreligious religiosity that has come to define America's intellectual landscape. All sentiment, no substance. This is seen in many areas of debate including reproductive rights and ESCR. Emotions, not science or rational thinking guide the players on the left. Are we surprised that Obama is their guy?
For a believer in the wall of separation, Obama is turning out to be one of this countries greatest religious leaders, influencing through inspirational speeches with no substance. "Change" is turning out to be the religious cliche of the millenium.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
February 3, 2008
Also yesterday, the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity posted an article I wrote on outsourced pregnancy to India, Discount Babies, Discounting Dignity. As we continue to promote ourselves as a globalized society and as a global church, let's not forget about the women in 3rd world countries who are being exploited by "child labor," so to speak.
How we speak of the process of having children, whether as reproductive or procreative, may also speak to the influences that inform our decision making. Has having babies been reduced to the language of manufacturing? Is it about what we do to put the baby together, or is making babies about being image bearer? We create life because God created us to create similarly to him.