Monthly Archives: January 2009

Stumping Pro-Lifers

Daniel Florien from Unreasonable Faith has a question that stumps pro-life demonstrators:

If abortion is illegal, what should the punishment be for women who have illegal abortions?

Florien thinks that this question will win any debate with pro-life people:

Now watch their faces as the cognitive dissonance sets in. They believe abortion to be murder. Murder deserves severe punishment. Thus, women who have illegal abortions should receive severe punishment — like life in prison or the death penalty. That’s the logical conclusion.

But they can’t accept this conclusion. They know it’s absurd and unfair — which means they know abortion is not really murder. (source)

Florien mistakenly believes that all pro-lifers are as inconsistent and uninformed in their views as the ones on the YouTube video that he accents this post with.

Why the inconsistency? Why are pro-lifers afraid to say that life in prison would be a reasonable punishment for a woman who has an illegal abortion? I’m not afraid to reveal that that is my position, after much soul-searching and prayer. Abortion is murder, and it should be punished as such.

However, to prove the copus delicti in these cases would entail proving both that the woman was pregnant, and she had an abortion. A careful woman would be able to conceal the fact that she was pregnant from everyone if she planned to have an abortion. There may be little evidence to prove that she was ever pregnant in the first place, and a back alley abortion clinic would have every reason to avoid admitting that they knew she was pregnant to protect themselves.

The mens rea would be a difficult process, too. You’d have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she intended to take her baby’s life, which means proving that, at the time the crime was committed, she understood that the baby was alive inside of her. Here it may be easy to feign ignorance or to muddy the waters by introducing medical data proving that the baby was already in danger of dying.

Conclusion: abortion is murder. Murder merits severe punishment. The punishment should be life in prison, as for any murder. But making a prosecutable case would be extremely difficult. But the possibility of such a sentence would still give anyone pause before committing the crime, and would make any law-abiding citizen consider an option better for the baby, like adoption.

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It Worked for James White…

It worked for James White, I’m going to see if it works for me!

James White posted his Amazon.com Wish List on his website, and within hours, everything on it was purchased. I’m going to see if that works for me. Probably not, but…

If you have been blessed by the work of this ministry, and God leads you to give something back, then please consider an item off of this wish list. Thank you!

My Amazon.com Wish List

Chapter Two of Velvet Elvis

I’m reading Velvet Elivs: Repainting the  Christian Faith by Rob Bell, one of the leaders of the Emergent Church. Bell brings up several problems with sola scriptura in the second chapter of the book, titled “Yoke.”

At first, I wondered why he chose such an unusal name. As I figured, it’s named after Matthew 11:30 where Jesus tells his disciples that his yoke is easy and his burden light. But there’s a deeper meaning to the name. The Bible, Bell argues, is a very difficult book to grasp. When you’re wrestling with it, you bring your own experiences and interpretations to it. No one reads the Bible for what it says, Bell insists, all you’re doing is giving your interpretation of the words. It was no different in ancient times.

Every rabbi had his own interpretation of the Bible. This was called his “yoke.” Every once in a while, a rabbi would come on the scene with a brand new yoke. Before anyone would take the new yoke seriously, the rabbi would have to have hands laid upon him by two established rabbis. That, Bell argues, is the significance of the passage where Jesus has both John the Baptist baptize him, and the voice from Heaven declares that he is the Son of God.

That, Bell says, would be recognized as the two established rabbis laying their hands on Jesus, and that Jesus’ new yoke was legitimate. The problem inherent in this Bell’s interpretation of the facts is that this seems to relegate Jesus to the role of teacher or role model. It doesn’t declare that Jesus’ “yoke” is the yoke; instead, this description allows for it to be one yoke among many.

Read the rest of this entry

Scary!

I just stumbled onto an article from the Christian Science Monitor that scares me a little bit. It appears that most Americans define their own theology.

According to a recent Barna survey, 71% of Americans are more likely to form their own religious beliefs rather than follow an established tradition. The number rises to 82% for those under the age of 25. These “cafeteria Christians” pick and choose beliefs from among various denominations, and even from non-Christian religions.

Some might argue that this isn’t bad. Many Catholics, and even some Protestants, would see this as the natural outgrowth of sola scriptura–without the authority of the Church, everyone is free to create their own doctrine. This, however, is a corruption of sola scriptura. The corruption of something good should never be confused with the thing itself.

Why is this a scary thing? Look at what people believe: half don’t believe in Satan, a third believe that Jesus sinned, and two-fifths don’t see an obligation to share their faith. These things are clearly contradicted by Scripture. Satan is an established fact, as is Jesus’ sinlessness, and the Great Commission from Jesus himself makes sharing our faith obligatory.

In a point of irony, more Americans believe that right beliefs lead to eternal life than right behavior. Ironic becuase there is no check or balance on what people are believing these days.

But should we expect that to be the case? After all, let’s look at the leading Christians of today. Joel Osteen preaches the centrality of man. T.D. Jakes preaches the prosperity gospel. Look at the Emergent Church leaders and their desire to redefine every doctrine of Christianity for a modern audience. None of these men place any emphasis on the proper discipleship of new Christians, leaving them free to decide what is right for them rather than what is true.

Divorcing Scripture from the tradition used to interpret it is dangerous. How many people are going to read Scripture carefully, and read the history behind it, consult commentaries and set aside the daily study time and devote a large portion of their lives to getting their doctrines right? Few, if any, I’m sure. Instead, they are going to find what makes sense to them and run with it, without ever finding out the history or philosophy behind each doctrine. Few people are going to develop their theology that carefully.

The problem inherent in a concept like sola scriptura is that it puts too many cooks into the kitchen. This isn’t what sola scriptura was ever meant to be.

Biblically speaking, not everyone is called to be a teacher. But we are all called to be disciples of Christ. Like the Bereans, we should search the Scriptures daily to see if what our teachers tell us is true. But we should hesitate to become our own teachers, lending instead some credence to those who have devoted their lives to studying the Scriptures and history of the church, those who understand sound doctrine and teach it. Everyone becoming their own teachers, as is the trend, fosters spiritual anarchy.

What America Needs to Know About Rick Warren

Vjack from Atheist Revolution has published a list of things that everyone needs to know about Rick Warren. He treats these things as if they are bad things, as if it is scandalous to believe any of them. I thought I’d take a look at his list and see just how scandalous it is.

  1. Warren’s much praised work on AIDS in Africa has been revealed as undermining scientifically-sound efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in favor of thoroughly discredited religiously-based methods. He opposes contraception, even when it comes to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS. This takes anti-intellectualism and religious delusion to astounding levels.
  2. Warren opposes reproductive rights for women and stem cell research. He has criticized Obama’s position on these issues and vowed to pressure him into changing his mind. This should be worrisome for anyone who values separation of church and state.
  3. He was a strong supporter of Proposition 8, the measure which rolled back civil rights for many Californians by denying marriage to GLBT couples. This is bigotry.
  4. Warren has equated gay marriage to incest and pedophilia. This is bigotry.
  5. Warren has publicly stated that he would not vote for an atheist, regardless of qualifications. He thinks that no atheist could possibly be worthy of holding office. This is bigotry.
  6. He is a creationist. Lest we dismiss this as mere stupidity, please remember that many of us are still having to fight to keep this nonsense out of our schools. (source)

All right, let’s break this down:

  1. In other words, if people aren’t allowed to have sex wherever and whenever and with whomever they want–which is what “scientifically-sound” methods do–then the approach is no good. It is no good to teach people to keep their pants up, no, we must give them condoms and allow them to have sex all willy-nilly. The only 100% effective method of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS is abstinence. The problem isn’t the method, as Vjack implies, the problem is the committment level of the people in question. I’ve covered this topic before.
  2. “Reproductive rights” is a very nice way to say “abortion.” Vjack is trying to use less emotionally-charged words in order to downplay a serious ideological argument. What Warren is opposing is the murder of the unborn children. Vjack himself admits to holding a similar position in this post.
  3. Proposition 8 was nothing less than an attempt to legislate morality, and therefore should not have been passed. My views on gay marriage are rather complex and best discussed in a separate post. For now, let’s say that I disagree with Proposition 8 but I think that it is harsh to call its supporters bigots. There are sound intellectual reasons to oppose gay marriage, but they are all grounded in the Bible and therefore have no place in the law books.
  4. Warren has never equated gay marriage with incest or pedophilia. What he has done is question where the state will draw the line as far as what immoral marriages it will allow. To that end, he cited incest and pedophilia as two examples of what may be allowed next. History offers no examples since gay marriage has been as universally forbidden as incest and pedophilia among the many cultures that have existed. Warren was speculating, not equating.
  5. I’m not going to disagree with this point. This is bigotry.
  6. There are many intellectual and philosophical reasons that lead someone to be  a creationist. Just as there are many philosophical and intellectual reasons that lead someone to be a naturalist. I don’t call naturalism “nonsense,” even if I think that a person who holds the position is being intellectually dishonest. Neither view is nonsense; but one must be incorrect. I’ve made my stance known. Now, what about teaching creationism in school? It toes the line, but I don’t think that it should be illegal.

Vjack reveals himself as very close-minded to other points of view. He is so certain that atheistic naturalism is correct, that he won’t even consider the position of the other side. Perhaps Vjack is guilty of the same bigotry that he accuses others of.

Robinson to Speak at Inauguration

New Hampshire’s Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who I’ve discussed on this blog before, has been invited to speak at Barack Obama’s Inauguration ceremony. The openly gay bishop will offer a prayer Sunday to kick off the festivities.

The Roman Catholic Blog is reporting that Robinson is going to offer a prayer that is not Christian. He will not use a Bible. For some reason, this reminds me of the following verse:

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Mt 10:32-33)

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

Over Christmas, my cousin asked me if I had ever heard of Rob Bell. At the time, I hadn’t. My cousin told me that he enjoyed Bell’s teachings, especially his NOOMA video series. My cousin found his teachings biblically grounded.

So I decided to research Rob Bell, and I discovered the book Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith. The title screams “Emerging Church.” I admit that I have little exposure to the Emergent Church. All I know is that they divorce tradition from their reading of Scripture, as if Scripture were written yesterday and for them only. The best definition of the Emerging Church can be found at the excellent Parchment and Pen blog, here. C. Michael Patton doesn’t call the movement heretical, but he has several major critiques of the positions that many emergers take.

Despite all of this, I still find myself in agreement with some of the things that Bell has to say in the first chapter of Velvet Elvis. But, the best poison works when you mix only a little bit with the good stuff. And that is, in my opinion, how the Emerging Church works on orthodoxy. I find myself in agreement with much of what Bell has to say, however, there is just a little bit of poison that creeps in there, and that damages the good work he does.

Bell compares doctrines to the springs of trampolines. The springs are what makes the thing work, and without the springs, the trampoline would be useless. Many people, he thinks, treat doctrines like bricks in a wall instead. If one is damaged, the wall comes tumbling down. That isn’t how Bell views doctrine. While he affirms it as necessary and believes in all of the essential doctrines of the faith, he doesn’t believe that to question any one of them will knock the wall down. In fact, he sees this questioning as necessary for our faith.

Here is where I disagree with what Bell has to say. I see doctrine as the brick wall. If one falls out of place, the wall becomes unstable. Again, I sympathize with Bell’s pleading that treating doctrine in this way leads to beating people over the head with it, and then it becomes a barrier to good relationships rather than an invitation to join Christ’s church. However, as I have defended in the past, sound doctrine is necessary. Would you rather have a spring–pliable and easy to break–as the foundation for your faith, or a brick–firm and solid?

I’m not saying the questions are bad. I view questions as a necessary part of our faith. God isn’t looking for yes-men. He wants questioners. Look at Abraham, Moses, and Job. All of them questioned the grand design of God’s scheme, and God didn’t punish a one of them for it. In fact, he entered into a dynamic, give-and-take relationship with them. That’s what he wants from us today–a dynamic relationship where we aren’t afraid to go to him in prayer with our toughest questions. And I believe that he will answer them in due course.

Like many emergers, Bell is hesitant to place many doctrines of the faith as central and necessary for proper understanding of Christianity. This is, I believe, Bell’s major error and the poison that creeps througout his teaching.

Recently, Bell made an appearance on the blog A Little Leaven, where the writers analyze an appearance he made at an inter-spiritual conference. Supposedly the voice for Christianity, Bell simply promotes love and forgiveness as a better way to live rather than grounding these tenets in Christ. There is nothing distinctly Christian in what Bell says at the conference. That is the same error that he makes in Velvet Elvis–advertising the Christian way as a better way, rather than the only way.

To his credit, Bell isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions, or have the tough questions asked of him. But most of his answers, as he himself states, revolve around this life and the relationships within it. The Bible, however, teaches that this life is fleeting vapor, and that attachment to things herein is not the way to live. The Bible teaches Jesus Christ as the object of our faith, and our hope for the future.

I hope to continue posting more thoughts on Bell’s Velvet Elvis as I read this alternately fascinating, alternately heretical book. That combination amounts to one of the most interesting reads in a long time.