Archive - July, 2006

Alistair Begg – movie star?

OK, this is old news, but it was new to me. When I read on Gary Shavey’s blog that Alistair Begg had been in a movie, I was skeptical. Marni and I decided to rent the movie. The movie tells the story of Bobby Jones, the only golfer to ever win a Grand Slam (all four of the biggest tournaments).
Of course, we didn’t check in advance who Begg was playing. We tried to figure it out during the movie. We were surprised to discover that Pastor Begg was exactly who we thought he was — what was so shocking was how many lines they gave him!
Spoiler warning! This link provides the story of how Begg (who has no acting experience) got involved, but it will also reveal who he plays.

PC(USA) — losses in membership

I have made a few blog posts in the past on the PC(USA). My intention has not been to be mean-spirited, but to honestly probe what happens when the simple yet counter-cultural teaching of Scripture is circumvented in the name of relevance. That having been said, I am in no way denying that there are some God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Bible-affirming PC(USA) pastors out there. For example, I’ve been blessed by much of what Mark D. Roberts has been sharing.
Here are some of the sad statistics on the massive decline in membership within the PC(USA). In short, a loss of 65,000 in 2005 and an estimated loss of 85,000 in 2006. Does anyone have access to an explanation from PC(USA) leadership regarding these numbers?
(HT: Mark Driscoll)

Desiring God National Conference – Sep 29 – Oct 1

We’re back from our family vacation to Grand Rapids, MN. It was a fantastically relaxing time of sitting by the lake, swimming, barbeque-ing every night, and bonding. Our daughter Karis had some difficulty (as did Marni and I) with the sweltering heat (mid-90s, sometimes with humidity to boot).
The family vacation afforded me the opportunity of some extended reading time. I read ahead on most of the assigned reading for my upcoming Preaching class this Fall and Spring. But the book that has most been captivating me (I’m about 1/3 of the way through) is David Well’s Above All Earthly Powers. Here’s an excerpt from John Piper’s synopsis:
The burden of Wells’ book is first to understand the postmodern world, and then to confront that world with the never-changing Christ. His thesis is that the West today is not simply a product of Enlightenment ideology, with its rejection of authority and reliance on reason without revelation, but is also the product of a process of consumeristic, technological, media-driven modernization that created an experience of reality which affirms and reinforces that ideology.
One effect of this modernization has been to give rise to the centrality of the psychologically oriented self in the place of a morally oriented human nature. The postmodern, all-consuming “self”—with its self-made spirituality—is subject to no outside authority. All reality has contracted into this self. It is radically individualized and privatized and insistently therapeutic. It does not feel at home in the doctrines and traditions of religion. It is on an endless quest for the enhancement of its experience measured by itself alone.

This volume from David Wells is the last of four installments in a series that began in 1993 with No Place For Truth. Wells’ most recent book is a masterful depiction of how modernism fell and why the postmodernism ethos has come into vogue. Moreover, Wells gives an insightful critique of contemporary evangelicalism as well as a stirring exhortation on how we should faithfully herald the eternally true, relevant gospel in our particular day and age.
John Piper was so moved by this book that the entire Desiring God National Conference this year is being based on the themes expounded by David Wells’ book. The speakers are Donald Carson, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Voddie Baucham, David Wells, and John Piper. The Conference looks outstanding. Pre-registration has begun.
Particularly if you are unable to attend, I highly recommend that you purchase Above All Earthly Powers. It is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand where our culture is today, as well as the trends within evangelicalism, including the morphing of the seeker-sensitive movement and the rise of “emerging churches.”

Update: Here is an interview with David Wells discussing Above All Earthly Powers, and its relation to the previous three books in his series.

Joe Lieberman – On the Ropes

Joe Lieberman has gained respect in his three-term U.S. Senate career as a centrist Democrat who is able to work with Republicans to get things done. Though I do not agree with him on every issue (his support of abortion rights, his opposition to the tax-cuts which are profoundly responsible for today’s strong economy), he consistently comes across as a man guided by principle rather than by public opinion polls. For example, Lieberman has supported school vouchers (as I do) and criticized affirmative action. As the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee alongside Al Gore in 2000 and candidate for President in 2004, Lieberman can in no way be characterized as a “closet republican.”
Which is why it is all the more shameful that prominent Democrats are abandoning him in his pursuit of a fourth Senate term. Lieberman seemed invincible in his Aug 8 Democratic Primary face-off with little-known liberal Democrat Ned Lamont until just a few months ago, when everything began to unravel. The key issue seems to be the left-wing of the Democratic Party seeking retribution for Lieberman’s support of the Iraq War. Multi-millionaire Lamont is an outspoken war critic. In addition to an otherwise well-financed campaign (Lamont has spent $1.5 million of his own money), Lamont has also received considerable support from antiwar bloggers.
Shailagh Murray writes in today’s WaPo of Lieberman’s eroding base. Irving Stolberg, former speaker of the Connecticut House, and close friend of Lieberman since the 1960s has now publicly supported Lamont. “It’s been a wrenching decision. I’ve supported him every step,” Stolberg said of Lieberman. “But the issues and the principles trump 40 years of friendship.”
To make matters worse, today’s New York Times features a scathing editorial against Lieberman, publicly endorsing Lamont less than 10 days from the Primary in a race too close to call.
Shailagh Murray notes that “Lieberman is accustomed to the rough and tumble of politics, and can be combative in his own defense, as he showed during a recent debate. But he [Lieberman] said he has been jarred by the intensity of Democratic anger toward Bush — and, by extension, toward him. Liberal bloggers have called Lieberman a ‘liar’ and a ‘weasel.'”
Lieberman noted that it is not just opposition to Bush, but a deep hatred that he perceives. If he’s correct, that will not bode well for the Democratic Party.
I predict that Lieberman will lose on August 8, and wish him my regrets in advance.

Blogging Vacation: July 22 – July 29

Dear Readers,
My wife and I will be taking Karis up to a lake for a week (it is a Minnesota-sort of thing to do). No Internet. Almost no telephone. Just a few books, games, and conversation.
I posted a bunch of stuff tonight, and Lord willing, will be back to posting on July 30.
Blessings,
Alex

My interview with MSN Match.com

I would be grateful for your prayers as I prepare to respond to questions submitted to me for an interview to be published in MSN Match.com’s Faith-Based Dating section. Somehow, they got a hold of my With One Voice book, and think an interview with my wife and I would interest their readers. I will be digesting the following questions as I spend the week away (July 22-29) at a lake with my family:
What does spiritual IMMATURITY look like in a dating person?
Define spiritual maturity:
What’s an example/characteristic of a spiritually mature woman?
What’s an example/characteristic of a spiritually mature man?
Why do singles need spiritual maturity?
Why does spiritual maturity matter in a relationship?
How can singles develop spiritual maturity?

The interviewer agrees with me that the readership of the Faith-Based Dating section of MSN Match.com will likely be “religious, but not necessarily evangelical.” Feel free to leave me any advice on handling the interview. I plan to submit replies via e-mail on July 29. We apparently have 600 words for the entire interview.
I’ll try to get permission to post the results of the interview on this blog.

Embryonic vs Adult Stem Cell Research

President Bush made his first veto yesterday, rejecting a bill that would have advanced embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. Sometimes people merely say “stem cell research holds the promise for curing intractable diseases.” But such statements are illusive because they are ambiguous. Then they can make conservatives look bad by saying they “oppose important research that has the potential to save lives.”
Michael Fumeno notes that adult stem cells (ASCs) from numerous places in the body as well as umbilical cord blood and placenta – are curing diseases here and now and have been doing so for decades. But this actually angers those who support embryonic Stem Cell Research.
See Fumeno’s informative and persuasive essay for more details.
In an earlier post I linked to a Joe Carter essay from the same perspective.
I think that Fumeno and Carter are correct regarding this issue, and so am pleased with Bush’s veto. I’d love to hear any comments on why you think so many Republicans supported the bill, including presidential-candidate Bill Frist.

Women and Childlessness

I am continuing to discuss the Barbara Dafoe Whitehead/David Popenoe report entitled The State of Our Unions, The Social Health of Marriage in America 2006, Essay: Life Without Children.
I make this particular post because I find the report’s observations on women and childlessness to be interesting and provocative. I’m not entirely sure what to make of them.
The report notes, “most women still want to have at least one child and, ideally, two. In fact, 68 percent of Gen X women today are likely to say that having a child is an experience every woman should have compared to just 45 percent of baby boom women in 1979.”
Perhaps the 1979 figure is attributable to the phenomenon of radical forms of feminism more popular in that day. The Gen X figure is corroborated by the widely cited Amercian Values report, which found that many college women continue to desire husbands and children, though the men in their midst pursue them for these reasons with far less frequency.
The report notes that one reason for the decline in childbirth rates is that the median age of first marriage for women was not quite 21 in 1970 and today it is just shy of 26. For women who hold a four-year college degree (an increasing percentage of the female population) the age of first marriage is even higher.
Secondly, after marriage, women tend to wait longer before they bear their first child. In 1960, 71 percent of married women had a first birth within the first three years of marriage. By 1990, the percentage had fallen to 37. By 2000, the majority of women had not started raising children prior to being in their thirties. In 2004, almost one out of five women in their early forties were childless compared to one out of ten in 1976.
(HT: Why Family Matters)

Economic Ramifications of Childlessness

I am continuing to discuss the Barbara Dafoe Whitehead/David Popenoe report entitled The State of Our Unions, The Social Health of Marriage in America 2006, Essay: Life Without Children.
I want to highlight some of the report’s findings on the economic factors of the childless trend, and the market forces that support it (perhaps unwittingly, though I think sometimes consciously):
1. Childless young adults are exceedingly well suited to life and work in a dynamic society and global economy. They display great facility and comfort with new technologies. Their youthful penchant for experiment, risk-taking, adventure, along with their sheer physical energy, fit the requirements of the 24/7 work world. One of their most desirable attributes is that they are not tied down by child-rearing obligations. They can pick up and move. They can work odd hours and go on the road. They can quit their jobs without worrying about having more than one hungry mouth to feed.
2. As consumers, young adults who do not yet have children represent a highly desirable market segment. A growing proportion of today’s well-educated young adults step into high paying jobs shortly after they finish their education. They may have college loans to pay off, but their financial obligations are theirs alone. They aren’t yet responsible for others. And their pay-checks and credit cards are stretched to include more than bare necessities. They eat out, go drinking, take vacations, get big screen TVs, join health clubs and buy tickets to sports events and concerts. Even the less well-educated and less well-employed spend money on affordable luxuries for themselves—one reason for the astonishing growth and success of Starbucks.
If you invest in stocks, you’ll note that these industries are all doing very well. Another contributing factor is baby-boomers living off lavish retirement savings. The report notes: “Individuals over 50 make up a growing share of Americans with money to spend on second homes, travel, recreation, learning and entertainment. Sales of so-called ‘recreational’ homes reached record levels in 2005.”
(HT: Why Family Matters)

State of the (Marriage) Unions – Childlessness

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe of the National Marriage Project have come out with their State of Our Unions report for 2006 (the reports come out annually, in the summer). The report is titled Life Without Children, highlighting the troubling trend of (often deliberately) childless marriages.
Their Executive Summary:
For most of the nation’s history, Americans expected to devote much of their adult life and work to the rearing of children. Today, life without children is emerging as a social reality for a growing number of American adults. Due to delay of marriage, postponed childbearing, increases in childlessness and longer life expectancy, Americans are spending a smaller share of their expected life course in households with children and a larger share of their life course in households without children.
As the active child-rearing years shrink as a proportion of the life course, life with children is experienced as a disruption in the life course rather than as one of its defining purposes. More broadly, it is life before and after children that American culture now portrays as the most satisfying years of adulthood. (emphasis mine)
(Editorial Note: This was one of the concerns, initially impressed upon me by Dr. Albert Mohler, that led to my writing With One Voice. The subject is not without controversy, but it has massive importance for the future of society, both inside and outside the church.)
Noteworthy excerpts from the report include:
1. “The percentage of households with children has declined from half of all households in 1960 to less than one-third today—the lowest percentage in the nation’s history.”
2. “The ‘adult entertainment industry,’ which includes gambling, pornography and sex, is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative sectors of the consumer economy. This multibillion dollar industry has gained respectability and power in the corridors of Washington…”
3. “The expressive values of the adult-only world are at odds with the values of the child-rearing world. Indeed, child-rearing values—sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity—seem stale and musty by comparison. Nor does the bone-wearying and time-consuming work of the child-rearing years comport with a culture of fun and freedom. Indeed, what it takes to raise children is almost the opposite of what popularly defines a satisfying adult life.”
4. “…parents [in the past] have been rewarded (many would argue inadequately) for the unpaid work of caring for children with respect, support and recognition from the larger society. Now this cultural compensation is disappearing. Indeed, in recent years, the entire child-rearing enterprise has been subject to a ruthless debunking. Most notably, the choice of motherhood is now contested terrain, with some critics arguing that the tasks of mothering are unworthy of educated women’s time and talents. Along with the critique of parenthood, a small but aggressively vocal ‘childfree’ movement is organizing to represent the interests of nonparents.”
The entire report is available.
(HT: Why Family Matters)
Update: I want to clearly state that in no way am I intending to add grief to those who struggle with infertility, or who (for genuine medical reasons) must avoid, delay, or space out pregnancies, or who (based on a spiritual conviction of a call to celibacy, I Cor 7:1-9) will not marry.

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