Archive - November, 2006

Americans: Cheap or Charitable?

ABC News just ran a very interesting news broadcast called “Are Americans Cheap? Or Charitable?” There was extended discussion with Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. Brooks struck me as a very reasonable man. He has just published a book called Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism. Some of the findings:
1. Working poor conservatives, on a percentage basis, give more than the average middle class American and far more than those of liberal persuasion (who are more likely to think it’s the government’s job to redistribute wealth).
2. The most likely indicator of a person’s generosity is the degree to which they are religious.
3. No other country comes close to the private giving by Americans on a whole. The fact that most of America’s charitable gifts come from volunteers, not government, demonstrates that Americans are different from people in every other country.
“The fact is that Americans give more than the citizens of any other country. … They also volunteer more,” Brooks said. “Americans per capita individually give about three and a half times more money per year, than the French per capita. … Seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians.”
You can read about ABC’s investigation here.
(HT: Jacob)

Congressman to take oath of office on Koran

Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress (representing a district of Minneapolis, MN), has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran. Dennis Prager explains why he should not be allowed to do so.
1. First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism — my culture trumps America’s culture.
2. Plenty of Jewish elected officials (who do not embrace the New Testament) have taken their oaths on the Bible.
3. Plenty of secular officials (even atheists) have taken their oaths on the Bible (though the writings of Voltaire or John Locke might have more accurately represented their deepest convictions).
4. No Mormon has ever requested to take his oath on the Book of Mormon.
5. In his personal life, I (and every American) should fight for his right to prefer any other book. I would even fight for his right to publish cartoons mocking the Bible.
6. Supposing an elected official wanted to take his oath on a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (the Nazi Bible), would we allow that? So where do we draw the line? If the Koran, why not the Hindu Vedas?
I agree with Prager not as a Christian (though I am one), but as an American. I do not believe that being a Congressman is a religious office. It is an American office. As Prager notes, “When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization.”
Prager’s bottom-line:
Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.
Prager’s one-page article is an excellent read.

Alex and Brett Harris speak out With One Voice

Alex and Brett Harris are recipients of six national championships in high school speech and debate. Through their blogging, speaking, and writing, they are exhorting their peers to “stop wasting the teen years and to rebel against the low expectations of an ungodly culture.”
A little bit about their family:
Their father, Gregg Harris, is a well-known homeschool author and speaker. He is also a teaching elder at Household of Faith Community Church. Their mother, Sono Harris, is an accomplished speaker and speech coach. Their older brother, Joshua Harris, is senior pastor of Covenant Life Church and a bestselling author.
Given all that’s on their plate, I was encouraged that Alex and Brett took the time to read With One Voice and provide these kind words (scroll down to With One Voice):
“This relatively short book packs a powerful bang for the buck, providing much biblical and practical advice for young men and women seeking to glorify God in relationships. And we must say, the first chapter on the redefinition of youth was excellent.”
–Alex and Brett Harris
Their remarks have been added to the others from Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Ben Patterson, Rick Holland and Bruce Ware. Thanks, Mr. and Mr. Harris!

Biography of Milton Friedman Coming to PBS

On November 16, 2006, the great economist Milton Friedman died at the age of 94. On January 29, 2007, PBS will telecast a 90 minute biography of Milton and Rose Friedman called The Power of Choice: The Life and Ideas of Milton Friedman. The biography’s executive producers include Bob Chitester, the same small-town TV executive who organized the PBS TV Series Free to Choose, whose transcripts Friedman later converted into a book bearing the same title.
Chitester descibes his interactions with Friedman over a 30+ year span:
“He was a famous Nobel Prize winning economist. I was a bearded, leather jacketed small town TV executive, yet he treated me as competent and honorable, as he did everyone he met, until you proved otherwise.
Over the intervening years I invited hundreds of people to join me for a “private dinner with Milton and Rose.” Most were, or soon became, great admirers of his quickness of mind and insatiable curiosity. They were charmed by his warmth and generosity, learned much about logic and careful thinking and departed wondering how anyone could dislike or disagree with this “truth seeker.”
To me Milton’s most admirable characteristic was his ability to disagree without being disagreeable; to have close friendships with people who aggressively challenged his ideas. His admonition was to never question the motive of an intellectual opponent — a lesson I struggle to embrace.”

Chitester remarking on Friedman’s death:
“With his death, people striving to make their lives better lost a champion and freedom lost one of its most effective and valiant advocates, while I lost a teacher /mentor of incomparable value. I once told Milton it would take me a lifetime to repay his appreciation of the work we did together. I count on the memories of his faultless advice, fatherly concern and that twinkle in his eyes to help me achieve that goal.”
May our next crop of United States Congressmen not forget his legacy.

Why Iraq is Crumbling

Charles Krauthammer argues that “the root problem lies with Iraqis and their political culture.”
“Americans flatter themselves that they are the root of all planetary evil. Nukes in North Korea? Poverty in Bolivia? Sectarian violence in Iraq? Breasts are beaten and fingers pointed as we try to somehow locate the root cause in America.”

Amazing Grace – The William Wilberforce Story

Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post Writers Group pens an essay about the role of Christians, particularly William Wilberforce, in ending the slave trade of Africans. Wilberforce is to be the subject of a major motion picture entitled: Amazing Grace: The William Wilberforce Story. The movie’s release is being timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Britain’s abolition of slavery (February 2007).
In 2002, John Piper delivered this biographical sketch of William Wilberforce.
Parker mentions another forthcoming film, an independent documentary Let My People Go, which deals with today’s global sex trade.

A Secular Faith – Darryl Hart

Dr. Darryl Hart, prolific historian of religion in America and former professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in California, has just published what sounds like a fascinating book: A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State.
Terry Eastland, publisher of The Weekly Standard, recently penned this excellent review (only subscribers can read it all) of Hart’s book. Based on his review:
Hart amplifies Jesus’ statement “My Kingdom is not of this world” by noting that Christianity is “essentially a spiritual and eternal faith, one occupied with a world to come rather than the passing and temporal affairs of this world.” Whereas theonomic, Old Testament Israel completely fused politics and religion, and whereas the Holy Roman Empire approximated such an arrangement by granting the church authority into every sphere of life, Protestant Christianity (over time) led to the diminishing of the church’s jurisdiction, hence it had a “secularizing” influence.
Hart would not deny that Christ has authority over every realm of life. Rather, he would affirm that Christ’s Lordship is manifested in one way in the case of the world, and in another way in the case of the church. In the former, Christ rules by means of providence and common grace. In the latter, Christ rules by means of covenantal love, the means of grace, and special revelation (the Bible).
When Christ told his disciples to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, He was acknowledging the distinct jurisdiction of each institution (God’s sovereign Lordship notwithstanding). Interestingly, when Christ made this statement, there was a picture of Caesar’s head on the coin, not “in God we trust.” Hart observes that “if Christianity is a religion less concerned with statecraft than soulcraft, Christian attempts to place the United States ‘under God’ are unnecessary and may actually be a departure from the original teachings of Christ.” (Hart contrasts this church-state understanding with that of Islam, citing the work of Bernard Lewis.)
Eastland does cite a few “loose ends” with the book. His primary concern is that Hart is apparently less than specific as to how individual believers could/should incorporate Christian principles, such as people being created in the image of God, into their political involvement. Hart acknowledges that there are implications, says Eastland, but does not spell them out.
Nevertheless, Eastland’s review is overwhelmingly positive. His conclusion:
“Hart’s achievement is to recover for our time the Augustinian perspective in which history is the story of two cities during the seclorum of the church–the City of Man and the City of God. Hart rightly warns against conflating the two, reminding those Christians in America who read his book that ‘the church is to be a Christian as opposed to an American institution.”
It sounds like a worthy read! For a sample of Hart’s writing, here is an insightful essay related to the doctrine of vocation.

NBC Dateline investigates Benny Hinn

NBC journalist Bob McKeown conducts this illuminating exposé on Benny Hinn. McKeown’s findings are deeply concerning, even if they may be familiar to some. Given the lavish lifestyle of Mr. Hinn ($500,000 – $1,000,000 annual salary, plus book royalties), this report might be viewed as the second mainline media study of the link between (professing) Christians and the idea that God wants us to be rich.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

John Schlitt (lead singer of Petra) Interviewed

Tim Challies gives this update on Petra:

Though the band retired on December 31, 2005, John Schlitt and Bob Hartman are keeping active. Schlitt will be releasing a third solo album later this year and he and Bob have also recorded a praise and worship album called “Vertical Expressions”. It will also be available later this year. John was recently a guest on LIFE Today (click here and scroll down to October 19) where he and his wife shared their testimony.

Petra was a fantastic group through the 1980s and the 1990s (don’t forget the Greg X Volz days!), and it was a blessing to get a bit of an update. Thanks, Tim!
Does anyone know where the members of Petra stand theologically? I’m just curious. I’d also appreciate any update on what Greg X Volz is doing nowadays.

Albert Mohler joins WaPo-Newsweek Dialogue on Religion

Dr. Albert Mohler joins “a conversation on religion” with Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham.
The conversation went live this past Wednesday with this kick-off question:
If some religious people believe they have a monopoly on truth, then are conversation and common ground possible? If so, what would be the difficulties and benefits of such a conversation?
Here is Dr. Mohler’s first essay.

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