Olasky provocatively raises the issue of Pakistan–where both democracy and liberty are in short supply:
“Pro-American dictator or anti-American democracy? That’s the choice in Pakistan now, where President (and top general) Pervez Musharraf has suspended his country’s constitution, fired the country’s chief justice, and shut down nongovernmental television stations. He said that had he not acted, Islamist extremists would have taken over the country.”
Olasky suggests that the U.S. finds itself in this position because it prioritized the advocacy of democracy over the advocacy of liberty. He explains that lack of liberty has had devastating effects for Muslim nations:
“Lack of liberty within Islam contributed to its centuries of decline in many ways. The Ottoman Empire banned printing presses for Muslims in 1485, which meant that many in Europe enjoyed a knowledge explosion and many Muslims did not. Ever since then Islam has been on a geopolitical losing streak. Now, the 57 majority-Muslim countries contain 1.4 billion people, but half of them are illiterate. Those countries contain 57 universities, compared to 5,000-plus in the United States. Western nations spend 5 percent of their GDP on producing knowledge, Muslim countries 0.2 percent.”
And Pakistan is another casualty. Olasky argues that U.S. foreign policy must include the passionate promotion of religious and intellectual liberty, because mere democracy apart from genuine freedom will nevertheless breed economic stagnation and the exportation of hostility.
Read the whole thing. (You may need to have a World magazine subscription — which is well worth it.)
John Piper responds to prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens and (retired) Bishop John Shelby Spong of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. Upshot:
You both seem to assume that the affection of gratitude is puerile and unsatisfying—something we need to grow out of if we would be deeply joyful and useful people. Presumably you feel that way because, in your experience, being self-sufficient and being thanked is more satisfying than feeling dependent and thankful. I have tasted this pleasure you seem to prefer. It is the pleasure of power—the pleasure of being above others so that they must give you thanks rather than the other way around.
This is what Jesus warned against when he said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors” (Luke 22:25). “Benefactors”—people who don’t want to say thank you to others, but like it when people say thank you to them. Your discomfort with gratitude—your sense that it is an unhappy and dissatisfying disposition—is not auspicious for your souls. It is very dangerous.
May I humbly invite you, and others you have influenced, into the lowly ranks of the dependent, thankful, happy, children of the living God on this Thanksgiving Day. There is great grace. Great forgiveness. All-supplying mercy. All-satisfying Beauty. Inexhaustible wisdom. It is all in Jesus Christ. And it lasts forever. May we say together, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable Gift.”
Read the whole thing.
This ad will air in Iowa starting tomorrow. Recent polls (immediately before Thanksgiving) showed Huckabee in a statistical dead heat with Gov. Romney for first place in Iowa, and tied for second place nationally among likely Republican primary voters.
Also: Randy Alcorn on why he supports Huckabee and why he wrote a letter to the NRLC protesting their decision to endorse Senator Thompson.
Francis Schaeffer argued that “at its core, the Reformation was the removing of the humanistic distortions which had entered the church.” Schaeffer explains:
…The Christianity of the Reformation, therefore, stood in rich contrast to the basic weakness and final poverty of the humanism which existed in that day and the humanism which has existed since.
It is important that the Bible sets forth true knowledge about mankind. The biblical teaching gives meaning to all particulars, but this is especially so in regard to that particular which is the most important to man, namely, the individual himself or herself. It gives a reason for the individual being great. The ironic fact here is that humanism, which began with Man’s being central, eventually had no real meaning for people. On the other hand, if one begins with the Bible’s position that a person is created by God and created in the image of God, there is a basis for that person’s dignity. People, the Bible teaches, are made in the image of God — they are nonprogrammed. Each is thus Man with dignity.
That Man is made in the image of God gives many important answers intellectually, but it also has had vast practical results, both in the Reformation days and in our own age. For example, in the time of the Reformation it meant that all the vocations of life came to have dignity. The vocation of honest merchant or housewife had as much dignity as king. This was strengthened further by the emphasis on the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers — that is, that all Christians are priests. Thus, in a very real sense, all people are equal as persons. Moreover, the government of the church by lay elders created the potential for democratic emphasis.
The Bible, however, also says that man is fallen; he has revolted against God. At the historic space-time Fall, man refused to stand in the proper relationship with this infinite reference point which is the personal God. Therefore, people are now abnormal. The Reformation saw all people as equal in this way, too — all are guilty before God. This is as true of the king and queen as the peasant. So, in contrast to the humanism of the Renaissance, which never gave an answer to explain that which is observable in people, the Bible enabled people to solve the dilemma facing them as they look at themselves: they could understand both their greatness and their cruelty.
1. There are 195 million non-churched people in America, making America one of the top four largest “unchurched” nations in the world.
2. In spite of the rise of mega-churches, no county in America has a greater church population than it did ten years ago.
3. During the last ten years, combined communicant membership of all Protestant denominations declined by 9.5 percent (4,498,242), while the national population increased by 11.4 percent (24,153,000).
4. Each year 3,500 to 4,000 churches close their doors forever; yet only as many as 1,500 new churches are started.
5. There are now nearly 60 percent fewer churches per 10,000 persons than in 1920.
* In 1920 27 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.
* In 1950 17 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.
* In 1996 11 churches existed for every 10,000 Americans.
6. “Today, of the approximately 350,000 churches in America, four out of five are either plateaued or declining.”
7. One American denomination recently found that 80% of its converts came to Christ in churches less than two years old.
Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting Steve Childers, President of Global Church Advancement (GCA) and a professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Among several other ministries, GCA hosts Church Planter Training Conferences throughout the world (including Japan and Africa). Their main U.S.A. training venue is January 28 – Feb 1 at the Sheraton Downtown Hotel in Orlando, Florida. The long list of speakers includes Steve Childers, Randy Pope, and Ed Stetzer. A basic training track will be offered as well as eighteen advanced workshops. If you are in a church plant, or considering supporting church planters, this would be an excellent opportunity to get better equipped. They have posted a preliminary conference schedule and on-line registration is available.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance, is investigating the ministries of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer and Paula White. Grassley believes that he owes it to donors and taxpayers to determine whether the organizations have abused their tax-exempt status as churches to finance lavish personal lifestyles. Each of the ministries received formal letters from the Senator. Jamie Dean of World Magazine notes that “the letters asked organization leaders to provide detailed financial information, including audited financial statements, executive compensation packages, ministry credit card statements, a list of property and assets, and a detailed explanation of personal use of organization assets, such as jets and homes.”
For example, Grassley asked David and Joyce Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries to explain the tax-exempt purpose of a $23,000 “commode with a marble top” and an $11,000 “French clock” purchased for the ministry’s headquarters. Kenneth and Gloria Copeland were asked to explain the tax-exempt purpose of layovers the couple reportedly took in Maui, the Fiji Islands, and Honolulu using a ministry jet. Benny Hinn was asked to provide similar information regarding layovers at his ministry’s expense.
Time magazine has now picked up on the story as well. Last year, Time did a cover story called “Does God Want You to be Rich?”. Also, NBC’s Dateline has previously investigated Benny Hinn.
We had some friends over tonight and were discussing Bible story books for children. So I thought I’d mention our favorites, which Dr. Albert Mohler seems to also hold in high regard. We really like The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm and The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. The former walks through the over-arching “meta-narrative” of the Bible: from creation, to fall, to redemption foreshadowed in the Old Testament to redemption accomplished in the New Testament. The Jesus Story Book Bible also walks through the biblical narrative chronologically, explicitly connecting every story it tells (e.g., David and Goliath) to the ultimate victory accomplished by Jesus. It also contains many more words than The Big Picture Story Bible, so it might be better for slightly older infants. Both books are excellent (both with respect to content and illustrations). They both also have nice chapter divisions; one chapter/night seems to be just right for our 19-month old.
For older children, Dr. Mohler recommends The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos. Says Mohler:
The Child’s Story Bible goes far beyond the picture book format and will appeal to school-age children. The book is older than virtually all of the parents who will be reading it to their children. The enduring popularity of the book is at least partly due to the fact that Vos did not write in a childish manner, but instead assumed that children will want to learn and that they can handle a substantial story from the Bible — not just a story summary with pictures.
The audio and manuscript of John Piper’s Crossway Lecture at the 2007 Evangelical Theological Society has been made available. His lecture is an outstanding introduction to his most recent book, The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright.
Incidentally, I have also written a bit on law-gospel themes from Rom. 9:30-10:13 in a six-part series beginning with this post.