Archive - July, 2008

WORLD Magazine Book of the Year: The Reason For God

Marvin Olasky pens a great article and interview with Tim Keller, author of WORLD magazine’s Book of The Year, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008). Excerpt:

WORLD: What’s the difference between proofs of God’s existence and “clues of God”—and why is the difference important?
KELLER: I can give you enough rational reasons to believe in God that fall short of demonstrable proof but that cumulatively give me warrant to say that Christianity makes more sense than alternate views of reality.
There are enough clues of God’s existence that when you add them all up it makes more sense to believe in God than to not. That’s short of proof. And if somebody says, you haven’t proven it to me so I don’t have to believe it, they’re using a naïve rationality. The fact is, they believe all kinds of stuff they can’t prove.

Read the whole thing (need to login to access the full text).

Tony Snow (1955-2008)

Tony Snow, former press secretary to President Bush (2006-2007), died this morning as a result of a three-year battle with colon cancer (which spread to his liver). In addition to being a conservative commentator, Snow once had a syndicated talk radio show, The Tony Snow Show.
Perhaps less well known is the fact that Mr. Snow was an evangelical Christian. He wrote an article for Christianity Today in July 2007 called Cancer’s Unexpected Blessings. Here’s an excerpt:

I sat by my best friend’s bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. “I’m going to try to beat [this cancer],” he told me several months before he died. “But if I don’t, I’ll see you on the other side.”
His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn’t promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend—and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.
Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don’t matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

Snow’s article reminded me of a song I’ve been enjoying from Come Weary Saints. The song is called It Is Not Death To Die:

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears
(Chorus) O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die
It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

(HT: JT)

Church Reform When You’re Not the Pastor

Greg Gilbert has three excellent posts so far on the topic.
1. Reform is easier in a small church than in a large one.
2. Do what Christians do—love.
3. Make yourself a help, not a problem, to your church’s leaders.
Speaking of being a healthy church member, Thabiti Anyabwile has a new, short book out that spells out ten marks of one:
1. An expositional listener
2. A biblical theologian
3. Gospel-saturated
4. Genuinely converted
5. A biblical evangelist
6. A committed member
7. One who seeks discipline
8. A growing disciple
9. A humble follower
10. A prayer warrior

Exaggeration and Overcommitment

My latest article with Boundless webzine has been published. In a nutshell, the article is about how both exaggeration and over-commitment are distortions of the truth. With exaggerations, we stretch the truth to fit our purposes. With over-commitments, we either lie and say we will accomplish what we cannot accomplish, or we neglect our other God-given priorities in order to make our word good. Here’s the opening:

I’d already done all the work I could do without the deliverable I needed from Bob. If I didn’t get his report, I wasn’t going to be able to finish the project on time. He’d told me that he’d have it for me by the end of the day yesterday, and while he meant well, we all knew that Bob just used words differently. End of the day could just as easily mean end of the week. You simply couldn’t count on the guy to keep verbal commitments.
As nice as he was (he always meant well), everyone in the office was starting to make up excuses to avoid having him as a part of their project team.

Check it out.

Tough Questions Christians Face – Ligonier Conference

Speaking of conferences, I’m looking forward to attending and live-blogging the Ligonier West Coast Conference entitled Tough Questions Christians Face. From Dr. Sproul’s invitation:

Christ has redeemed us to be a light that directs others to Him. Fulfilling this call requires us to be able to deal with the most difficult questions asked about the Christian faith. If we are unprepared for the darkness around us, it will be harder to counter it with the truth of God’s Word.
On September 26–27, 2008, during Ligonier Ministries’ 2008 West Coast National Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, and I will look at six of the toughest questions Christians face. We will focus on the biblical approach to issues including science, the problem of evil, divine sovereignty, human responsibility, the exclusivity of Christ, postmodernism, and the Gospel.

Those six tough questions are:
1. Has Science Disproved the Existence of God? (Ligon Duncan)
2. Why Does God Allow so Much Suffering and Evil? (John MacArthur)
3. If God is Sovereign, How Can Man be Free? (R.C. Sproul)
4. Is Jesus the Only Way? (John MacArthur)
5. Should the Church Embrace Postmodernism? (Ligon Duncan)
6. What is the “Gospel”? (R.C. Sproul)

If you come, look for me typing away in the back of the room and say hi.

Chief Justice Says Sharia Law Could Have UK Role

I don’t mean to sound overly alarmist, but yesterday’s speech by Britain’s most senior judge, the chief justice Lord Phillips, delivered to the London Muslim Council, seems like a step in the wrong direction. Phillips noted:

“It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law. Those who, in this country, are in dispute as to their respective rights are free to subject that dispute to the mediation of a chosen person, or to agree that the dispute shall be resolved by a chosen arbitrator or arbitrators.”

Hmmm. Lord Phillips was quick to add that although sharia law’s principles could be used in mediation, this would still be subject to the “jurisdiction of the English and Welsh courts”. But isn’t sharia law ultimately a law unto itself, a law that claims its authority on the will of Allah? In the minds of those who revere it, can it really be “subject” to the “jurisdiction of the English and Welsh courts”? Equally troubling is Lord Phillips’ reflection that advocating the embrace of sharia law in the context of family disputes is not radical. When was the last time a woman had equal treatment in such cases? Read the BBC or the Guardian report.
Cal Thomas classifies the speech as surrender.

C.J. Mahaney on Gospel-Centered Discipline

A great word on how fathers should discipline their children while consistently reminding them of Dad’s ongoing battle with sin and Dad’s need for a Savior. (Listen to the audio clip.)

True Woman 2008: Chicago, IL, Oct 9-11

Looks like an interesting conference. Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes:

True Woman ’08 is a call to join thousands of other women who are saying, “Yes, Lord! I want to be Your woman. I surrender my life to be used for Your Kingdom purposes. May my life display Your glory to this generation and the next.”

General session peakers include John Piper, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Mary Kassian, Karen Loritts, Fern Nichols, Janet Parshall, Joni Eareckson Tada. Also, pre-conference seminars will be given by Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt. Numerous workshops will also be held.

Ponnuru on Obama’s Empty Abortion Rheutoric

Ramesh Ponnuru writes (in part):

Obama says that the Supreme Court has never interpreted Roe to mean that late-term abortions should be allowed just because the woman “feel[s] blue.” At best, he is being highly misleading. To review: Roe said that states could prohibit late-term abortions so long as they made an exception for the health of the mother. The Supreme Court handed down Doe v. Bolton on the same day as Roe. Both opinions were written by Justice Harry Blackmun, who said that they were “to be read together.” In Doe, Blackmun wrote that health should be viewed “in the light of all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient.”
As a result of Roe and Doe, abortion has been effectively legalized at any stage of pregnancy. The requirement of a broad health exception is the reason that the number of people prosecuted for committing late-term abortions has been vanishingly small since 1973, even though the vast majority of Americans believe such abortions should be illegal.
Obama engaged in a little spin even in the Relevant interview. In the Illinois state legislature he had refused to vote for, and spoken out against, a bill to protect infants who survived abortions. (At some points in the bill’s progress he voted “no,” at other points “present.”) His stand had caused some pro-lifers to label Obama the most pro-abortion candidate ever nominated by a major political party.
He said that the bill was “actually designed to overturn Roe v. Wade,” and was not “going to pass constitutional muster.” He has said on other occasions that he favored the federal version of the legislation because it included a stipulation that nothing in it would interfere with the right to kill a human being who had not yet been born. This claim is ridiculous. The born-alive bill was never going to “overturn Roe,” and the presence or absence of this interpretive clause was never going to make a bit of difference. (And if Obama was using the phrase “pass constitutional muster” to imply a prediction about the fate of the law in the courts, which is how the phrase is often used, then he was wrong.)

Obama’s Empty Rhetoric on Abortion

In a recent interview with Relevant magazine (HT: Collin Hansen), a for-profit media group run by twentysomething Christians, Senator Obama sought to clarify his position on late-term abortion, noting:

I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.

Obama also responded to the widespread concern on his “No” vote on the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act, or BAIPA:

There was a bill that came up in Illinois that was called the “Born Alive” bill that purported to require life-saving treatment to such infants. And I did vote against that bill. The reason was that there was already a law in place in Illinois that said that you always have to supply life-saving treatment to any infant under any circumstances, and this bill actually was designed to overturn Roe v. Wade, so I didn’t think it was going to pass constitutional muster.

Something smelled fishy. Now, Yuval Levin has responded, commenting on the first quote above:

This view would put Obama to the right of Supreme Court jurisprudence on abortion reaching back to the Doe v. Bolton decision that accompanied Roe, and in direct conflict with all the justices he says he admires and with the reigning orthodoxy of the pro-choice movement—including the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, of which Obama is a co-sponsor and which he told a Planned Parenthood audience last July he would make a top priority as president (here’s a transcript and a video, Obama says “the first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”)
After this startling reversal drew some attention over the weekend, Obama offered this clarification to a group of reporters:
Reporter: You said that mental distress shouldn’t be a reason for late-term abortion?
Obama: My only point is this — historically I have been a strong believer in a women’s right to choose with her doctor, her pastor and her family. And it is ..I have consistently been saying that you have to have a health exception on many significant restrictions or bans on abortions including late-term abortions. In the past there has been some fear on the part of people who, not only people who are anti-abortion, but people who may be in the middle, that that means that if a woman just doesn’t feel good then that is an exception. That’s never been the case. I don’t think that is how it has been interpreted. My only point is that in an area like partial-birth abortion having a mental, having a health exception can be defined rigorously. It can be defined through physical health, it can be defined by serious clinical mental-health diseases. It is not just a matter of feeling blue. I don’t think that’s how pro-choice folks have interpreted it. I don’t think that’s how the courts have interpreted it and I think that’s important to emphasize and understand.

Levin aptly concludes:

Clear as mud. Even after this second go, Obama is still clearly at odds with where he was during the primaries and before, with the bill he has championed, with the pro-choice groups who have endorsed him, and with the Supreme Court justices he has said would be his model for future appointments.

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