Archive - November, 2009

The Marriage Index: Establishing and Tracking Leading Marriage Indicators

The Institute for American Values and the National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting have partnered to establish The Marriage Index, a metric designed to measure the health of American marriages (not unlike how the Leading Economic Index put out by The Conference Board watches economic trends. Dr. Albert Mohler explains:

The Marriage Index is based on solid data and includes five major components: the percentage of adults ages 20-54 who are married, the percentage of married persons who are “very happy” with their marriage, the percentage of first marriages that are intact, the percentage of births to married parents, and the percentage of children living with their own married parents.

Some data Dr. Mohler sites from the 2008 Marriage Index report:

1. In 1970, 78.6 percent of adults age 20-54 were married. In 2008, it dropped to 57.2 percent. That’s a huge decline (over 25%).
2. In 1970, 67% of married Americans reported that their union was “very happy.” Today, the figure is 62%. A modest decline, but consider that many who are not happy more easily divorce today.
3. In 1970, 77.4 percent of first marriages were intact, but only 61.2 percent were intact in 2007. About a 20% decline.
4. Today, only 60.3 percent of all babies are born to married couples, compared to 89.3 percent in 1970. Wow. Breathtaking, when you think about the disadvantages children born out of wedlock inevitably experience.
5. In 1970, 68.7 percent of all children lived with their own mother and father. In 2007, that percentage had dropped to 61.0.

Read the rest of Dr. Mohler’s observations, or read the 36-page 2008 Marriage Index report.

Interview – Tim Keller – The Reason For God

Michael Horton interviews pastor Tim Keller about his NY Times best selling book The Reason For God. It is a fascinating 35-minute conversation in which Keller talks about why the world is getting both more religious and less religious (depending on which group you are looking at). Keller helpfully balances the importance of doctrinal and theological seriousness and contextualization (engaging the culture, but not in a shallow, sentimental fashion).
Also addressed is the first chapter of The Reason For God, which shows how everyone has exclusive beliefs; embracing the exclusive truth claims of Christ do not make someone an intolerant, threatening neighbor. Hell, the wrath of God, and the unity of the Godhead in the vicarious atoning death of Christ are all discussed. Keller gives some great illustrations of how to explain why a God who is predisposed to forgive nevertheless requires a payment for that sin.
Amazingly, Keller’s book is still in the top 1000 on Amazon.

Planned Parenthood Director Resigns

Abby Johnson, 29, was a Planned Parenthood Director in Bryan, Texas. After witnessing an abortion while watching the baby die on an ultrasound screen, Johnson resigned her position and started volunteering for Coalition for Life, a pro-life group located just a block away from the Planned Parenthood clinic where she worked for eight years. Watch a two-minute local news report with Ms. Johnson.
HT: Jennifer Masko
Update: Mike Huckabee conducts an 8-minute interview with Abby Johnson.

LA Judge Who Refused Interracial Marriage Resigns

CNN:

A Louisiana justice of the peace who drew criticism for refusing to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple has resigned, the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday.
Keith Bardwell, a justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish’s 8th Ward, was widely criticized after he refused to grant a marriage license to Beth McKay and Terence McKay, an interracial couple who ultimately got a marriage license from another justice of the peace in the same parish.

Read the whole thing.

Nov/Dec Nine Marks eJournal: On Church Discipline

The November/December 2009 issue of the Nine Marks eJournal is out. The articles deal with the issue of church discipline, and there are a series of book reviews on ecclesiastical matters. One article in particular caught my attention:
The Preemptive Resignation—A Get Out of Jail Free Card?
Can church members resign their membership to avoid discipline?
By Jonathan Leeman
In my small amount of experience, this has happened several times: a church member does something egregious (e.g., suddenly leaves their spouse, or displays gross financial impropriety), other Christians lovingly confront the member, the member hardens their position, the church moves to an act of formal discipline, and….poof, the person formally resigns their membership in that particular church, possibly finds a new church, and moves on. The question is: Can such a person still be excommunicated? Jonathan Leeman says yes they can, and yes they should. I agree.

Understanding The Book of Ecclesiastes

Years ago, Dr. Ardel Canaday wrote an outstanding, lengthy article on the book of Ecclesiastes (arguable one of the least understood biblical books among Christians). In the article, entitled QOHELETH: ENIGMATIC PESSIMIST OR GODLY SAGE?, Canaday cogently refutes the view that Ecclesiastes is an expression of existentialism or a soulless, secular hedonism. On the contrary, in Ecclesiastes we see a nuanced, realistic view of life in a fallen world. Quoheleth (the narrative voice in the book of Ecclesiastes) is a wise sage, instructing believers on how to exercise godly enjoyment in one’s work, family, and the created order–as well as find ultimate meaning in the relation of one’s activities to his Creator, even activities which (in and of themselves) may often appear frustratingly meaningless (if not, in addition, marred with natural and/or moral evil). Here’s an excerpt:

It is Qoheleth’s orientation to the Scriptural account of creation which forms his presuppositional basis for a world and life view. He recognized a great disparity between his world and that which came directly from the creative hand of God; the curse had intruded to disrupt the harmony of creation. The evil that Qoheleth observed “under the sun” was not inherent in nor of the essence of creation, but was externally imposed. The curse of Gen 3:17ff. becomes in Qoheleth’s language disjointedness and discontinuity or kinks and gaps which are irrevocable (1:15) because they have been imposed by God (7:13). By the curse God subjected creation to the frustration of bondage and decay (cf. Rom 8:19-21), creating the enigma which bewilders men. The world has been turned upside down, so that it bears little resemblance to the pristine paradise that it once was. For Qoheleth then, the world was neither what it once was nor what it will be therefore he designed his book, not to “wrest some form of order from chaos” or to master life, but to bring men to acknowledge that this world and life in it is marked by aimlessness, enigma, and tyranny. Qoheleth upholds the creational design to celebrate life as a divine gift which is to be enjoyed as good, something to be cherished reverently and something in which man delights continually. This, perhaps, is the greatest enigma in Qoheleth–his bold assertion of the meaninglessness of life “under the sun” and his resolute affirmation that life is to be celebrated joyfully. The fact that he unequivocally maintained both is not proof that Qoheleth was a double-minded man–secular and religious. He was not a pessimist who saw nothing better than to indulge the flesh. He was a godly sage who could affirm both the aimlessness of life “under the sun” and the enjoyment of life precisely because he believed in the God who cursed his creation on account of man’s rebellion, but who was in the process, throughout earth’s history, of redeeming man and creation, liberating them from the bondage to decay to which they had been subjected (cf. Rom 8:19-21). Because Qoheleth was a man of faith, he held this perspective, for it was through his faith in the God who revealed himself that Qoheleth knew what the world once was and what it will be again. It was because of this orientation that so many enigmatic and antithetical considerations and observations are held in proper tension within his mind and within his book.

Read the whole thing.
Also, I would highly commend a series of sermons on the book of Ecclesiastes by Pastor Brian Borgman of Grace Community Church in Minden, NV. You’ll find them available for free listening at this link on Sermon Audio. Borgman is the author of Feelings and Faith, Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life (which I’ve endorsed and about which I’ve interviewed him).

Free Audio Book: Desiring God (John Piper)

For the month of November, Christian Audio is making available a free audio download of John Piper’s book Desiring God. Just use the coupon code DG2009.

Nancy Gibbs on Public Modesty and Arrogance

Nancy Gibbs, writing for Time magazine on public modesty and arrogance:

Humility and modesty need not be weakness or servility; they can be marks of strength, the courage to confront a challenge knowing that the outcome is in doubt. Ronald Reagan, for all his cold-warrior confidence, projected a personal modesty that served his political agenda well. I still don’t know what President Obama’s core principles are, but the fact that he even pays lip service to humility as one of them could give him the upper hand in the war for the souls of independents — a group that’s larger now than at any time in the past 70 years. He was aggressively modest acknowledging his inconvenient Nobel Peace Prize. He regularly makes fun of his ears.
But I heed Jane Austen’s warning that “nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” If Obama appears proud of how humble and open-minded he is, if he demonizes opponents instead of debating them, if his actual choices are quietly ideological while his rhetoric flamboyantly inclusive, he will be missing a great opportunity — and have much to be modest about.

Read the whole thing.

James Dobson To Leave His Radio Show

Dr. James Dobson, 73, will stop hosting his internationally syndicated radio program Feb. 28, according to an announcement from Focus on the Family officials this past Friday. Health was not an issue, Dobson’s spokesman Gary Schneeberger affirmed. Rather:

Dr. Dobson’s departure from the radio program and from official affiliation with the organization he founded in 1977 is just the “third chapter in a transition that began in 2003,” when Dr. Dobson stepped down as Focus president, said Jim Daly, the ministry’s president and CEO. It was a mutual decision between Dr. Dobson and the ministry’s board of directors, which Dr. Dobson left in February of this year, Daly added.
“The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season – and Dr. Dobson’s season at Focus on the Family has been remarkable,” Daly said. “He has done a superlative job in modeling the graceful transition of leadership from one generation to the next.

HT: Lisa Anderson

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