Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Birther Movement's Misunderstanding

Whether the "Birthers" are correct or not about President Obama's legal status, they are missing a fundamental point:

Being born on American soil will not protect the conservative cause

Why? Because the vast majority of American institutions--especially the schools and churches--are of a different mindset than our Founding fathers. When they demanded that our leaders be native-born it was on the assumption that those nurtured in the culture of America would be the best Americans.

That is no longer the case. Our worse political leaders were home-grown.

See, the Founders depended on the family, schools and churches to retain the basic Christian heritage that would produce the next generation. Well, conservatives, look around you...are we retaining these values?

Being mad at the president will not solve this dilemma. The conservatism of the past--for whatever reason--became lax and indifferent to important matters in life--and I'm not writing about politics!

The religion of Christ was thrown out the window when the liberals took over the churches 100 years ago. Spiritual discernment went awry and darkness fell upon the churches.

Once this truth hits home, perhaps there will yet be hope that our children will give birth to true leaders imbibed upon the Redeemer's truths.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Famine in the American Churches

"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. Amos 8:11

These words speak of today. They speak of America. And they speak of the American churches.

Consider: Barna studies note that sixty-five percent of Mosaics and Busters in America (ages 18-41) “have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important.” Twenty-nine percent of that group is “absolutely committed to the Christian faith.” Three-percent of that same group have a Christian worldview.


The odds are that the Christian family sitting next to you at church does not have a Christian worldview.

How can this be?

When Amos speaks of a famine of the Word of God, he is not necessarily speaking of the lack of Bibles. Or pastors. In fact, Israel had many pastors (priests and prophets)...who tickled their ears!

And today we have millions of bibles. Yet millions of spiritual babes.

The famine of the Word of God during Israel's time was a famine of true prophets and faithful priests. And a famine of the truth. Today it is the same: many teachers and preacher yet little truth.

Likewise, famines are usually not the complete lack of food (grass and grub is always around); they can involve the lack of good and nutritious food. And the numbers do not lie: there is either a complete and utter lack of spiritual provision or no one is eating what it offered.

It's probably both.

This idea of famine also directs us to what is important: fear not those that can kill the body but He who can caste both the body and soul into hell. Americans are so materially prosperous that we easily forget what real physical hunger entails. We have also forgotten what real spiritual hunger entails as well. Many Christian feel ok about the junk food they eat--little doctrine, heavy practice--not realizing that they are in a state of malnutrition.

If the numbers do not make Christians reevaluate what they are eating every Sunday, then what will? The very abundance of churches and preachers then becomes a curse. Being mislead by leaders who should offer the unadulterated Word of God and Gospel of Christ, millions are satisfied with false teaching instead: wealth-oriented preaching and self-help teaching.

The Law to convict you of sin and the Gospel to point you to Christ, this is the meat spiritual babes need. And these churches should show love through discipline by the Word.

Dear reader: are you satisfied with the Barna numbers? What kind of spiritual food are you eating? Do the books and sermons you read reinforce these statistics or do they challenge how you think and act?

Here's a test: read the Shorter Catechism. Is that too much truth? Is it more than you've ever heard in a year's worth of sermons?

If you have a good church feeding you the whole counsel of God, support and endorse her. If you are starving, find a church that teaches the doctrines of our Reformed fathers. A church that will move beyond milk to the sincere meat of the Word.

Find a church here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Latest Atheism Ad as Attack on Childhood

The last of the atheistic ads in London is finally here.

After months of bus ads using snappy, superficial cliches and clever comments, the ads will finally culminate in a billboard waiting to be defaced by logic.


The ad attempts to undercut parental authority by questioning their natural and God-given right to direct the spiritual nurturing of their children. The billboard displays a happy young girl with words to her right (see article): Please don't label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.

This less overtly negative ad was in response to many supporters. As Guardian writer Sherine noted (approvingly): "Many of you felt strongly that children should be given the freedom to decide which belief system they wanted to belong to, if any, and that they should not have a religion decided for them."

Its not the rank and file atheists asserting this bizarre attitude: "The atheist campaign team shared this point of view." Dawkins supports this campaign. As do other other organizations.

Even so such an ad hides a multitude of attitudes and theories about the relationship between children and parents. At and the guardian website a number of irate unbelievers asserted surprising attitudes more Americans need to be aware of:

"Absolutely right, allowing our children to be brainwashed by obviously delusional people is abuse."
"Parents don't own their children"
"To take advantage of the open minds of innocent, unaware children in this cynically oportunistic [sic] way is something that makes me sad and angry at the same time."

The question is: do the new atheist leaders agree with such dangerous sentiments?


A myriad of responses are appropriate for this insidious attack upon what remains of Christian civilization. Yet the critiques with more punch are usually from within atheism:

"Do you not see the irony in telling other people how to live their lives and even raise their own children? I don't like faith schools, or the fact that i was baptised, but i would dislike even more someone telling my parents how to (or how not to) raise me." (Garou, Nov. 18)

With biting irony, gillesboy commented: "Bah! And to think of all those years of vegetarianism and humanism. I hate you dad!"

One observant commenter summarized the real underlining issue many people on both sides are hiding from:

"Religious power hierarchies are all about control. Because children's minds are uniquely receptive it is schools that are the prize in the battle to control people and populations...Let children's minds be free!" (LeDingue, Nov. 18)
Yes, the debate is about power and control. Those are unavoidable conditions of reality. The real question is who gets to control the children? If not parent, then who? The local city council? The state bureaucrats? Or maybe the atheists themselves?

This ad actually intends to "free" children to the bondage of anti-God behaviors. The Christian position is antithetical: one is for God and His Christ or against Him. There is no middle ground. Christians have historically defined freedom differently than atheists.

In all fairness, the article asserts that everyone should "see children as individuals, free to make their own choices as soon as they are old enough to fully understand what these choices mean..." Defining "old enough," "fully understand," and "choices" is a legal quagmire let alone a social nightmare. Are they "old enough" to have sex? commit suicide? join the army?
Once again, there are more questions than answers. The atheists in this campaign are hiding behind generalizations and loaded language that they themselves do not agree upon.

The bold undefended assertion that pits children as individuals against their larger group associations is historically ignorant and philosophically naive. Are not children members of the British society? Given the rights therein of police protection by the state? Or are they "individuals" who ought not to be raised in a society that "labels" them British?

To answer this question is to vitiate the entire ad.
Let us examine this more philosophically: "the freedom to decide which belief system they wanted to belong to" is the freedom to self-label. It is not labeling per se that this ad wishes to attack but labeling done by others, done against that precious commodity of men-in-sin: free-will. Besides, the children are already labeled by atheists: 'free,' 'innocent,' and 'child'.

In contrast, God has labeled them and all humans 'sinner' and 'rebel'. In his grace, He has labeled church (covenant) children 'mine'. Both labels are intolerable to atheists and secularists and any other religion not Christian. Thus their desire to rip children from their parents and churches.
And thus the real debate comes to the fore once again. Does God exist? What are the implications of His existence?

The implications of His non-existence for many atheists are clear: parents ought not enculturate their own children. Thus this atheism can truly be labeled an attack upon childhood and the family.

(this article published nationally here)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Avoiding Matthew 18 Hurts Everyone

“…And do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?”

“We do,” replied the new and excited family.

“We welcome you to the fellowship of our church…,” beamed the pastor.

* * * * Years Later * * * **

The pastor was dismayed: “You did not follow Matthew 18?”

“Look,” retorted the father, “that family is full of self-centered jerks. We can’t stand to talk to them, let alone be with them in the same room. Sometimes I want to punch them.”

“Such anger is a cancer eating at your family. You should not have waited five years. Why did you not talk to them or to the session?” bemoaned the pastor.

“They won’t change and you wouldn’t have done anything anyway—we’re leaving the church.”

And so the new and excited family chose to become the old and agitated family. Their only concern was to make life easier for themselves—even if it meant making life hard for the church.

Throughout this nation, many church members ignore their responsibility to God and His church. Even Reformed people do not seem to understand what is their duty. Christians think leaving a church is like leaving a club—one day they simply do not return. Or others may give a reason to the session only to mask their true intent through trite excuses.

But God has a better way. Many of the readers probably know that offenses should be dealt with immediately, advise should be sought liberally and submission and humility should be practiced daily. Yet, through our weak flesh, we tend to know these truth when applicable to others, but readily make ourselves the exception.

Instead of simply outlining the relationship between members and their respective church, perhaps listing the psychological consequences of ignoring God’s way may prompt Christians to loving seek the good of others through obedience to God.

1. Propagation through Imitation . This is true between spouses and amongst children. To maintain peace in the house the wife or husband begins to rationalize that their spouse may have a legitimate complaint. Children, being more perceptive than we realize, begin to see imaginary faults in those whom the parents resent. This in turn is used as evidence bolstering the spouses original anger.

2. Offended People Avoid the Obvious. Hanging on to offenses only twists your thought processes and expresses itself in your actions. So, typically, what you thought was obvious (following Matt. 18) is avoided like the plague. You avoid the offender and in return become more cold toward others.

3. No Man Is An Island. Since you are made in the image of God, you tend to act consistently in your life: one relationship will affect another. That is why Christ tells you to deal with the issue before coming to worship (Matt. 5). It will affect not only your relationship with God but with other Christians.

4. Its Always the Church’s Fault. Since the offender has not been confronted nor the session consulted, one result is a sinful rationalization process that believes since the offender has not been dealt with by the church oh these many years, then there is something wrong with the church. People are blind to the sin and the session is covering for the offender—or so you think.

5. Delaying Tactics. You rationalize that you are not offended. After blowing up at your spouse a few times, you realize there is an offense, but it is the sin of the one who offended you. You can’t talk to the man since he is so obviously pig-headed. You even tried a few times to tell him the problem (albeit subtly and indirectly—hey you’re a sensitive guy, right?). The session is obviously too busy to talk to—isn’t this only an issue between you and him? Aren’t you supposed to quietly suffer for Christ’s sake? Thus the embarrassment of Matthew 18 is thoroughly avoided by paltry excuses.

6. The Final Solution. You stop attending bible studies. Church members are no longer invited for dinner. Eventually, you attend other churches. It’s obvious that your church cannot deal with this man. Attending another church will remove you from the situation into a better environment. (Who says that Christians can’t be humanistic behaviorist!) The session, taking Hebrews 13:17 seriously, seeks you out for a home visitation. To stiff arm the session, you explain that this problem has been going on for years and will not change; that man cannot change. You like the church, the teaching and the people but just not him. Thank you and have a nice day.

Of course, there are many paths taken other than this list. Leaving a church is not like changing a job or a club; it is more like changing a family. The church members have invested time, prayer and energy into their relationships—into your relationship. Leaving under such circumstance hurts the church: the minister wonders if he offended them; the session worries that they are not doing their job adequately; members doubt their ability to relate to others. But, then, since there was no open communication from the beginning, most members will never know and always doubt.

Naturally, those who left never come back. Relationships change. In situations where the two churches cooperate in events, the offended family may never attend another meeting lest they met that dreaded person again. Normally, communication is cut-off even from families that were good friends because they are not seen again for weeks or months. Attending another church means creating new friends in a new family.

Leaving a church in such a manner actually says more than many realize. In spite of all the affirmations that “its not you, pastor,” or “we love the church, but..,” or “we’ve learned so much, but…,” what is actually being said is: “Pastor, you’ve got a problem to deal with; but we don’t want to be part of the solution.” Ultimately, by not following God’s path of Matthew 18 or 5, the above scenario (repeated more than people will ever know) is a display of unbelief. Taking such a course of action manifests not only a lack of confidence in the session but an attitude of suspicion: either suspecting that the offender does not want to change or that the church does not want to change.

In other words, the underlining attitude is: “This offense is so serious in my eyes that no matter how much I learned from the pastor’s teaching, grew from the elder’s oversight or fellowshipped with my Christian siblings I would rather lose these gifts of God instead of facing my offender.” A very selfish approach indeed.

My brothers and sisters, this ought not be! “Be kind, one to another, tender-hearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). This insidious and long-lasting problem needs to be dealt with. And the first place to start is within our hearts.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Book for New Atheists

Professor Stenger has written a new book: The New Atheism.

Author of the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis (reviewed here), Stenger attempts a more positive presentation of modern atheism. And he urges scientists and other non-Christians to resist and challenge anything not justified by reason.

In explaining the new atheism, a few elements stand out in the book: naturalism, denial of God's existence, rejection of Biblical ethics. The likes of Buddhism, Taoism and other Eastern systems are considered superior to "traditional supernatural monotheisms".

As soon as the book comes in, Lord willing, I will review it in full.

More here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

II. Means of Grace: Passion for the Word

II. Understanding the Means of Grace: Passion for the Word

We live in a society saturated with images: from still photos and billboards to magazines and television, to movies and Internet, Christians are bombarded with demands upon their time, energy and attention. Quiet (or even passionate) discourse and reflective thinking is not the excitement of the day: if there are no raging, emotional debates, then C-SPAN 2 is ignored for the easier-to-digest shallow one-minute sound-bytes on CBS. The visual medium lends itself
readily to the exciting and exhilarating-as far as our eyes are concerned.

Adult Americans spend almost 4.5 hours a day watching television-this does not even count Internet or videos! Children watch even more television, not to mention video games. We are a
society inundated with the visual. It can be very alluring. These mediums (TV, movie, art, etc.) are not evil per se, but they can be entrapments (and every age has its weaknesses) to a generation reared on the visual medium of stunning images and one-hour "documentaries." It is not simply that society teaches us to follow temptation with our eyes; we ourselves know the allurement of images and the difficulty of reading words. It is hard to concentrate on a book. Images are more "real" to us than the abstract words on a page.

Indeed, these images are so real that people are more excited when they find themselves on TV than with the simple fact that they actually participated in the televised event. These images become an existential moment-a personal encounter that rises above (below?) rational discourse. It is so real and personal that words are lost. When watching a movie we tend to suspend reality to such an extent that we are moved to tears, rage or joy. That is the power of the image. So, we need reminders of the supremacy of the Word and to have a passion in our lives and in our families that rivals Mel's Passion.

The positive side of the second commandment is further illustrated by the history of redemption. God spoke creation into existence; God spoke judgment and salvation to Adam and Eve; God spoke and Noah believed; God spoke and Abraham followed; God spoke His will to Moses, as the great prophet of the Old Testament, and spoke it to all subsequent prophets. Miracles did occur; visual surprises did arise; but these symbols were never suspended in the air, they were explained by the Word.

But there is more. The spoken Word, however powerful, was still not enough: God inscripturated His spoken Word. The Old Testament was as a child under age (Gal. 4:1ff.), but we have been privileged to live even beyond that age when the Bible was still incomplete. As even children today first learn through pictures and concrete items and then grow into adulthood-words and abstract thoughts-so the Israelites of old were given many visual signs. But in the New Age these have been vastly reduced to two: baptism and the
Lord's Supper. Since God is merciful and knows our frailties, He has given us these visible signs and seals for our infirmities and weakness. Yet, these sacraments are useless without the preached Word Jn. 6:63). There must still be a passion for the Word.

The images of this world can be extremely alluring. I John 2:16 warns us against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Thus, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in our day and age. We must recall our Biblical roots. From the temptation of the fruit in Eden that was attractive to the eyes to the temptation of Christ with a vision of the world's kingdoms, we know from the Bible the dangers of the eye-gate. On the flip side, there is a positive presentation of what should be done to combat this weakness in our flesh: the Word of God stresses the written or spoken,not the visual. Consider:

1) "In the beginning was the Word...."
2) The Bible gives little to no physically pictorial information about its heroes and villains, let alone about Christ.
3) The Second Commandment emphasizes the dangers of images.
4) From God's stern reproach in the Garden to the audible chiding by Christ on the
Damascus Road, God's revelation of salvation is predominately through words.
5) God chose the foolishness of preaching to raise the dead, Ezek.37:1ff.
6) The Bible itself is written-it is not a picture book for children.

Why is this important? Because when we realize and practice the centrality of the Bible in our lives, we will be daily transformed more and more into the image of Christ while dying unto sin. Thus, it should be our passion.

How is this so? Why is sanctification so tied to the Word? And in what ways does the Word challenge our lives? That's the next installment.

Means of Grace Series:
I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  The Foolishness of God
VI. The Initiatory Rite

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Last Days of the Polymath

The Economist had an interesting article on the polymaths of old, here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Convenient...

"After securing bailouts on the grounds that they were too big to fail, three banks--JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo--now hold 3$ of every 10$ on deposits in the U.S."

--The Week, Sept. 11, 2009, p.39

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Lesson from the Fall of the Wall

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. And many lessons abound from that event and the era it represents.

The commentators will be replete with political, social and economic warnings and lessons. Human interests and human rights will be forefront in the news.

But what of the religious lessons to be garnered from all this?


I was fortunate to have six years of Russian language and culture in my later school years. I am even more fortunate to know of others who lived behind the Iron Curtain.

Morality was hitting rock bottom. People stole from each other. Others lied regularly. Men would abandon their families just to escape the bleak existence. Kickback and governmental corruption was wide-spread. Indifference was commonplace.

Did the fall of the wall change these societies? Not much. After fifty years of communistic indoctrination, old habits die hard. Morality is still low in large parts of the Eastern Block. And a different morality has filled the old social vacuum: pornography and the mob dominate now.

Why? There are multiple causes, to be sure. But one cause is arguably fundamental: communism was godless. Atheism was the launching point and cornerstone of international communism. Besides other similar assertions (here), Lenin summarized Marxists' attitudes well:

"We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism."

Lenin, The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion

Religion was stifled for generations. Ministers and churches were openly persecuted at the worst of times and subtly undermined through espionage and oppressive laws at the best of times. Religion was not welcomed. In Russia proper this atheistic attitude dominated for almost eighty years.


The lesson is simple. History has show-cased the failure of atheism in the guise of communism.

Unfortunately, for many communists today history only shows the failure of the proper implementation of communistic principles. Their commitment is so strong that historical and empirical evidence will not change their fundamental beliefs, only their expectations and methods. And their communistic goals and methods had already changed over the decades. But one thing did not change: they were atheists to the last.

Materialism and atheism tend to go hand in hand. In case of the communists, it was dialectical materialism (influenced by Hegel's thesis-antithesis-synthesis movement of history). If the world is only material and man only a complex biological animal, then man can be reduced to biology. And the men who can discover, and ultimately manipulate, the basal biological principles of man can perfect man. This readily leads to totalitarianism.

The lessons of today's commentators will likely not include the atheistic element of communism. That's too bad. What this country needs is an open discussion on the real-life implications of materialistic atheism. Without it, we will learn very little from the fall of the Berlin wall.

For more info: Connection between atheism and communism, here. A review of a current atheist book, here.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Homeschooling, Statistics & Hype

Homeschooling is the up and coming trend in America. And because of that it is easy to take any sort of good news and run with it.

In many people's personal experience (even mine) much good has arisen from within the homeschooling movement: parental responsibility, familial bonding and love for children. But is this true because of homeschooling or because of motivated parents? Or other factors?

The answer depends on one's viewpoint concerning the larger question of what constitutes biblical education. Even with statistics readily at hand, their interpretation depends greatly upon pre-conceived notions (well-defended or not). However, it does not help to use statistics that do not state what people think they do.

Hopefully, dear reader, you will agree:

1. The Statistics of Homeschooling
2. A Story About Scholarship
3. The Future of Homeschooling

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I. Means of Grace: What Are They?

Today there is little understanding of the public means of grace, what they are and how they impact our lives. Regardless if our friends and family understand the importance of preaching, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, do we? To that end, a short series will summarize that which is needful.

I. Understanding the Means of Grace: What Are They?

In today's Christian bookstores you can barely find one book on the subject of the means of grace. Indeed, many Christians are not even sure what that phrase entails. Furthermore, these means of grace are either ignored (think of the many Christians wandering from church to
church without a regular diet) or taken lightly (think of the lack of proper preparation). Hopefully, in this upcoming series the significance and proper place of the public means of grace will be explained in a useful fashion for all of us.

The Larger Catechism summarizes exactly what these means of grace-"outward means"-are:

Q154: What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?
A154: The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation. [Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:42,

Just as exercising and eating helps create a healthy body, so, too, spiritual exercise, using the means of grace (both private and public), helps us grow our spiritual body. Many Christians intuitively understand this fact. Thus, they strive for a five-step plan toward
better living, or seek after forty-days of a purposeful life. Yet, examining the Bible shows a more simple approach to spiritual growth: the Word, sacraments and prayer. The proof texts used above show that continuing in the truths of the Bible (Acts. 2:42 "apostles' doctrine"), partaking of the sacraments ("breaking bread", v. 42; baptism in Matt. 28), and exercising prayer endorses a healthy church: "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being
saved." These "outward means" are used by the Spirit of God to grow the church. This is proper church growth. Again, many Christian friends of ours intuitively understand this fact and attend weekly worship.

In the Reformed faith we distinguish between public and private means of grace. Such a distinction is implied in the above Catechism answer when it differentiates between "all his ordinances" and "especially the word, sacraments and prayer."

As used in theological works and the Confessions, the means of grace are strictly limited as public and official elements of public worship. It is not simply any such action of a believer that is a means of grace in this stricter sense, but only the preaching of the Word, the
Sacraments and prayer. It can be argued that there is also a broader, private or unofficial means of grace in the lives of the Christians: Bible reading, study and memorization, daily prayers, fellowship, and private and familial worship. Although neither public nor official, the reason these could be called "means of grace" is found in the fact that they are tools used by the Spirit for spiritual growth-it is inconceivable that Reformed communities would downplay the significance of private and familial worship let alone Bible reading, Bible studies or private prayers. Thus, there must be some sense in which these are means of grace.

The importance of this distinction is discovered in the balance that it presents. If the public ordinances are emphasized to the neglect of the private ordinances, an unnatural Christian life develops. Amongst other problems, believers more readily become mechanical in their worship and less spontaneous in their private devotional lives. On the other hand, with a neglect of the public ordinances through a disproportionate emphasis on the private means (as especially demonstrated in contemporary Evangelical circles), the public ordinances are regulated to a position between tradition and irrelevance. In short, both sets of means are needful for a healthy Christian life. They must be properly integrated. (excerpt from Words of Life, Mathis)

Christ does not call us to be spiritual couch potatoes. Rather he calls us to an active life of faith and obedience through the power of the Spirit and the tools He fashions for our benefit. Most Christians grasp the private means of grace. So, it behooves us to take
seriously the public means of grace.

Next: the Word.

Means of Grace Series:
I.   What Are They?
II.  Passion for the Word
III. Benefits of the Word
IV. Power of God
V.  The Foolishness of God
VI. The Initiatory Rite