February 9, 2016
Here's an interesting little tidbit via Wesley J. Smith. An historian named Ian Dowbiggin wrote a book over ten years ago (2003) about the history of the euthanasia movement. I gather his portrayal was not altogether complimentary, though the description and reviews indicate a fairly objective stance toward the subject.
Now it appears that the archives Dowbiggin used for that book--documents, bills, etc., kept by a law firm in cardboard boxes, including the records of the American Euthanasia Society--have been intentionally destroyed.
Some quotes from Dowbiggin:
February 4, 2016
Dr. Michael Licona is an apologist and New Testament scholar who shook up the evangelical world several years ago by simultaneously claiming to be an Biblical inerrantist and stating that Matthew added the short passage about the opening of the graves and the resurrection of various other people at the time of Jesus' crucifixion as a "poetic device." In other words, Matthew did not think that it really happened. "It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew as a poetic device added to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel." (The Resurrection of Jesus, p. 553) He also has said that John deliberately moved the day of Jesus' crucifixion in his gospel. These statements by Licona caused a big and at times unedifying stir among evangelicals, with inerrantist Norm Geisler not only emphatically declaring that Licona's views are incompatible with inerrancy (which seems to me like it should be obvious, but which was emphatically denied by Licona and his supporters) but also going aggressively after Licona's job and speaking engagements (which I don't at all endorse).
Dr. Licona is about to come out with a new book on alleged contradictions in the gospels. There is an interview with Sean McDowell about it here and a much more extensive discussion constituting most of Licona's lecture here. (I thank a commentator at Triablogue for drawing my attention to the latter.)
February 3, 2016
Last week a short radio interview was recorded with me on the "same God" debate, sparked by my article at the Gospel Coalition.
The interview took about twenty-five minutes, and portions of it are found from about minute three of the broadcast here and again beginning at about minute sixteen. At the end of the second segment the host says that the interview in its entirety is on the web site, but I confess I haven't yet figured out how to find the entire recording.
Comments on this post are closed here at W4 for reasons relating to the content of the interview, but comments (if approved in moderation) are allowed at Extra Thoughts, where the link is cross-posted.
January 28, 2016
Donald J. Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency fills us with a mixture of bewilderment and dread. The Trump “phenomenon” appears calculated to discredit conservatism, to make a laughingstock of the party whose leadership he would seek, and to implicate American democracy in the low-rent spectacle of the reality TV star. When Trump boasts of the imperviousness of his supporters to any argument or evidence, he serves only to undermine respect for democracy as such. Trump’s supporters, meanwhile, take it as a point of pride that they are willing to ignore any fact that cuts against their vision of the man as the great tonic to all that ails us. Trump represents the final triumph of celebrity over substance in American politics.
The Left’s open embrace of lying as a legitimate alternative to persuasion seems to have found its corollary in Trumpism, which can be reduced roughly to the belief that “real” conservatism can find its strength in the abandonment of reason and, with it, whatever remains of the standards of uprightness in public behavior. It is a concession to the idea that the politics of a free society are but a stage for ever-more-evocative performance art by professional charlatans, who are expected to be by turns ridiculous and vicious. In Trump’s public persona, outlandish statements and a firm refusal to admit fault ally themselves with a thuggish resort to highly personal invective in the face of scrutiny. If he were a literary archetype, we might call him the Silly Brute. This is not the stuff of a proper conservative standard-bearer.
Of course, Mr. Trump stands little chance to win the general election, so his nomination would also represent the triumph of spite over sound political judgment. A further explication of our rejection of Donald Trump follows.
Update: Comments are back open, with the firm emphasis that anti-Semitism is despicable and will not be tolerated. Nor will profanity, including a certain fashionable Twitter insult.
January 27, 2016
Pro-lifers have been shocked by the fact that a Texas Grand Jury has refused to indict a particular Planned Parenthood for baby parts trafficking and instead has indicted David Daleiden and one of his helpers who engaged in undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood. The indictments appear to stem from the fact that Daleiden pretended to offer to purchase baby parts, which is allegedly a crime in Texas, and that he and his helper had to create fake IDs of some kind in the course of their investigation.
Numerous reports give the strong impression that the Grand Jury was asked to investigate Planned Parenthood but, moved by a surprisingly detailed knowledge of the law and purity of motive, felt bound to indict Daleiden instead when they just happened to notice that he broke Texas law by offering to buy fetal tissue and faking a driver's license.
This seems implausible.
January 24, 2016
There is a big war over shame. Some (many?) think that it’s wrong to shame people. Period.
Others think that shaming constitutes a public service, and will pursue it at every opportunity.
Some say that shaming is not Christian. Other say that good Christians ought to shame others.
What do you say?
As a public service, I hereby promise not to shame those of you who answer wrong. At least not too badly. Well, at least not immediately. Unless you really get me going with something totally outrageous. So feel free to say what you really think. And remember, this is for posterity, so be honest.
This year I missed posting anything on the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade because of a combination of busyness with the "same God" controversy, a bout of political discouragement, and a lack of inspiration.
Here, two days late, I'd like to do a small bit to rectify that omission.
Back in December, Newsweek published an article on abortion that was hardly a pro-life op-ed. But as it happened, the cover picture at Newsweek showed (I know this will horrify you) a pic of an unborn child, and that was just too much for the more-pro-abortion-than-thou Sady Doyle at Elle, who was shocked, shocked, to find that a fetus looks like a baby.
January 15, 2016
Given our interest in opposing jihad, readers may have been wondering when and whether any of our W4 authors would weigh in on the "same God/god" question that has been doing the rounds of the Internet. For various reasons, I preferred for quite a while to engage in debate on the issue only on my personal blog, where I put up a brief post, or on Maverick Philosopher, where the conversation has been quiet and gentlemanly, though at times rather esoteric. (See here, here, here, here, and here for some of the conversation there.)
I did a little discussion of it on Facebook but found that frustrating. In any event, The Gospel Coalition asked me to expand upon the remarks at my personal blog, and here is the article that I wrote for TGC.
As I said there, it doesn't do for us to ignore the practical implications of the question, "Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?" and I think we should try to avoid the philosophical fault of defining a sense of some concept that is so "thin" that it cannot possibly be of any real-world relevance, despite the fact that the issue as originally raised obviously does have connections to the real world.
On that front of practical implications, this story just came to my notice yesterday: A pastor in Germany has been investigated (though cleared, how kind) by the prosecutor for "hate speech" for saying that Muslims and Christians don't worship the same God. Obviously, I'm not saying that those who think Muslims and Christians worship the same God are in favor of hate speech laws against those of us who disagree! But what I am saying is that this illustrates the urgency of the issue and the rubber-meets-the-road implications of various answers to the question.
January 12, 2016
I wish I had better news on this snowy morning, but I don't. Here are two bad items from abroad:
Holland has officially relaxed its rules for killing people with dementia. (My own strong suspicion is that they've been euthanizing them already, but this is official.) If you state ahead of time in writing that you want to be killed if you get Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, then the doctors will legally bump you off under those circumstances. It won't even be bending the rules. It will be officially allowed by the rules. (Try not to choke laughing at the linked article's statement that euthanasia is allowed in Holland only under "strict conditions.")
I think that counts as "choice devours itself." Yeah, sure, it includes a nod to "choice" because you're supposed to have chosen to die ahead of time. And yes, it's a logical extension of dehydrating people to death based on their statements ahead of time. In fact, viewed in an entirely secular, utilitarian way, a lethal injection is more humane. (That is not to be taken as an endorsement.) But in either case, what we're doing is killing people who are mentally incompetent to ask to die. Which really isn't choice.
January 9, 2016
Scott W. in the comments below asked about the Miller case. I've posted about this many times. You can follow links back starting here. I was able to get the relevant web site up. The latest news is that Pastor Ken Miller apparently will be returned to prison to serve a 27-month sentence. This is expected to happen in the next few months as a result of a plea bargain deal (of sorts) according to which the government will not pursue new charges and Pastor Miller will not pursue further appeals. How kind of the federal government. Meanwhile, the feds were still as of fall, 2014, apparently pursuing other people in the case, though I have no recent updates on that.
January 4, 2016
A case has been in the news lately of a Christian family in Norway, the Bodnariu family, whose five children have been seized by the Barnavernet, the Norwegian equivalent of Child Protective Services in the United States. The Barnavernet has a long history of allegations of abuse of its power. (See here, here, and here, among many others.) This case is by no means unique in that respect.
What caught the attention of the Christian media in the case of the Bodnariu family was the claim that the principal of the children's school initiated the trouble by stating that the children were being "radicalized" in Christianity by their parents and being taught that God punishes sin. According to the family, these matters were listed on the document given to their lawyer telling them what accusations formed the basis for the seizing of the children. Now, even though termination of parental rights has not been finalized, the CPS is beginning the process to try to place the children for adoption--apparently this could be in separate homes, as the siblings have not been kept together in foster care. This story states that, in a different, earlier case which the CPS lost in court, the CPS nonetheless was allowed to continue placing those children for adoption on the grounds that the case had gone on so long that it would be too traumatic to return them to their parents!
January 1, 2016
It is a common phrase in Pope Francis’s mouth, that metaphor invoking the image of a field hospital. And it is an apt metaphor, for the Church does minister to those in severe straights, gravely damaged by sin.
But is there any reason to suggest that this metaphor is complete? That it describes the entirety of what the Church is and does? No, of course not. Even keeping to the tenor of usage in which the metaphor originates, we could make use of many more descriptors.
The Church is a Field Army. Yes, this Church that Christ founded: the one of which He said “the gates of hell shall not stand against it”. That’s a metaphor Christ himself gave us. And it is a field army that attacks a city’s gates. This is (among other reasons) why we call the Church here on Earth “the Church Militant.” This Church goes out and takes new territory: With its missionaries it attacks Satan’s holdings to recover from Satan what really belongs to God. It claims new souls for God by preaching Christ crucified to pagans and atheists and unbelievers of all types.
December 28, 2015
For years I've thought of writing a post on the despicable use of civil asset forfeiture in the United States but have always found the topic too depressing.
In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, here (without a big burden of links--you can easily google the phrase) is the short version: Despite the Constitution's guarantee of due process of law before depriving any person of property, somehow it has been declared constitutional throughout the United States for both the state and the federal governments to take the property of perfectly innocent citizens when some government agency deems it plausible that that property has been associated with a crime or constitutes the proceeds from a crime. The case is brought against the property; no conviction needs to be obtained for any crime, not against anybody, and certainly not against the owner of the property. The standard of evidence is usually quite low (for example, "preponderance of the evidence" as opposed to the legal "beyond reasonable doubt" that would be required for criminal conviction), no jury is involved, and then the burden is upon the person whose property has been seized to hire a lawyer if he wants to get it back.
I have not read the Supreme Court opinion, in which I'm sorry to say my hero Justice Scalia joined, declaring this practice to be constitutional. I've read that the reasoning had something to do with the seizure of a pirate ship in the 1800s.
December 24, 2015
[Editor's note: The following is a sermon preached by my maternal grandfather, Rev. Robert H. Stephens, on December 23rd, 1951. He spent a career as a beloved pastor at Presbyterian churches mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He passed away in 1995, when I was still a teenager, but everyone in my family can still call to memory his rich and resonant preaching voice, and his gentle but firm manner. My aunt recently discovered the text to this sermon, and thought of me because its literary foundation is a G. K. Chesterton poem. We present it now with affectionate Christmas greetings for all our readers in this holy time.]
Christmas is incredible! It would seem easy to prove that it never happened, that it just could never be. Think of it — a man and his wife pause in their pilgrimage before a crowded Inn, find shelter for the night only among the cattle, and there her Baby is born. An angel appears to ordinary shepherds in the fields nearby, announces the birth of that Baby, declares great things about Him; then a host of angels sing an anthem of peace and good-will. The angels disappear and the shepherds go off in search of the Child and find Him even as it was told them.
Three kingly travelers appear before an unkingly king, bring strange tidings of a true King to be born under a strange star, then set off down the path of that wandering star to find the Babe even as they believed. They lay their gifts before Him, then mysteriously disappear. And a wondering mother ponders all these strange things in her heart, while a loyal but bewildered husband stands by. Could the birth of that Baby in such strange circumstances be the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan for the human race?
It is impossible; yet it happened. It is incredible! Yet it’s true! It’s unbelievable! Yet it is the heart of our highest faith. It just couldn’t happen, yet it did; and because it did history is split in two and the whole destiny of the human race is profoundly altered. It’s too wonderful for words, yet more words have been written, spoken, and sung about it than any other event in history.
In G. K. Chesterton’s poem “The House of Christmas,” are two lines which express what I mean:
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and are . . . !
Think, for example — it cannot be that God has come personally into this world — but He has!