Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Keeping the Congregation Connected

Yesterday, Carolina Christian Conservative contributor Alexander Samuels (who, by the way, deserves a lot of credit for helping me keep this blog alive for a week while I was traveling on business) wrote about John MacArthur's book Hard to Believe, which examines how the modern church ends up compromising the Gospel as it attempts to be relevant in today's culture. However, despite all of the excellent examples in his book, I doubt MacArthur could top the "hard to believe" news out of Wales today.

Reuters in London reports: . . .

British telecoms operator BT Group Plc has wired up a church in Wales to allow the congregation to hook onto local high-speed Internet connections when they want a break from the sermon.

Britain's largest fixed-line telecoms operator said on Tuesday it had installed a Wi-Fi wireless network access point, known as a hotspot, in Reverend Keith Kimber's St John's Rectory church in the city of Cardiff.

"The church has to move with the times and I wanted to make St John's a sanctuary for everyone, including business people with laptops and mobiles," Kimber said in a statement issued by BT.

"I have no problem with people quietly sending an email or surfing the Internet in church, as long as they respect the church."

I guess that's one way to get bloggers to go to church.

Hat tip to News! For Christians.
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A Mormon in the White House?

Is America ready for a Mormon president? And would evangelical Christians support a candidate who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Terry Eastland, publisher of The Weekly Standard, poses these questions in an article from the magazine's June 6 issue that examines the possible presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, a Mormon and currently the Republican governor of Massachusetts.

In the article, Eastland points out: . . .

Protestants and Catholics who are serious about their Christian faith are likely to see Mormonism as heretical in key respects, even non-Christian. The historian and scholar of Mormonism Jan Shipps has described it as not a part of traditional Christianity as such but "a new religious tradition." Would such perceptions of Mormonism lead voters to decide they couldn't vote for Romney? The question is especially relevant with respect to evangelical Protestants, for three reasons. First, in sheer numbers they are the largest group in the Republican coalition, as defined by church affiliation. Second, they tend to be quite active during the primary season and can influence outcomes, especially in the South where they are most numerous. Third, while no Christian body accepts a Mormon baptism as valid, evangelicals have tended to be more critical of Latter-day Saints doctrine than mainline Protestants or Catholics, with some evangelicals (and more fundamentalists) labeling the church a "cult." Millet says that "the greatest tension" has been with evangelicals, who have written "most all of the anti-Mormon stuff."

What do evangelical leaders active in politically conservative circles say about a Romney candidacy? Many I asked were reluctant to be quoted by name. As one of them told me, "We have to work with Mormons." Over the past quarter-century Mormons have made common cause with politically conservative evangelicals (and Catholics) on a broad range of issues involving marriage, family, abortion, stem cells, pornography, and religious liberty. Moreover, Mormons have worked alongside evangelicals for many of the same candidates at election time.

Someone willing to go on the record was Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship. Notwithstanding his "fundamental" theological differences with Mormonism, Colson said, "I could in very good conscience support Romney," calling him "a first-rate guy in every respect" and "a social conservative on most of the issues we care about." Colson obviously wasn't declaring for Romney, but simply indicating that he would not in religious principle, so to speak, be opposed to Romney and indeed could find political reasons to support him. Whether he would actually do so, of course, would "all depend on what the lineup is" and "where each person stands." The other evangelical leaders I contacted took the same view. Colson offered the likely correct forecast: Romney's appeal to evangelicals might slacken if a competent evangelical or Catholic with social views similar to Romney's were in the race; on the other hand, Romney's stock with evangelicals might go up if he were pitted against candidates holding more liberal social views, regardless of their religion. One evangelical leader offered this succinct take on whether Romney's faith would hurt him in the primaries: "Against Giuliani, no. Against Frist, yes. Against [Rick] Santorum, yes. Against Arnold [Schwarzenegger, who is ineligible], no."

One thing that's currently in Romney's favor is that most Christians, both evangelical and mainline, are clueless as to what Mormonism is all about, with many believing it to be just another Christian denomination. However, I'm sure in the heat of the campaign Romney's political rivals will quickly find a way to educate the masses on the beliefs and practices of his faith.

Hat tip to Marvin Olasky at World Magazine Blog.
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Monday, May 30, 2005

Fast Food Christianity

By Alexander Samuels

In his book Hard to Believe (Thomas Nelson / W, 2003), John MacArthur, pastor, teacher and head of the ministry organization Grace to You, offers an unapologetic commentary on the modern church's compromise of the Gospel in order to fit in with today's culture. This "new" church offers easy believism, nonconfrontational sermons, prosperity and whatever makes you happy. In the book, MacArthur writes: . . .

. . . [the] consumer mind-set has invaded Christianity. The service is too long, you say? We'll shorten it (one pastor guarantees his sermons will never last more than seven minutes!). Too formal? Wear your sweatsuit. Too boring? Wait till you hear our band!

And if the message is too confrontational, or too judgmental, or too exclusive, scary, unbelievable, hard to understand, or too much of anything else for your taste, churches everywhere are eager to adjust that message to make you more comfortable.

This is what happens when Jesus is recreated in the image of Madison Avenue. Many people believe that the only way for the church to become relevant in modern society is for it to reflect the modern world. Converting people to Christianity has been replaced by seeing how many pews can be filled on Sunday morning. Numbers have become more important than the Gospel. Easy believism has taken the place of true conversion.

My thanks to John MacArthur for writing Hard to Believe. It is definitely on my "recommended to read list."

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Christian First, Party Second

By Alexander Samuels

A former chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Lawrence Davis, announced that he was switching his political affiliation to the Republican Party earlier this week. He cited differences in moral values as his primary reason. I do not know if Mr. Davis is a Christian or not, but I do applaud his efforts to try to live out his moral values in a consistent manner.

Conservative Christians, however, often tend to imagine that . . . if more people transferred their allegiance to the Republican Party it would somehow ensure that the United States will become a Christian nation again. Let me be quick to warn you that salvation will never be found in the Republican or Democratic parties. We Christians who answer the call of duty to participate in civil government or the political process often neglect our obligations to be Christians first and political conservatives or liberals second. Our duty to God is never outweighed by our allegiance to any political party.

The Handbook of Life, for Christians, is the Bible. The Christian is obligated to read it, to meditate on it and to know its teachings. The Christian is then responsible to God to personally live out the principles taught in the Scriptures. When this is applied to the political process, the Christian always acts out of his or her highest obligation to God rather than loyalty to a political party or to man. When voting, a Christian should always vote for the person or policy that is most in line with the will of God as revealed in the Bible. A Christian will lay aside any personal or selfish interest in order to conform his or her decisions to the revealed will of God.

This is why organizations like the ACLU and other politically correct groups oppose Christians serving as judges or holding political office. In order to be a Christian, a person must believe in the absolute truth of God and God’s standards of right and wrong. A Christian will not compromise on these absolute truth issues.

Since the majority in our country have accepted the philosophy of relativism, they do not believe in absolute truth. They believe that what is right or wrong is dependent on the people, the circumstances and whatever makes you feel good. They are philosophically opposed to a Christian God who sets absolute standards of right and wrong.

I am a Republican, but I know that many Republican politicians are relativists when it comes to making decisions because the most important value to them is to be reelected. I am a Christian, but I also know many who claim to be Christians even though they live as relativists. They always run back and forth between two very distinct lifestyles and never truly commit to Christ.

Where do you stand? If you say you are a Christian, do you truly understand what you say you believe? If you have truly committed your life to Christ, then your life should reflect your absolute commitment to all the teachings of the Bible. If you are a Christian and participating in the democratic process of our country, then you should be willing to shake off any political allegiance in order to stand, uncompromisingly, for the application of God’s absolute truth to political policy and legislation.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

It Must Be Catching

The Raleigh News & Observer reported yesterday in its "Under the Dome" column: . . .

Lawrence Davis, a former state Democratic Party chairman from Raleigh, has switched his registration to the Republican Party.

Davis said he decided to switch parties because his personal beliefs on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriages and the lottery differed from the positions of the Democratic Party.

"Basically, it's an effort to bring some coherence between my beliefs and my actions," Davis said. "I felt my [former] party was on the wrong side of right-wrong issues."

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Leaving the Left Behind

In a column in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle, writer and lifelong liberal Keith Thompson announced he is "leaving the left." Thompson decided enough was enough when "the simpering voices of self-styled progressives" derided the January 30 elections in Iraq.

Thompson wrote: . . .

My estrangement hasn't happened overnight. Out of the corner of my eye I watched what was coming for more than three decades, yet refused to truly see. Now it's all too obvious. Leading voices in America's "peace" movement are actually cheering against self-determination for a long-suffering Third World country because they hate George W. Bush more than they love freedom.

I identify with Keith Thompson, and with former Democratic Sen. Zell Miller. My turning point came during the frenzied month following the 2000 election when I finally realized that I no longer had anything in common with the party of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Hat tip: Marvin Olasky at World Magazine blog.
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Friday, May 20, 2005

Disinherit the Wind

Chuck Colson, in his BreakPoint Commentary today, makes an interesting point about how many people base most of their knowledge of the Scopes trial from what they remember seeing in the movie Inherit the Wind (1960), which offered a historically inaccurate, exaggerated account of the 1925 court battle over the teaching of evolution in the Tennessee public schools.

Colson writes: . . .

These myths were exposed a few years ago when a Pulitzer Prize-winning book took on the vicious fictions perpetrated by this motion picture. The book is called Summer for the Gods, and the author is Edward Larson, a history professor at the University of Georgia and a Christian. Larson says that Inherit the Wind has become a "formative myth" that has all but replaced the actual trial in the nation's memory.

For example, in the real-life Scopes trial, the ACLU advertised for a teacher willing to help challenge a law that forbade the teaching of evolution in Tennessee public schools. A teacher named John Scopes—who had never even taught biology, let alone evolution—stepped forward, and the case was started. But in the film, the case begins when a mob of fundamentalist Christians, led by a fire-breathing preacher, barges into a biology classroom, arrests the teacher, and throws him into jail.

Colson goes on to point out how the movie wrongly portrayed Christian prosecutor William Jennings Bryan as an absurd old man while making the character of ACLU attorney Clarence Darrow appear much more virtuous than he actually was.

Of course, writers and producers of movies based on historic events are usually quick to point out that their films are for entertainment purposes only and should not be used for scholarly research. However, in our pop culture-oriented, visual media-driven society, the Hollywood versions of history are all many people will ever know.
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CRI Responds to NBC's Revelations—Final Update

Now that the sixth and final episode of the NBC-TV miniseries Revelations has aired, the Christian Research Institute has wrapped up its series of Biblical responses to counter this theologically challenged show.

In its final installment on episode six, CRI concludes: . . .

Though some of its more absurd elements made it obvious that the Revelations miniseries was the product of furtive apocalyptic imaginations, rather than sound biblical hermeneutics, it was nonetheless an attempt, albeit very loose, at interpreting the apocalyptic literature of the Bible, most notably the book of Revelation. As noted in our evaluation of episode four, the danger with the show is that it associates itself closely enough with the Bible and especially dispensational eschatology through its language and imagery that unbelieving viewers, or even biblically illiterate believers, may be led to associate even the most absurd aspects of Revelations with the Bible, thus lowering their view of Scripture and providing faulty intellectual justification for their rejection of the Gospel.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" and to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). Accordingly, we ought to test against the standard of Scripture any attempted portrayal of biblical reality with which we are confronted. The difficulty with a show like
Revelations is that even many Bible believing Christians do not understand the basic message of the book of Revelation, or the hermeneutical principles necessary to interpret its rich symbolism and apocalyptic language. It is our hope that these reviews of the Revelations miniseries have better equipped you, the reader, to critically and biblically evaluate popular cultural conceptions of God's Word.

Here's a link to CRI President Hank Hanegraaff's response to the series found in a recent article from Assist News Service:
"Bible Answer Man Responds to NBC's 'Revelations' End Times TV Series"

And here are links to CRI's responses to earlier episodes:
Episode Two
Episode Three
Episode Four
Episode Five
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Methods of Church Discipline

In today's BreakPoint Commentary Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley compares and contrasts two recent attempts by churches to discipline their flocks: . . . East Waynesville Baptist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina, where Rev. Chan Chandler resigned after he reportedly forced members out of his church because of who they voted for in the last presidential election, and the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Catholics wearing rainbow-colored sashes in support of homosexuality were denied Communion.

Earley writes:

Both of these attempts at church discipline are related to cultural questions. But there the similarity ends. What happened in Saint Paul is a very good example of what the Church, both Catholic and Protestant, needs to do. When the teaching of the Church is flouted, the Church has a right, indeed a duty, to discipline its members. In this regard, we evangelicals can learn something from Roman Catholics, who under Pope Benedict XVI show every sign of making Church membership mean something by holding the line on orthodox Church teachings. This is part of a pattern: Over recent months a number of priests and bishops have indicated they would not give Communion to Catholic politicians who vote on legislation in ways contrary to the moral and biblical teaching of the Church. This is an entirely appropriate way for a church to exercise discipline.

But what about the church in Waynesville? In 1986, Chuck Colson wrote a book called
Kingdoms in Conflict, arguing that it is the duty of the Church to speak out on moral issues and culture. But at the same time, he argued, a pastor must never make partisan endorsements. Reverend Chandler lost sight of this distinction and went over the line. It is one thing to call members to account for beliefs or behavior that defy the clear teaching of Scripture; it’s another thing to force them out of the congregation because of the way they vote at an election. The lesson from Waynesville is, don’t step across that line.

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Newsweek Fallout

There's a lot out there concerning Newsweek's false report on the desecration of the Quran by American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and the magazine's subsequent retraction.

Here are a few recommendations: . . .

Marvin Olasky's excellent posts on World Magazine Blog: "Ignorance Has Fatal Consequences," "Unanswered Questions About Newsweek," and "Press Self-Criticism"
Michelle Malkin: "It's Not Just Newsweek"
Brent Bozell: "Newsweek: A Dan Rather Rerun"
Thomas Sowell: "Newsweak?"

The mainstream media apparently did not learn anything from the CBS/Dan Rather episode. Will it learn anything from this?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Christian vs. Republican

In recent years, Christian conservatives have firmly aligned themselves in large numbers with the Republican Party. As a former registered Democrat, I know I have. But is that necessarily a good thing? At the evangelical outpost, Joe Carter, a Christian out of the Reformed camp like myself, takes a hard look at . . . party loyalties and how those loyalties can sometimes get in the way of being true to your Christian beliefs. "When speaking on political issues, many prominent evangelical leaders are sounding more like Rush Limbaugh than Francis Schaeffer," Carter writes. "Too often there appears to be little Biblical warrant for the positions that are taken."

He concludes:

I share a common cause with the GOP on most moral issues (i.e., abortion, same-sex marriage), on several foreign policy matters (e.g., the war on terrorism), and on some economic matters (welfare reform, for example). But because my neocalvinist views on policy are rooted in the Bible and Reformed theology, they will often differ, sometimes profoundly, from the standard party line. As a fellow traveler of the GOP, I find myself walking side by side with the party toward the same goals. But at other times our paths will diverge and I must follow where my conscience as a Christian conservative leads me. After all, to stand with Christ means that I can't always stand with the Republican Party.

The comments that follow his post are also an interesting read.

Hat tip to Townhall.com and the Acton Institute PowerBlog.
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Saturday, May 14, 2005

CRI Responds to NBC's Revelations—Update

The Christian Research Institute has posted detailed Biblical responses to specific scenes from episodes four and five of the NBC-TV miniseries Revelations. Look for CRI to . . . follow up with a response to the sixth and final episode toward the end of next week.
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What Is Johnny Learning in School Today?

By Alexander Samuels

Suppose you are sitting in the living room of your home one evening and your 6-year-old son asks you to read to him a book he brought home from school. No problem, right? You notice, as you take the book, that the title is Who's in a Family. As you begin to read, you notice immediately that this book portrays . . . homosexual parents as morally no different from traditional parents.

This could happen to you. It happened to David Parker of Lexington, Massachusetts. After this incident, he met with the principal of the school his son attends on three occasions to try to reach agreement on how such materials should be handled. After the third meeting he was arrested for trespassing.

The school and the school system took the position that this book is about learning to accept differences. They explained that children should not be made fun of or bullied because their families are different. This seems very reasonable because children should not be harassed because of their parents' life decisions.

Mr. Parker, on the other hand, had a perfect right to question the use of these materials because they brought sexual issues and particularly homosexual issues to his 6-year-old son's attention. Mr. Parker only asked that parents be notified when such materials were to be used so that they could make a choice to opt their children out if they wanted to.

Books and materials about "acceptance" issues have been in use in the schools for many years. They have been used to advocate many just causes such as "racial harmony," understanding the "handicapped," and "diversity" among cultures. Groups that promote homosexuality and same-sex marriage are now using these same strategies to win full acceptance of their immoral lifestyle with the next generation. The true goal of this policy is not just "to live and let live." Like most political groups, they intend to make converts.

Do you believe that this couldn't happen in your school system? Many school systems across our country are requiring that administrators and teachers attend "Diversity Workshops." In the past, these workshops have been a good thing because they have promoted understanding between the races and awareness of other cultures. Recently, however, these workshops have added another prominent component: advocating for homosexuality. Unsuspecting teachers and school administrators are now being asked to suspend their own moral judgment concerning instructional materials and whether they promote civil tolerance or actually promote the homosexual lifestyle.

What many Christians do not understand is that if we do not take a stand on issues such as this one, what I have written above may one day be legislated to be a "hate crime." The truth of the matter is I do not hate homosexuals. As a Christian, I freely admit that I am not free of sin. To any homosexual who may read this article I say, as one sinner to another, reconsider Jesus. Please, reconsider Jesus.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

The Evolution Half-Debate

In this week's World Magazine, Timothy Lamer takes a look at the situation in Kansas, where the state board of education recently conducted three days of testimony about whether the schools there should teach both the scientific evidence for and against evolution. Except there was one problem: . . . One side didn't show up, as Lamer reports:

The Darwinist side refused to debate but it did station a lawyer, Pedro Irigonegaray, to question [Intelligent Design] witnesses, and during their answers he occasionally sighed and shook his head, a lá Al Gore in the 2000 presidential debates.

Lost in the propaganda and facial expressions is just how modest the proposed revisions are. For all the comparisons to the Scopes trial, the roles in that trial have been reversed 80 years later. Today, it's the critics of Darwinism who want to introduce what they see as important scientific evidence into science classrooms and it's the Darwinists who are fighting to keep out what they see as heresy.

And yet, the revisions would not require the teaching of ID, which is fine with ID advocates who admit that their theory is too new to be the focus of classroom instruction. The revisions would merely have teachers teach Darwinism and the scientific evidence that supports it, but not treat Darwinism as revealed religion that must not be questioned.

A reading of the revisions turns up no mention of God, no mention of a young Earth, no mention of the Bible. What they do call for is more information in classrooms—a requirement that science teachers present both the scientific evidence for Darwinism and the scientific evidence against it.

If this proposal is merely asking for a fair debate and discussion of the evidence for and against evolution, and the Darwinists are so confident in their "theory," what are they afraid of?
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The Christian, the Church and the State

With all this talk about the situation in Waynesville, North Carolina, I'd like to recommend an in-depth, thought-provoking Biblical look at "the relationship between the Christian and the state, including the purpose and function of the state, the role of the Christian in politics, and the relationship of the church to the state," written by . . . Joel Gillespie, pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The following four posts recently appeared on his Joelblog site:

The Christian and the State: Part I Post I

The Christian and the State: Part I Post II

The Church and the State: Part II Post I

The Church and the State Part II Post II: The Christian, the Church, and Politics

In these writings, Joel has set wise boundaries for Christians and the church to consider. I have to admit that after reading this series, I started rethinking my approach to politics as a Christian.
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The Word According to WFU

In researching the goings-on in Waynesville, North Carolina, I ran across this quote criticizing the Rev. Chan Chandler and his beliefs in an article published by the Raleigh News & Observer (free registration required): . . .

"When you believe in an inerrant Bible, then the next step is to have an inerrant interpreter and then an inerrant morality," said Bill Leonard, the dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.

I guess all the preachers coming out of the Demon Deacon divinity school are being taught that there is no such thing as absolute Truth and that it's OK to pick and choose from the Bible whatever is morally relevant in today's culture. For me, I'll go with God's Word over Bill Leonard's.
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What Really Happened in Waynesville?

By now many of you have heard about the controversy swirling around East Waynesville Baptist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina, where the Rev. Chan Chandler resigned his post as pastor Tuesday night. Most of the mainstream media, including a few left-leaning N.C. newspapers (free registration required), would lead you to believe that Chandler ousted nine members of his congregation simply because they did not vote for President Bush in last fall's election. However, there appears to be . . . a bit more to the story.

I don't necessarily agree with Rev. Chandler's methods or actions, but I am concerned with how the mainstream media has been so one-sided in covering this story in an obvious attempt to put Chandler in as bad a light as possible. To take a "fair and balanced" look at the events, I invite you to read a few accounts other than those found in the mainstream press or on some other blogs.

First, Rev. Chandler, who is obviously no PR expert, has talked officially to only one media outlet, the Baptist Press. On Tuesday afternoon, just prior to his resignation, BP News offered an exclusive interview with Rev. Chandler, where he discussed his role in the controversy:

"I don't know how these folks voted," Chandler said. "And I never endorsed any candidate." Chandler said he did cite from the church pulpit what he believes are the "unbiblical values" of some political hopefuls. "But those were negative endorsements -- never a positive endorsement" of any candidate, he said, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent.

The BP News article also brought up that the nine may not have been forced out after all:
As Baptist Press tried to clarify whether the nine people were in fact voted out of the church, Chandler said they initially left voluntarily. Since some of those who willingly forfeited their memberships were trustees of the church, other members thought it prudent to make their actions official.

The BP Press then followed up with another account the next day, reporting:
Local newscasts cast Chandler as being against Democrats and for expelling church members who didn't publicly declare support for President George W. Bush.

One news program replayed an audio tape of a sermon preached by Chandler last fall in which he could be heard telling members who would vote for Kerry that they needed to "repent or resign." Chandler told Baptist Press the quote should be viewed in context and was intended only for those in leadership roles. Chandler noted that Kerry is for abortion rights and has sided with homosexual activists on many issues.

Waylon Owens, one of Chandler's instructors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where Chandler is currently seeking a master's degree, wrote in an article on the seminary's Web site:
Many facts have gone unreported or obscured in the media's efforts to scandalize a young minister who has taken a stand for Biblical morality and the life of a baby resting in her mother's womb.

You would have to have read closely to know that at least one of the members voted out of fellowship of the church is a self-confessed Republican. None of the media has seemed interested in the fact that perhaps a majority of the members that did the voting are registered Democrats.

Joel Belz in his column for World Magazine wrote:
. . . For the mainstream media, a high-handed preacher made far better copy than a mere walkout by a disgruntled minority. "Bush foes told to leave church," read a Chicago Tribune headline.

Mr. Chandler tried to make things clear with a public statement: "This church fellowships with all who embrace the authority and application of the Bible regardless of political affiliation, including current members who align themselves with both major political parties, as well as those who affiliate with no political party. No one has ever been voted from the membership of this church due to an individual's support or lack of support for a political party or candidate."

But headlines around the nation—and overseas in places like The London Telegraph—held to their oversimplified version. Americans United for Separation of Church and State director Barry Lynn sent a letter to the IRS—the day before the scheduled church meeting where Mr. Chandler resigned—asking the agency to review the church's tax-exempt status.

Surely, Chandler could've handled the situation in his church much more diplomatically than he did, but I have to admire a man who is willing to take a risk and stand up for what he believes in and not be afraid or intimidated by those who oppose him.

Hat tip to World Magazine Blog and several of its readers.
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Wedding's Off

I was driving to the airport yesterday for a business trip and heard Laura Ingraham announce on her radio show that she will not . . . be marrying James V. Reyes as planned. She said they remain good friends. Ingraham is currently being treated for breast cancer but is back on the air this week.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Fuzzy Christianity

By Alexander Samuels

I would like to introduce to you a new friend of mine, Alexander Samuels, whose posts will appear from time to time here at Carolina Christian Conservative. Samuels is a knowledgeable Christian philosopher, lay theologian, educator, writer and constitutional conservative. I'm hoping he will stop by and share his words of wisdom with us often.

When you go to church, what are you looking for? Are you looking for a . . . warm fuzzy experience that will make you feel good enough to face another week? Do you hope that the pastor's words will motivate you to a new spiritual high? Do you sigh when you feel the sermon is getting too deep and requires too much personal assessment of your true relationship with God? Most of us are satisfied if we believe that God loves us. We feel that somehow, if this is true, everything will be all right. This casual attitude toward our personal Christian experience, however, leaves our lives to fall far short of the true joy of living in Christ. An excerpt from a sermon originally titled "True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils," by Jonathan Edwards, in 1752, explains this concept very well:
A sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God's nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.

The sight of the beauty of divine things will cause true desires after the things of God. These desires are different from the longings of demons, which happen because the demons know their doom awaits them, and they wish it could somehow be otherwise. The desires that come from this sight of Christ's beauty are natural free desires, like a baby desiring milk. Because these desires are so different from their counterfeits, they help to distinguish genuine experiences of God's grace from the false.

This is the difference we see manifested in the life of the person who really wants to live for Christ and the life of the person who wants to live for Christ and whatever Christ can do to meet his personal needs. It is who comes first, Christ or my needs? Unfortunately, many churches are compromising with the secular world and providing teaching and sermons that are designed to tickle the ears of their hearers. Our desire has become to offer a non-offensive Gospel so that our membership numbers will be impressive.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Narnia Trailer

Click here to see the trailer to the movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, based on the first book in C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. All I can say is . . . "Wow." I can't wait until it hits the theaters on December 9. My daughter's third-grade class recently finished reading the book, so she's anxious to see how it plays out on the big screen. Here's hoping it will be as faithful as it can be to the original.
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The "Humor" of Laura Bush

It has been more than a week, but there is still a lot of uneasiness out there concerning Laura Bush's "speech" at the White House Correspondents Dinner—and I've been one of those in the uneasy camp.

Before you tell me to lighten up, please know that . . . I do posses a sense of humor (well, at least a few of the 5-year-olds in the Sunday school class my wife and I teach think I'm funny). I can laugh at the world around me, including when things that are near and dear to me are the butt of jokes. But there are times when I realize I am inadvertently crossing the line with my attempts at humor and wish that I could pull those inappropriate words back in—especially when my "jokes" dishonor or belittle my wife. I can at least write those occasions off as being a slip of the tongue and make a point of being more careful next time. And I could cut the first lady some slack if I thought she had been caught off guard in her comments about her husband, but her remarks that evening were carefully scripted and rehearsed.

You have to ask "What was she thinking?" Was this merely an attempt to "humanize" the most powerful man in the free world? Or was it a calculated move to make the president more appealing to the cultural elites? After all, Richard Gere, Elisabeth Shue, Dennis Hopper, Jane Fonda, among others, were in the audience that night. Regardless of the motive, the execution was not befitting of a first lady, nor was it honorable or respectful to her husband and his position.

Diana West makes a good point concerning this in her column today:

"George," [Laura Bush] said, "if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later." The hilarity of her moment passes, but something has changed.

Exactly what it is that has changed is difficult to explain. After all, the whole thing was "just" a joke. But Laura Bush is not Joan Rivers. Splashing into the media mainstream to join the derisive fun, decoupling fateful words from mortal purpose, is a risky proposition for the wife of a superpower leader. One day, "ending tyranny" is Mr. Bush's raison d'etre; the next day, it is Mrs. Bush's punch line.

The day after that -- who knows? The lingering air of uncertainty is hardly worth the media snickers, even if the first lady did manage to "humanize" her husband, as The New York Times so admiringly put it. Certainly, she knocked him down some pegs, which in our age is much the same thing. But imagine other presidencies, particularly in wartime. Would we have said Eleanor humanized FDR by doing a stand-up routine about Franklin always "fearing fear itself"?

And what about the popular culture references Mrs. Bush felt she had to include in her "routine," such as her comment about watching "Desperate Housewives"? Sure, it is a ratings hit, but the show probably more than any other on the air today embodies what is wrong with our society. In his column today, Brent Bozell points out:
It's some of the worst American pop culture has to offer, and will qualify as one of our foulest exports when it hits the international TV market, with America-bashers around the world declaring that America is captured perfectly by that cartoonish show: soulless wealthy people misbehaving in the most shameful ways imaginable. God bless America.

To me, no matter whether she actually watches the show or not, the first lady's comments made her appear to be more of the world rather than being salt and light in the world. It has become all too important for people, especially parents, to go with the flow and immerse themselves in the world out of fear of being ostracized by their peers or their children. In fact, the Bush daughters at last year's Republican convention praised their parents for being "cool," because they are "in the know." Bozell addresses this by saying:
It's never a bad idea for parents to be tuned into what the popular culture is offering, but there's a difference between knowing something and wallowing in it. Parents need to be knowledgeable and discriminating about the culture their youngsters consume, prepared unequivocally to condemn lust without borders, violence without conscience or language that assaults the ears.

Here's hoping that President and Mrs. Bush will not just write off this episode but will use the experience to learn from it and take more seriously the roles they model for the rest of us, as a husband and a wife and as parents.
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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Laura Ingraham Update V

Here's the latest report from LauraIngraham.com: . . .

SHE'S BAAAACK! (AS IN, LAURA'S BACK ON MONDAY): She's rested, ready and self-tanned! Thanks to the prayers, support and friendship of her friends and family, her great surgeon Dr. Katherine Alley, and all the staff at Suburban Outpatient Medical Center in Bethesda, Laura will be back in the saddle on Monday. Get ready to rumble.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

National Day of Prayer

Today is our National Day of Prayer. Please remember to pray for our country, our leaders and our military today and every day.

The National Day of Prayer Web site offers this "Prayer for the Nation" by Max Lucado: . . .

Dear God,

Not to us, O Lord, but to You goes all the glory.

We depend on you. You give birth and breath and determine our days. You make every nation and set every boundary. We exist by your power.

We exist for your glory. Showcase your power through this land. Display your justice in our courts, wisdom in our governments, guidance in our schools and love in our homes.

Have mercy upon our sins. We have disrespected Your word, disregarded your gifts, discarded your children. We are sorry. Forgive us, dear Father.

Grant strength to all our leaders. May they serve you first and honor you most. Remind us of the brevity of this life and the beauty of the next. Prepare our souls for the day we meet You in eternity.

This we pray in your holy name,


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Laura Ingraham Update IV

Here's the latest from LauraIngraham.com concerning our favorite conservative talk show host: . . .

LAURA'S SECOND OPERATION DOWN, SIX WEEKS OF RADIATION TO GO! This afternoon, Laura went back into surgery for a further "cleaning of the margins" around the original breast tumor. Dr. Katherine Alley excised a few more millimeters of tissue, and she drained the recurrent "golfball" (Laura's term, not Dr. Alley's) of liquid that had formed around the earlier lymph node incision. Laura is at home "resting" comfortably. No pull-ups for Laura for at least a few weeks. Thanks to all of you for the prayers and good wishes. Keep 'em coming! Laura will be back on the air very soon.

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"Enlisting in a Warfare"

May is graduation month, and all over the country young men and women will hear commencement addresses that will send them on their way out into the world. In his column today, World Magazine Editor Marvin Olasky shares the words of J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), who was . . . the commencement speaker at Virginia's Hampden-Sydney College on June 9, 1929. I encourage you to click the link and read it. Even 76 years later, I believe it still sums up what all of us, graduates or full-fledged adults, face as Christians in the world today.

Olasky reports that Machen, who was soon to be run off by theological liberals at Princeton Theological Seminary and would then be led to start Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, began his speech by saying, "It is a serious step, in these days, even from the worldly point of view, to become a Christian. . . . The man who today enters upon the Christian life is enlisting in a warfare against the whole current of the age."

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The Films of Philip Anschutz

In his "Breakpoint" commentary today, Chuck Colson takes a look at Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, the man who put up the big bucks to film the upcoming theatrical release The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (scheduled for December 9), based on the first book in C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. Because of his concern about the types of unfamily-friendly movies Hollywood has been churning out, Anschutz, a Christian, decided to start his own film company.

Colson comments: . . .

And yet, as Anschutz noted in a recent speech, since the year 2000, Hollywood has "turned out more than five times as many R-rated films as it has films rated G or PG or soft PG-13. . . . Don't these figures make you wonder what's wrong with Hollywood just from a business point of view?"—good question Anschutz asked. The films were not just bad business; they were polluting the culture—the culture in which Anschutz's grandchildren live, a fact that made him mad. So a few years ago, he decided to stop cursing the darkness and light a cinematic candle: He went into the film business himself, forming the Anschutz Film Group and a children's division, called Walden Media. Then he got busy making movies that were not only entertaining, but also carried strong moral messages.

Anschutz has also backed such films as Ray, Because of Winn-Dixie and Holes. In addition to the Chronicles of Narnia release, he's at work on bringing to the big screen the children's classics Charlotte's Web and Bridge to Terabithia.
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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Johnny Hart's B.C.

In case you missed the funny papers Sunday, Johnny Hart's B.C. took a swipe at Charles Darwin and evolution. Some people out there are questioning why . . . newspaper editors didn't spike the comic strip like they sometimes do with politically charged ones such as Doonesbury. (According to Creators Syndicate in a report on the Editor & Publisher Web site today, the May 1 strip wasn't dropped by any of the feature's 1,200 client newspapers.)

Do these people really feel threatened and offended by a clever little comic strip that took a stand on creationism over evolution? It doesn't make any sense unless, of course, these followers of Darwin consider evolution their religion.

Speaking of Doonesbury, I used to enjoy Garry Trudeau's work, but his liberal rants grew tiresome to me. You know what I do now? No, I don't demand that my local paper stop carrying it—I just stopped reading it, just like I won't read Cathy.

Hat tip to Ed Cone.

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Sneak Peak at Narnia

On Saturday night, ABC-TV will be the first to air a trailer for the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (The ad will air in during the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.) This movie adaptation of C.S. Lewis' treasured work of Christian allegory is a joint collaboration between Disney and Walden Media (the folks behind Because of Winn-Dixie), and offers an opportunity for the keepers of Mickey, Donald and Goofy to redeem themselves in the eyes of . . . many Christian Americans.

An article by Susan Wloszczyna in today's USA Today reports:

Mixing commerce and religion could be risky. But David Koenig, author of Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation and Theme Parks, suggests otherwise. "Left Behind would have been risky," he says, referring to the evangelical sci-fi book series. "Narnia isn't risky. It's the safest way for Disney to reconnect with a large section of its core audience that it has alienated over the last decade." That includes religious boycotts over gay-friendly policies at theme parks, as well as the often-controversial content of Miramax films.

The film is due out December 9, and a longer version of the trailer will air before showings of Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith, which will be in theaters starting on May 19.
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