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Showing posts from 2015

Know thy enemy

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We are told ad nauseam by our president and his administration that ISIS is not Islamic; but members of ISIS certainly understand themselves to be Muslim. After all, they call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,[1] and claim to be the only true and faithful representatives of Islam. One can gain a pretty good understanding of their religious motives by simply listening to what they have to say in their latest promo video:

We know, of course, that not all Muslims are radicals or terrorists, hell-bent on world conquest. The problem is that Muhammad was. Consider the teaching of the Quran and the Hadith (the sayings of Muhammad). You can find numerous passages from both sources quoted and explained in their context here. And since the adherents of a religion generally attempt to obey the teaching and follow the example of its founder…


[1] Alternately, ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Levant is a geographical term for the territory on the eastern shore of the …

The Ethics of Killing

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A post I wrote a couple of years ago, The Ethics of Killing in Self-Defense, received some renewed attention this past week. Judging by some feedback I’ve received, I thought it might be helpful to set the discussion into a larger context, The Ethics of Killing in general, you might say.
Homicide The sixth commandment safeguards human life with the prohibition, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). It should be pointed out, however, that the verb in the commandment (Heb., ratsach) is more general in meaning than “murder.” Kill is the single word that perhaps best captures its meaning. It indicates a range of actions from murder, to causing death by negligence or reckless behavior.
The word which is used in modern jurisprudence is homicide, derived from the Latin homō, meaning man, human being, and the suffix -cide, which indicates an act of killing. Thus the term refers to the killing of a human being.[1] Homicide is a neutral term. Any killing of a human being, whether justified or not, …

Do not despise the day of small things

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Too often we expect positive changes to take place in one fell swoop. Whether in matters of personal sanctification, institutional reform, cultural renewal, or transformation of the political landscape, we too often look for one dramatic event that gains us a quick, easy, and permanent victory. But this doesn't seem to be how God normally works.
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come (Mk. 4:26-29).
The seed doesn’t produce its fruit overnight. Maturity requires growth, and growth takes time. It is not the time to complain that no fruit is visible when the blade first appears. We should not despise the day of small things (Zech. 4:10). The Lord promised the people of Israel that he would def…

Whoopi's Whopper

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You might have seen that Whoopi Goldberg, that eminent divine of daytime television, recently offered her insights into the Bible’s teaching on abortion. Apparently she felt it necessary to do this in light of the Pope’s visit to the U.S. this week and his anticipated comments about the sanctity of life. As it turns out, according to The View’s resident theologian, Scripture is conveniently silent about the subject. “Well, there’s nothing in the Book that says anything about abortion. Let’s make sure of that. The Ten Commandments are the Ten Commandments. There’s only ten.”She knows this, of course, because she once played a nun in a movie (or rather, played a lounge singer in a witness protection program pretending to be a nun. But why quibble?) Predictably, the host was cheered by her adoring fans as if she had said something meaningful.
We might be tempted to simply shake our heads in disbelief at Whoopi’s whopper and pass it off as something to be expected in today’s celebrity-as-ex…

The Pursuit of Pleasure without Responsibility

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The sexual revolution, which began in the 1960s and continues unabated today, is first and foremost a revolt against maturity. A central aspect of maturity is the willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of one’s behavior. But the ultimate goal of the sexual revolution is to enjoy all the pleasures of sex with none of its responsibilities:  sex anytime, anywhere, with anyone, by any means, without commitment, without emotional attachment, without risk to life, health, or pocketbook, but especially without the risk of having children.
Why especially without the risk of having children? Because raising a child is the ultimate responsibility. And the troublesome thing about taking responsibility is that doing so necessarily requires a self-limitation of personal freedom. A single man has greater personal freedom than a man with a wife and child. He may use his time and energy and money in any way that pleases him. Not so if he has a wife to care for and a child to raise. Hi…

Aside from the painful lump in their throats

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A lot of attention has been given the last few weeks to a some videos released by The Center for Medical Progress. The videos show representatives of Planned Parenthood trading in the body parts of aborted babies. It’s a ghastly and ghoulish business. But to hear some people speak, the outrage is entirely misplaced. It’s not the crushing and dismemberment of the youngest and most vulnerable human beings among us that should disturb us, but the fact that the frightful proceedings should ever be brought to light. 
Watching Planned Parenthood and its media and celebrity apologists attempt to deflect criticism reminds me of one of Jesus’ more humorous—but scathing—word pictures:the one in which he accused certain hypocrites of straining out gnats and swallowing camels (Matt. 23:24). The image is designed to point out the pretentious hypocrisy of paying scrupulous attention to relatively inconsequential matters while ignoring fundamental moral concerns. Jesus set up the striking image by pr…

Politics grows out of religion

Alongside every religion lies some political opinion which is linked to it by affinity. If the human mind is allowed to follow its own bent, it will regulate political society and the City of God in the same uniform manner and will, I dare say, seek to harmonize earth and heaven.
— Alexis de Tocqueville[1] —

Tocqueville is on to something here. I would argue, however, that the connection between religion and political opinion is a stronger one than mere affinity. It is more accurate to say that politics grows out of religion. This is so regardless of the religion in question, even those that are not usually recognized as such. The self-proclaimed secular man, for instance, who is the first to shout, “Separation of church and state!” is in reality no less religious than the most fundamental of Christian fundamentalists; nor is he seeking any the less to “harmonize earth and heaven” in accordance with his religious views. Their respective religions are quite different, but their political…

Let us not withdraw into silence

In his Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville makes an important observation about the power of the majority and its tendency to shame, intimidate, and silence those who speak the truth.  In America, the majority has staked out a formidable fence around thought. Inside those limits a writer is free but woe betide him if he dares to stray beyond them. Not that he need fear an auto-da-fé but he is the victim of all kinds of unpleasantness and everyday persecutions. A political career [or a ministerial calling] is closed to him for he has offended the only power with the capacity to give him an opening. He is denied everything, including renown. Before publishing his views, he thought he had supporters; it seems he has lost them once he has declared himself publicly; for his detractors speak out loudly and those who think as he does, but without his courage, keep silent and slink away. He gives in and finally bends beneath the effort of each passing day, withdrawing into silence as i…

The colony that almost failed

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Jamestown has the distinction of being the first permanent English colony in North America. Not the first English colony ever, but the first to survive. It nearly floundered, however, because of a lack of willingness on the part of many colonists to work. But when all the the other members of the council were drowned at sea during a storm, Captain John Smith was left in charge and instituted some basic reforms, including the Biblical injunction, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). The company was divided into squads of ten or fifteen, and assigned to the necessary duties of the colony. Six hours each day were devoted to their tasks, the rest in pastimes and merry exercises. But such was the untowardness of many among them, to whom labor was equally new and irksome, that our President was compelled to give them sharp counsel after his peculiar fashion.“Countryman,” he said, “the long experience of our late miseries, I hope, is sufficient to per…

Slavery and the Bible

It is not uncommon to find atheists attacking the morality of the Bible on the subject of slavery, and in so doing, seeking to undermine the very foundations of the Christian faith. They observe—correctly, I might add—that the Bible never issues an outright condemnation of slave-holding, but only seeks to regulate its practice, thus seeming to give it tacit approval. There are numerous provisions in the law, for instance, governing the acquisition, sale, and treatment of slaves (e.g. Ex. 20:8-11, 17; 21:1-6; Lev. 25:39-46; Deut. 15: 12-18; etc.), but nowhere do we find an absolute prohibition stating, “You shall not be a slave-holder.” Neither do we find such an interdiction in Jesus’ teaching, even though he must have interacted with many slaves and slave-holders alike during the course of his ministry, and both figure prominently in his parables (Matt. 13:24-30; 18:21-35; 21:33-41; etc.). Nor do we find a command in any of Paul’s letters requiring masters to release their slaves, bu…