Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Maciel’s Sins

February 4th, 2009 No comments

This article talks about how the founder of an important conservative Roman Catholic order, the Legionaries of Christ, turns out to have had a mistress and bastard child. He had earlier been accused of multiple homosexual advances and been retired involuntarily by the Pope, though with out any formal trial because he was so old. This increases my admiration for Pope Benedict, who retired Maciel despite their being fellow conservatives, and my belief that Pope John Paul II, Maciel’s staunch defender, is overrated.

Categories: religion, Roman Catholicism Tags:

Bush’s Religion

January 28th, 2009 No comments

The Last Methodist President
by Mark Tooley:

More evenhandedly was an analysis of Bush’s political theology delivered in 2007 at a Methodist symposium at Oxford, England by SMU theologian Billy Abraham, an Irish Methodist and theologian in residence at Bush’s home church in Dallas. Amid the denunciations by other Methodists of Bush’s supposed fundamentalism and imperialism, Abraham described Bush as a “moderate, even liberal, evangelical shaped by the spiritual warmth, the ad hoc social activism, the reserved moralism, the friendly fellowship, the wariness of alcohol, and the theological fuzziness of United Methodism in Texas.”

According to Abraham, Bush theologically “knows and believes the internal soteriological logic of creation, fall and redemption as parsed by contemporary evangelicalism” in America. As a conventional and pragmatic proponent of American civil religion, Bush believed that “life in American fits God’s design for humanity better than its rivals.” The Iraq War and democracy promotion, according to Abraham, allowed Bush to “take American civil religion to the Middle East and then onward into the Muslim world.”

Bush’s autobiography is titled after Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley’s song’ “A Charge to Keep I Have,” which is also the title of a painting that Bush kept in the Oval Office of an early Methodist circuit riding preacher. “Bush’s compassionate conservatism draws heavily on the kind of revivalism that was common in Methodism in North America in the late 19th century,” Abraham noted. And Bush’s brand of American civil religion “harks back to a longstanding embrace of a similar vision” by many Methodist leaders in the 19th century. Abraham did not cite the Methodist delegation that listened to McKinley’s Philippines confession, but no doubt they fit the type.

Supposedly, when President McKinley was pressed to describe his political philosophy, he insisted he was “just” a Methodist. Bush potentially could similarly respond.

Categories: Bush, Methodists, religion, social regulation Tags:

Illegal Immigration to Europe

January 28th, 2009 No comments

This post of mine gets the most interesting comments. The latest:

hello, i m men from lithuania EU. I can help peoples to get invitaciot to EU Legaly . if need i can find girl for married. please write me

Categories: europe, immigration, Islam, law Tags:

Style in Bible Translation

January 27th, 2009 1 comment

From the Baylyblog obituary of author John Updike:

In 1967, when no evangelically-acceptable translation had yet arisen against the KJV, Dad wrote a column in Eternity Magazine suggested that a new translation be undertaken with a first draft written not by biblical scholars, but by fine English writers based on the King James and American Standard versions. Only after this initial English draft was complete would Greek and Hebrew scholars take up a second draft where revisions for accuracy would be made. As first draft authors, Dad suggested Frank Gaebelein, Betty Elliott, W.H. Auden and John Updike.

Categories: religion, translation, writing Tags:

Church Budget

January 27th, 2009 No comments

From the Bloomington HT:

““Sure we’re concerned,” said the Rev. George Purnell, senior minister at First United Methodist Church. …

Purnell said the church’s projected income in 2009, based on congregants’ estimates of their giving that year, will closely parallel the church’s 2008 income — about $1.6 million — but that would be $150,000 short of the church’s expenses in 2009.

I wonder how big the budgets are of other churches in town?

Categories: Bloomington, churches, religion Tags:

The Result of Freeing Prisoners of War

January 26th, 2009 No comments

From the NYT:

The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Maybe we should conclude that Al Qaeda wants to scare Obama into not closing down Guantanamo.

Categories: international law, Islam, obama Tags:

The Bombay Attacks

January 24th, 2009 No comments

Mark Steyn, Dec. 2008. Silence=Acceptance:
Rabbi Holtzberg was not murdered because of a territorial dispute over Kashmir or because of Bush’s foreign policy.

Shortly after the London Tube bombings in 2005, a reader of Tim Blair, the Sydney Daily Telegraph’s columnar wag, sent him a note-perfect parody of a typical newspaper headline: “British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow’s Train Bombing.”


[Y]ou’d be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was “linked” to any religion, least of all one beginning with “I-“ and ending in “-slam.” In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations — “Islamic terrorists,” “Muslim extremists” — and by the time of the assault on Bombay found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators “militants” or “gunmen” or “teenage gunmen,” as in the opening line of this report in the Australian: “An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok…”

Kids today, eh? Always running amok in an aimless fashion.


The discovery that, for the first time in an Indian terrorist atrocity, Jews had been attacked, tortured, and killed produced from the New York Times a serene befuddlement: “It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene.”

Hmm. Greater Bombay forms one of the world’s five biggest cities. It has a population of nearly 20 million. But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein. An “accidental hostage scene” that one of the “practitioners” just happened to stumble upon? “I must be the luckiest jihadist in town. What are the odds?”


[T]he murdered Jews were described in almost all the Western media as “ultra-Orthodox,” “ultra-” in this instance being less a term of theological precision than a generalized code for “strange, weird people, nothing against them personally, but they probably shouldn’t have been over there in the first place.” Are they stranger or weirder than their killers? Two “inflamed moderates” entered the Chabad House, shouted “Allahu Akbar!,” tortured the Jews and murdered them, including the young Rabbi’s pregnant wife. Their two-year-old child escaped because of a quick-witted (non-Jewish) nanny who hid in a closet and then, risking being mown down by machine-gun fire, ran with him to safety.


In a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the “militants” nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building. If they were just “teenage gunmen” or “militants” in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Dennis Prager got to the absurdity of it when he invited his readers to imagine Basque separatists attacking Madrid: “Would the terrorists take time out to murder all those in the Madrid Chabad House? The idea is ludicrous.”


A Minnesotan suicide bomber (now there’s a phrase) originally from Somalia returned to the old country and blew up himself and 29 other people last October. His family prevailed upon your government to have his parts (or as many of them as could be sifted from the debris) returned to the United States at taxpayer expense and buried in Burnsville Cemetery. Well, hey, in the current climate, what’s the big deal about a federal bailout of jihad operational expenses? If that’s not “too big to fail,” what is?


I wrote in my book, America Alone, that “reforming” Islam is something only Muslims can do. But they show very little sign of being interested in doing it, and the rest of us are inclined to accept that. Spread a rumor that a Koran got flushed down the can at Gitmo, and there’ll be rioting throughout the Muslim world. Publish some dull cartoons in a minor Danish newspaper, and there’ll be protests around the planet. But slaughter the young pregnant wife of a rabbi in Bombay in the name of Allah, and that’s just business as usual. And, if it is somehow “understandable” that for the first time in history it’s no longer safe for a Jew to live in India, then we are greasing the skids for a very slippery slope. Muslims, the AP headline informs us, “worry about image.” Not enough.

Flushing a Koran down the toilet is blasphemy. But shouldn’t murdering people in the name of Allah count as blasphemy too?

Was Obama Ever Baptized?

January 22nd, 2009 3 comments

It’s unclear. He was a church member, to be sure, but he was Moslem as a child and probably not baptized as an infant. Adult baptism is noticeable enough that one might expect it to be mentioned. It isn’t important enough to him to rate mention in his autobiography, which does talk about his joining the UCC church of Pastor Wright in Chicago.

A blog post looks at some evidence. A newspaper said he was baptized, without offering any evidence, but that was probably just speculation by the reporter.

I wonder if Obama is the first unbaptized President? No- actually not. I don’t think Quakers get baptized, though I might be wrong, and that would cut out Hoover and Nixon.

January 22: As the weblog post I linked to above says, it’s hard to find a credible statement that Obama was baptized. There are statements by reporters, but it looks as if they are just making that up, thinking that if he joined the church he must have been baptized, or confusing answering an altar call with baptism. It would be useful to actually look at his autobiography, though. Here’s some more info:


Obama has long been an active member of Chicago’s Trinity United
Church of Christ and frequently attends services there. His pastor,
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, officiated at his wedding, baptized both his
daughters, and dedicated his house.


He is now a Christian, having been baptized in the early 1990s at
Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. But rumors about Obama’s
religion persist. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 12 percent of voters
incorrectly believe he’s Muslim; more than a quarter believe he was
raised in a Muslim home.

His baptism presents its own problems. The senior pastor at Trinity at
the time of Obama’s baptism was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the
preacher who was seen damning America on cable TV for weeks last
spring—and will doubtless be seen again this fall. In the NEWSWEEK
Poll, almost half of the respondents say Obama shares at least some of
Wright’s views; nearly a third say Wright might prevent them from
voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee.


During his years in Indonesia, Obama went first to a Catholic
school—and then to a public elementary school with a weekly class of
religious education that reflected the dominant Muslim culture. He was
raised, in part, by his stepfather, a man named Lolo, who “like many
Indonesians … followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the
remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths,” Obama wrote in
“Dreams From My Father.” “He explained that a man took on the powers
of whatever he ate.” Lolo introduced young Obama to the taste of dog
meat, snake meat and roasted grasshopper. In Indonesia, Obama has
said, he saw women with and without head coverings and Muslims living
comfortably next to Christians. He has said that his life among
Muslims in Indonesia showed him that “Islam can be compatible with the
modern world.”


He didn’t officially join Trinity until several years later, when he
returned to Chicago as a promising young lawyer intent on becoming a
husband, a father and a professional success. Around the time Obama
was baptized, he says he studied the Bible with gifted teachers who
would “gently poke me about my faith.”

Freerepublic says, without citation:

Nobody, except Obama knows if his conversion to Christianity is real
or not. Although some reports and even Obama have referred to a
“baptism”, there doesn’t appear to be any record of a baptism.

Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin, when
asked about Obama’s baptism, wrote, “I have never been able to obtain
any evidence that he was baptized, although I asked for those

It seems that Obama’s conversion occurred when he answered one of Rev.
Jeremiah A. Wright’s altar calls by walking down the aisle of Trinity
Church to make a formal commitment of his faith.

I also found:

Mr. Obama was baptized that year, and joining Trinity helped him
”embrace the African-American community in a way that was whole and
profound,” said Ms. Soetoro, his half sister. (April 30, 2007 Monday
A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith BYLINE: By JODI

A few years later, Obama returned to Chicago from Harvard Law School
to be baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ, with a
predominantly black congregation on the South Side led by Wright.
Obama had come to realize, he wrote in his 2006 book, “The Audacity of
Hope,” that the church “had to serve as the center of the community’s
political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life.” He
described his baptism not as an epiphany but as a conscious choice.
(The Washington Post January 18, 2009 Sunday

Obama ‘s Path to Faith Was Eclectic; President-Elect Will Reach Out to
Diverse Set of Religious Leaders for Advice BYLINE: Eli Saslow;)

Categories: obama, religion Tags:

Reparations for Slavery

January 20th, 2009 1 comment

Suppose your ancestor was a slaveholder, or a corrupt politician. Ought you to do anything in compensation? What should you do with wealth inherited from that person?

Categories: ethics, international law, living, religion Tags:

Martin Luther King

January 19th, 2009 No comments

Theologica has a good post on Martin Luther King’s plagiarism, adultery, and non-Christian religious beliefs. Samuel Francis has an even more negative essay that I haven’t read all the way through. In a quick look I couldn’t find a good listing of MLK’s accomplishments. He did some good things, I seem to remember, but Google gives me trivial lists and general praise.

Here is an excerpt from a paper that King wrote in 1949 while he was an assistant pastor and taking seminary classes. He contrasts the liberal with the “fundamentalist”, to the disadvantage of the “fundamentalist”. It’s interesting that he acknowledges that what he means by “fundamentalist” is the Christian doctrine of Luther, Calvin, and the pre-1900 church in general.

These men argued that there could be no compromise on the unchanging fundamentals of the Christian faith. To gain support for their stand, the fundamentalist claimed that they were reaffirming the faith as Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Wesley held it. Of course, in that claim they were undoubtedly correct. It was the Protestant Reformation which enunciated the doctrines which are now called “fundamentalist.”…

Others doctrines such as a supernatural plan of salvation, the Trinity, the substitutionary theory of the atonement, and the second coming of Christ are all quite prominant in fundamentalist thinking. Such are the views of the fundamentalist and they reveal that he is oppose to theological adaptation to social and cultural change. He sees a progressive scientific age as a retrogressive spiritual age. Amid change all around he was {is} willing to preserve certain ancient ideas even though they are contrary to science.

Accomplishments: One King accomplishment is the “I Have a Dream” speech, which is certainly a bigger deal in itself than anything I have done in my life.

"Your Bible"

January 19th, 2009 2 comments

Christian Book Distributors sent me some spam which illustrates modern gnosticism:






















Actually, it’s not “your Bible”. It’s God’s Word. The last four verses of the Bible are relevant:

22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Categories: Bible, books, religion, thinking Tags:

An Afghanistan Report

January 18th, 2009 No comments

From James Dunnigan:

The information based tactics concentrate on capturing or killing the enemy leadership and specialists (mostly technical, but religious leaders and media experts are often valuable targets as well). The Australian commandos have specialized in this approach, and made themselves much feared by the Taliban (who will make an extra effort to avoid dealing with the Australians). The U.S. and NATO commanders know that the Taliban leadership is in trouble, with a new generation of leaders only recently shoving the older guys (veterans of the 1980s war with Russia) out of the way, and introducing more vicious tactics (more terrorism against reluctant civilians). This is backfiring, as it did in Iraq, and the Taliban leadership is not having an easy time trying to come up with a new strategy. One strategy that is working is making a big deal whenever foreign troops kill Afghan civilians (about 80 percent of civilian deaths are caused by the Taliban, but that has successfully been played down, a real spin victory for the Islamic radicals). This has caused NATO commanders to issue increasingly restrictive rules of engagement to their troops, which the Taliban eagerly exploit …

Also this:

British medics tried to apply the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan, but found that they were often targets of enemy fire, even though their red cross symbols were plainly visible. The enemy attitude was particularly disheartening because British medics often treated enemy wounded as well, in addition to Afghan civilians. Didn’t matter. For the Taliban and al Qaeda, anyone who wasn’t working for them was considered a target. So now British medics are under orders to go into action armed, and to use their weapons to defend themselves, and their patients, when necessary.

Of course, one can’t blame the Taliban for not obeying the Geneva Conventions, since they never signed them. It is our folly to think that those conventions apply in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we really paid attention to international law, we’d recall that just because countries X and Y make a treaty doesn’t mean that it binds country Z too– or protects country Z either.


January 16th, 2009 No comments

From the WSJ:

That Explains It

  • “Here in Qatar, . . . we have a Starbucks, which serves coffee. They used to hang a sign on the doors of their shops: ‘We benefit our most important partner, which is Israel, we help in the education of students in Israel, we help build up the Israeli defense arsenal,’ and so on. . . . This Starbucks is Zionist.”–Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi on Al-Jazeera, Jan. 9 (via Middle East Media Research Institute)
  • “Seven Cups of Coffee a Day May Lead to Hallucinations”–headline, Bloomberg, Jan. 14
Categories: humor, Islam, Israel, judaism Tags:

Buying Religious Books from Persia

January 8th, 2009 No comments

I just received a book I ordered from either an American or a British company (I forget which). It came in an outer wrapper from Dubai, and the inner label is:

New Book Sale

PO BOX: 15875-8573

Is warehouse space really so much cheaper in Iran? Or is it the English-trained handling labor?

And the book? —Philosophy of Religion- Selected Readings.

Categories: Economics, Islam, living, religion Tags:

TV, Intemperance, and Video Games

January 2nd, 2009 No comments

A comment I made at the Baylyblog on a good entry on the book Goody Two Shoes, family reading, and TV:

Maybe the biggest problem with TV is that you don’t get satiated. TV is fine in moderation, like wine and chocolate. If you ingest a lot of wine or chocolate, the desire goes away, at least for that day. Plus, a stomach ache or hangover may remind you that you’ve sinned. But you can sit in front of the TV indefinitely, and wake up fresh the next day. So the best solution may be to never watch it, just as for some people the best solution to alcohol is never to take a single drop.

I wonder which is a more harmful sin nowadays: insobriety or excessive TV? Or how about excessive video game playing? Heathens may laugh at calling such things sinful, but I’m glad to see pastoral warnings about them.

January 3: Clint Mahoney posted the Television poem of Roald Dahl on the Baylyblog. An excerpt:

In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.

Categories: books, living, religion Tags:

Church Deacons

January 1st, 2009 No comments

There’s an interesting dispute over deacons going on in the PCA conservative presbyterian denomination. Everyone agrees that only men, not women, should be elders, who are like the board of directors. Deacons hold another elected office, established in the Bible but without such clear qualifications. Deacons oversee the church’s property and attend to people’s material needs, usually, I think, with a special budget for helping those who need money. The PCA rules say that an ordained deacon must be a man, but that unordained deacons can also exist, and they can be women.

The most basic question is whether only men should be deacons. Let us put that aside. Rightly or wrongly (wrongly, I think), the denomination seems to have had that idea in mind. There exists this peculiar loophole, however, of unordained deacons. The result is that some churches have lots of female deacons. Also, it is unclear why ordination makes any difference whatsoever. Those churches with female deacons keep quiet about the lack of ordination, and, indeed, some or all do not ordain male deacons either!

This is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. The denomination should choose one of three options: 1. No female deacons allowed. 2. Female deacons allowed at the option of the local church, or 3. A candidate’s being a woman must not bar her from being a deacon, even if the local church is against female deacons.

Is it moral in the meantime for a church such as Pastor Keller’s famous Manhattan church to use female deacons? I am inclined to think it is not.

What about establishing a new office? (Actually, the word ‘office’ is a theological term of art here; maybe ‘job’ is better.) Establish a “board of helpers” who take care of those in need, including people who need rides to church, new mothers who need meals, and so forth. The helpers could be either men or women, with a male chairman (or perhaps an elder as chairman), and would be appointed by the elders. Keep the deacons, but use them for the building, property, and special tasks such as legal troubles.

Categories: religion Tags:

Giving Away All One’s Possessions

December 28th, 2008 No comments

From an old post in He Lives:

I’ve decided (for today, at least) that the toughest verse in the Bible is Luke 12:33. In particular, the first sentence thereof.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:32-34)

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Now, how do I avoid the plain meaning? Let’s fire up a couple of tried-and-true escape mechanisms:

1) Is this in a parable? No.

2) Can this be cast as figurative? Does it really mean: “Do not hold on to your possessions. Be willing to give them up at a moment’s notice, should they be of use to God or the church. Do not make idols of your possessions. Do not value your self-made kingdom more then the kingdom of God.” Can it be taken that way? No.

A commentor said:

Go back to verse 32 because that is where we are told to whom verse 33 is addressed. It is plainly not Christians living in 2008 AD in Virginia. It is members of His ‘little flock’ in the year 33 AD or thereabouts living in and around Jerusalem. These are the people concerning whom the Father had already chosen to give them the kingdom. Note that He did not say the Church.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not at all saying that giving to those in need is not a possible application of this verse. Just that the plain meaning has to do with the specific speaker and hearers and the immediate context. Less plain interpretations are what are causing the problem of living up to this plain teaching. By the way, did most of these people have cash to give to others? Or, did they have possessions that had to be liquidated so that the proceeds could be given to others? Note, Jesus does not say sell all your possessions. Could He have meant sell enough so that they could give some funds to others in need? Oh well, it just may not be that plain.

Categories: living, religion Tags:

Nitel Night

December 28th, 2008 No comments

Via He Lives I found this Haaretz article on Nitel Night– Christmas Eve for the Hasidim, who have all kinds of commands and superstitions about it.

On Christmas Eve, known in Jewish circles as Nitel Night, the klipot (shells) are in total control. The klipot are parasitical evil forces that attach themselves to the forces of good. According to kabbala (Jewish mysticism), on the night on which “that man” – a Jewish euphemism for Jesus – was born, not even a trace of holiness is present and the klipot exploit every act of holiness for their own purposes.
For this reason, Nitel Night, from nightfall to midnight, is one of the few occasions when Hasidim refrain from Torah study. …

The Knesset correspondent of the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia, Zvi Rosen, relates that celebrated Hasidic admorim (sect leaders) would cut a year’s supply of toilet paper for Sabbath use (to avoid tearing toilet paper on Sabbath) on this night. Actually, this disrespectful act has profound kabbalistic significance, because kabbalistic literature extensively discusses Christianity as waste material excreted from the body of the Jewish people. Today, precut toilet paper for Sabbath use is available on the market; thus, the custom’s relevance has diminished. …

…an ultra-Orthodox rabbi was once asked to eulogize Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism and a secular Jew. After a few moments, he came up with three positive traits: Herzl had never spoken while putting on his phylacteries, had never thought about Torah matters in unclean places and had never studied Torah on Nitel. …

In contrast, Lithuanian and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews do not observe Nitel at all. “The Hasidim will look for any excuse not to study Torah,” quipped one Lithuanian Jewish cynic.

I found hasidic discussion forum threads on Nitel Night here and here. They aren’t all that interesting, but they show that the customs are alive.

Categories: jokes, judaism, religion Tags:

Today’s Sermon in Cartoon Form

December 28th, 2008 No comments

Categories: art, religion, writing Tags:

The Name "Joshua" in Hebrew

December 27th, 2008 No comments

From Wikipedia:

The original Hebrew name Yehoshua יהושע often lacks a Hebrew letter Vav (ו) after the Shin (ש), allowing a misreading of the vocalization of the name, as if Yehoshea (יְהוֹשֵׁעַ), and indeed his name was Hoshea before his namechange to Yehoshua by recommendation of Moses (Numbers 13:16). Nevertheless, the use of a mater lectionis was an orthographic innovation, and although the use of two Vavs is well attested as יְהוֹשׁוּעַ (for example, Deuteronomy 3:21), traditional orthography tended to avoid the second Vav as too intrusive when spelling Yehoshua. The name Yehoshua` in Hebrew means “Yahweh is Salvation,” “Yahweh delivers” or “Yahweh rescues” from the Hebrew root ישע, “to deliver,” “to be liberated,” or “to be victorious”[4]

Categories: religion, words Tags:

The Dawkins-Lennox debate in Oxford

December 27th, 2008 No comments

Melanie Philips reports on the Dawkins-Lennox debate in Oxford this fall. (see this BBC article too)

On Tuesday evening I attended the debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. This was the second public encounter between the two men, but it turned out to be very different from the first. Lennox is the Oxford mathematics professor whose book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? is to my mind an excoriating demolition of Dawkins’s overreach from biology into religion as expressed in his book The God Delusion — all the more devastating because Lennox attacks him on the basis of science itself. In the first debate, which can be seen on video on this website, Dawkins was badly caught off-balance by Lennox’s argument precisely because, possibly for the first time, he was being challenged on his own chosen scientific ground.

This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

Anthony Flew, the celebrated philosopher and former high priest of atheism, spectacularly changed his mind and concluded — as set out in his book There Is A God — that life had indeed been created by a governing and purposeful intelligence, a change of mind that occurred because he followed where the scientific evidence led him. The conversion of Flew, whose book contains a cutting critique of Dawkins’s thinking, has been dismissed with unbridled scorn by Dawkins – who now says there is a serious case for the position that Flew now adopts!…

Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. …

… In the debate, under pressure from Lennox Dawkins was actually forced to retract his previous claim that Jesus had probably ‘never existed’. And in a revealing aside, when Lennox remarked that the Natural History Museum in which they were debating – in front of dinosaur skeletons — had been founded for the glory of God, Dawkins scoffed that of course this was absolutely untrue.

But it was true. Construction of the museum was instigated between 1855 and 1860 by the Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland. According to Keith Thomson of the Sigma XI Scientific Research Society, the funds for the project came from the surplus in the University Press’s Bible account as this was deemed only appropriate for a building dedicated to science as a glorification of God’s works. Giving his reasons for building the museum, Acland himself said that it would provide the opportunity to obtain the

… knowledge of the great material design of which the Supreme Master-Worker has made us a constituent part… By the aid of physiological illustrations he begins to understand how hard to unravel are the complex mechanisms and prescient intentions of the Maker of all; and he slowly learns to appreciate what exquisite care is needed for discovering the real action of even an apparently comprehended machine.

Categories: intelligent design, religion, science Tags:

Bible Verses Relevant to Abortion

December 26th, 2008 No comments

Here is a list of Bible verses relevant to abortion. br>

Genesis 2:7, And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a
living soul.

Exodus 21:22-25.
If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit
depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely
punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he
shall pay as the judges determine.
And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Leviticus 17:11. For the life of the flesh is in the blood:
and I
have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your
souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the

Psalm 22: 10. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my
from my mother’s belly.

Psalm 51:5
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother
conceived me.

Psalm 139:13-16.
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my
mother’s womb. 14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and
wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth
right well. 15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made
in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book
all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned,
when as yet there was none of them.

Psalms 147:13. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy
gates; he
hath blessed thy children within thee.

Job 31:15. Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and
did not
one fashion us in the womb?

Isaiah 44:2. Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed
from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant;
and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.

46:3. Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the
of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which
are carried from the womb:

Isaiah 49:5. And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the
womb to
be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not
gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God
shall be my strength.

1:5. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee;
before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I
ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

41. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation
Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the
Holy Ghost:

Categories: abortion, religion Tags:

Happy Holidays

December 25th, 2008 No comments

Good sense and holiday cheer from Professor E. Volokh:

So if you tell me “Merry Christmas,” good for you. If you tell me “Happy Holidays,” I confess I’ll get a bit annoyed because of its generic air, but I’ll just assume that you’re trying to play it safe — often a very good strategy in social relations. Plus why be churlish about someone wishing you a happy anything? If you tell me “Happy Hanukkah,” I’ll start racking my brains about when Hanukkah actually is this year; I never have any idea. If you tell me “Happy Diwali,” I’ll assume that this is a good thing in your life, and I’ll appreciate the good wishes. (If neither you nor I are Hindu, then I might wonder what you mean by that.) If you tell me “Happy New Year,” my favorite greeting, I’ll be extra pleased, but that’s just a matter of taste.

Dec. 27. A comment I posted at Volokh Conspiracy on an Eric Posner follow up post:

Nobody has addressed Prof. Posner’s empirical claim, which is that more people are likely to be offended by “Merry Christmas” than “Happy Holidays”. I could well be wrong, but my guess is the opposite of his. Who besides some fraction of the already tiny fraction of the population that is secular Jewish or intellectual atheist would be offended by Merry Christmas? On the other side are religious and secular Christians who believe that Happy Holidays is an attempt to eliminate Christmas or, like Prof. Volokh, feel insulted by it as a patronizing attempt to be multicultural.

Categories: religion, social regulation, words Tags:


December 23rd, 2008 No comments

Professor Heriot’s annual “On the First Day of Kwanzaa My True Love Tortured Me …” from The Right Coast is enlightening. I recently notice that the Indiana U. student union had four banners, for Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and I forget what. I noticed that the Christmas banner had a Christmas tree on it, and wondered if Christians could demand a separate, Christian-symbolled banner. Anyway, I knew Kwanzaa was a silly fraud, but not how evil its origins are.

If you visit a card shop at your local shopping mall these days, chances are you will see Kwanzaa cards. It’s big business. (Well, maybe it’s just medium-sized business, but it is evidently lucrative enough for card companies to bother with.) And if you go to swanky private schools like the one attended by the children of my colleague Chris Wonnell, you may well receive instruction on this traditional African-American holiday. Taking Kwanzaa seriously is all part of the spirit of multiculturalism.

Except, of course, Kwanzaa isn’t traditional at all. It was invented in the late 1960s by convicted felon Ron Everett, leader of a so-called black nationalist group called United Slaves. I use the word “so-called” because United Slaves’ veneer of black nationalism was very thin; most of its members had been members of a South Central Los Angeles street gang called the Gladiators,…

In the early 1960s, these gangs were mostly concerned with petty and not-so-petty crime in the Los Angeles area, including the ever-popular practice of hitting up local merchants for protection money. By the late 1960s, however, they discovered that if they cloaked their activities in rhetoric of black nationalism, they could hit up not just the local pizza parlor, but great institutions of higher learning as well, most notably UCLA. Everett re-named himself Maulana Ron Karenga (“Maulana” we are told is Swahili for “master teacher”), donned an African dashiki, and invented Kwanzaa. And the radical chic folks at UCLA went into paroxysms of appreciation.

In theory, Kwanzaa is a Pan-African harvest holiday, except that it is not set at harvest time. And in theory, it celebrates the ties of African Americans to African culture, except that it purports to celebrate those ties using the East African language of Swahili when nearly all African Americans are descended from West African peoples.

But those are just details. Many of the best-loved holidays in the Christian calendar have traditions connected to them that don’t quite fit if you examine them too closely. But those rough edges have now been smoothed over by the long passage of time. No one really cares if the Christmas tree was once used to celebrate pagan holidays; many generations of credible Christians have earned the right to claim it as their own.

Kwanzaa is different. It has connections to still-living violent criminals. It is an insult to the African American community, very few of whom celebrate Kwanzaa and even fewer of whom would celebrate it if they knew the full story of its recent history, to suggest that it is an “African American holiday.” …

The beginning of the end for United Slaves as an organization came with a gun battle fought on the UCLA campus against the Black Panthers over which group would control the new Afro-American Studies Center (and its generous budget). In the end, two Black Panther leaders–Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter and John Jerome Huggins–were dead. Two members of United Slaves were convicted of their murder. …

No, Maulana Ron Karenga was not among them. But not long after the incident, Karenga proved himself to be every bit as brutal as his followers when he was charged and convicted of two counts of felonious assault and one count of false imprisonment.

The details of the crime as reported in the Los Angeles Times (and quoted recently by Paul Mulshine in an article for FrontPage magazine) are horrific. The paranoid Karenga began to suspect that the members of his organization were trying to poison him by placing “crystals” in his food and around the house. According to the Los Angeles Times:

“Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis’ mouth and placed against Miss Davis’ face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said.”

…Karenga spent time in prison for the act. But if you are worried are what has become of him, you needn’t be. He served only a few years. When he got out, he somehow convinced Cal State Long Beach to make him head of the African Studies Department. Happy Kwanzaa.

Indeed, Dr. Karenga does have a professorial website at Cal State Long Beach. It doesn’t mention his prison time that I could see, but the period 1970-75, when he was writing his dissertation, is empty of event. In those days prison terms for things like torture were brief, and of course many people (e.g. Hitler) have used their jail experience to write things they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten round to.

Categories: race, religion, social regulation Tags:

Rick Warren’s Invocation for the Obama Inauguration

December 22nd, 2008 No comments

Pastor Bayly writes very strongly on Rick Warren and why he should not have agreed to lead the invocation prayer at Obama’s presidential inauguration:

So everyone’s talking about Rick Warren’s payoff. He gets to pray in front of millions during Senator Obama’s inauguration, calling down God’s presence and blessing on a ceremony centered around the national politician most committed to the slaughter of his nation’s children taking God’s Name in vain as he falsely promises to uphold the Constitution of these United States.

Pastor Warren has more famously offended the Left by being against homosexual marriage and abortion. His invitation by Obama is clearly a conciliatory gesture by Obama to conservative Christians. As such, I think it is right for Warren to accept it. Neither Obama nor Warren are saying that they agree with the other’s views, though each does show a certain amount of respect for the other by agreeing to be thus involved. The question is whether Obama’s strong support for abortion– even for infanticide– should disqualify him from association with gentlemen. It seems to me that expressing abhorrent views is different from actually performing evil deeds. Perhaps even evil deeds should not be a disqualifier. Jesus did eat with open sinners. Participating in a government ceremony is much less intimate, and no more public than what Jesus did. Obama has been legitimately elected our President; should we now boycott government?

But that is all about whether Warren– or Bayly, or any minister– should do the invocation or not. Rick Warren does have a problem, though: he panders to The World. I’ll discuss various quotes from this AP story:

The 54-year-old pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California told the crowd of 500 that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to agree on everything all the time.

“You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand,” said Warren.

There is a difference between agreeing on 1 out of 100 things and agreeing on 99 out of 100 things. Warren is suggesting that he and Obama are in the second category, agreeing on everything important. It *is* wrong for Warren to walk hand in hand with Obama. That indicates agreement. I could imagine myself working in the Obama Administration as an economist, but I can’t imagine myself saying that I worked hand in hand with him. Some distance should be kept, even if Obama weren’t so wrong on abortion.

Warren said he prays for the same things for Obama that he prays for himself integrity, humility and generosity.

This is an extreme form of a bad habit of preachers: confessing to congregations
that they sin just as badly as their listeners do. Humility is not bad, but that isn’t humility. Instead, it just results in the preacher only talking about publicly acceptable sins such as pride or selfishness. I’ve never heard a preacher preach against child porn or crack cocaine and admitting that he’d just sinned that way himself last Wednesday.

In the present case, the humility is even thinner. Do we really think that Warren would agree with what he’s just implied– that Barack Obama lacks integrity, is proud, and is stingy to the poor? (otherwise, why pray for those things for him?)

Of course, if Pastor Warren really thinks abortion is wrong, then he should pray that God will forgiven Obama and change his mind about it.

… Warren also talked about singer Melissa Ethridge, who performed earlier in the evening. Warren said the two had a “wonderful conversation” and that he is a huge fan who has all her albums.

The openly lesbian gay rights activist even agreed to sign her Christmas album for him, he said.

This amounts to support for homosexuality. Warren can’t help liking her music, if he really does, but he should keep quiet about it. I like Wagner, but imagine this 1880s scene:

Warren also talked about composer Richard Wagner, whose works was performed earlier in the evening. Warren said the two had a “wonderful conversation” and that he is a huge fan who goes to all his operas.

The openly adulterous anti-semite even agreed to sign his program for him, he said.

I think Warren’s problem is that he wants everyone to like him. He wants his evangelical congregation to like him, so he has to oppose abortion. But he wants The World to like him, so he has to pretend it’s not a big deal. That way, too, he might even get feminists to like him because they’ll say, “For a fundamentalist he’s a pretty hip guy. I bet he just pretends to oppose abortion so he can keep his job.” That is the way that mainline church pastors used to be like around 1930, perhaps– officially opposing sin, but unofficially winking at the same time. Perhaps they even did oppose sin– just not enough to take a real stand against it in front of The World.

Warren has won kudos from some liberal quarters by focusing less on traditional conservative issues such as abortion and gay rights, and instead calling on evangelical leaders to devote more attention to eradicating poverty, fighting AIDS in Africa, expanding educational opportunity for the marginalized, and global warming.

The end of the article says:

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against gays, he has condemned same-sex marriage.

“I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,” he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

This doesn’t sound bad by itself, but, again, let’s change it a bit:

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against drug dealers, he has condemned heroin legalization.

“I have many drug-peddling friends. I’ve eaten dinner in the homes they bought with their drug money. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,” he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

There’s something wrong with this (what exactly? -it’s interesting to consider) and the same thing is wrong with his actual statement. I’d think better of him, actually, if he’d made the statement about drug dealers instead, because socializing with that kind of sinner is not the way to media popularity and he probably *would* be doing it from Christian love.

December 23: The LA Times has an op-ed that says Warren is openly orthodox on many key issues. For example:

…on the signal issues of the religious right he is, as he himself has said, as orthodox as James Dobson.

And as inflammatory. Warren doesn’t just oppose gay marriage, he’s compared it to incest and pedophilia. He doesn’t just want to ban abortion, he’s compared women who terminate pregnancies to Nazis and the pro-choice position to Holocaust denial…

Speaking of Jews, Warren has publicly stated his belief that they will burn in hell, presumably along with everyone else who hasn’t accepted his particular brand of Christianity (i.e., the vast majority of people in the world)…

At his Saddleback Church, wifely submission is official doctrine: The church website tells women to defer to their husband’s “leadership” even when he’s wrong on important issues, such as finances….

On “Hannity & Colmes,” he agreed that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should be killed because “the Bible says God puts government on Earth to punish evildoers.”

What are we to make of Pastor Warren? He’s written a best-selling book, so I don’t suppose it’s just that he has trouble expressing himself. Perhaps he just likes to agree with whoever he’s last talked to, and he talks to a great variety of people. Or perhaps he’s as I suggested in the post above, basically sound, but timid.

Yet more on Rick Warren. I looked at the Baylyblog’s 2005 post on Rick Warren. It’s downright embarassing how he boasts and name-drops. Some excerpts:

I read a book a day and I read tons of magazines, tons of articles, and I just devour enormous quantities of material, and thank God for the Internet…..

You know, when you speak to 23,000, 24,000 people every weekend, crowds don’t impress you anymore. … Last night, I was in Miami speaking to this huge international convention of all of the Spanish-language publishers and they gave me the city key to Miami, but really I would have more fun with you here today….

Bono called me the other day and said why don’t you come up to the U2 concert at the Staples Center because we’re both active in AIDS prevention. My wife and I have given millions to the prevention of AIDS….

Ten percent of the churches in America have now done 40 Days of Purpose and that’s just now. We will take another 10 to 15 thousand through it this year, and on and on and on. And there’s a little story of how that got started in churches and then it spread to corporations like Coca-Cola and Ford and Wal-Mart, and they started doing 40 Days of Purpose. And then it spread to all the sports teams. I spoke at the NBA All-Stars this year because all of the teams were doing 40 Days of Purpose. LPGA, NASCAR, most of the baseball teams – when the Red Sox were winning the World Series, they were going through 40 Days of Purpose during the Series. So the story of the 40 Days of Purpose is more than the story of the book. And maybe we can get back to why that touched such a nerve around the world, because The Purpose Driven Life is not just the best-selling book in American history; it’s the best-selling book in about a dozen languages. It’s in about 30 languages right now and that’s why I was at this meeting last night with the Spanish…

The three largest churches in America are Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, outside of Chicago; the Lakewood Church in Houston, which is on television, so you might have seen that one (the pastor is Joel Osteen); and then Saddleback is the largest church in America. We had our 25th anniversary on Easter this year. I did 12 services. We had 45,000 in attendance and I preached 12 services in a row.

…every pastor in America knew who I was because I put all of my sermons on an Internet site and it gets 400,000 hits a day from pastors.

I’ve spent the last 20 years training about 400,000 pastors in 162 countries. …Now, I’ve got three advanced degrees. I’ve had four years in Greek and Hebrew and I’ve got doctorates. …I was teaching this Purpose-Driven church seminar, and we simulcast it to 400 sites across the continent, and I trained in that time just about 90,000 pastors, in that one week. …Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. …I have an email newsletter called Rick’s Toolbox that goes out every Monday to almost 147,000 pastors. And I write a little note every Monday. I sit in my pajamas, hit the button, it goes to 147,000 pastors….

Last night I signed a book for Viktor Yuschenko, who asked for a copy of The Purpose Driven Life. A few months ago, I signed a Purpose Driven Life for Fidel Castro, who asked for one.

He doesn’t seem to ever think, just talk. That same blog post excerpts a Larry King interview in which King presses Warren on whether God caused Hurricane Katrina and Warren evades the repeated question clumsily, as if he really has no idea how to answer it and never heard of the Question of Evil. And what Warren says about his reception from audiences that should be hostile is revealing:

I’ve had two state dinners in China in Tienanmen Square and People’s Hall with their government, with the bureaucrats there, with the Cabinet members. I’ve actually had them in our home and had them in our church, and they’ve given me pretty much carte blanche in China for some reason.

When I went to Harvard a month ago, I honestly expected a pretty hostile audience – I’m an evangelical pastor and I’m going into Harvard. And I went in and I spoke four times and they gave me a standing ovation…

… when the book hit 15 million, I called up Rupert Murdoch and I said, “What are you going to do to celebrate my book?” And he goes, “Well, what do you want to do?” I go, “I want you to throw a party and I want you to invite all your secular elite friends from Manhattan and let me talk to them.” And he goes, “Okay.” (Chuckles.) So he sends out a list, he invited 350 people, who’s who in Manhattan to the top of the Rainbow Room, and I went up there and you know, I just started talking to them – again, standing ovation.

He just doesn’t realize what he’s saying. Here’s a bit of logic. Major Premise: Audience X is hostile to Christians. Minor Premise: Audience X was not hostile to Rick Warren. Conclusion—you draw it.

I was wondering whether the problem was that Warren had perhaps never gone to seminary and studied the Bible and theology in classes. But the interview quoted above says otherwise. I guess he illustrates that “discernment” really is a spiritual gift. He has a pathological lack of it.

Something else. From a comment on the Baylyblog post cited above:

John Aravosis of Americablog noticed on Friday that Rick Warren’s church website explicitly bans gay people “unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle” from membership at Saddleback. (They are allowed, however, to attend services.)

Now Warren has removed the anti-gay language from the church website.

That’s bad. But I found something else that shows that Warren is actually much worse than I’d thought, though– that he knowingly perverts Christianity, and, more shocking to an academic like me even though it shouldn’t be, he intentionally misquotes the Bible. T

The Gospel: A Method or a Message? How the Purpose Driven Life Obscures the Gospel by Bob DeWaay is a very good essay on Warren’s misuse of the Bible and his hazy, bad, theology.

Rick Warren begins the first day of his journey by saying, “It’s not about you” (Warren: 17). Yet the entire book “feels” like it is about you and reads like self-help literature. He dedicates the book to “you” on the first page after the copyright information and uses the pronoun “you” continually throughout the book. Consider the following from day eight:

You were planned for God’s pleasure. The moment you were born into the world God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. . . . Bringing enjoyment to God, living for his pleasure, is the first purpose of your life. When you fully understand this truth, you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant. It proves your worth. If you are that important to God, and he considers you valuable enough to keep with him for eternity, what greater significance could you have? (Warren: 63).

His statement that this is not about “you” is disingenuous (insincere). His style, word usage, Man-centeredness, distorted Bible translations, and many overt statements show that the book is about you!


Earlier I mentioned that reading The Purpose Driven Life and checking it out with the Bible is a tedious task. Let me illustrate this using one of Warren’s Bible references. Here is Warren’s quote, “The Bible says, ‘Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self’” (Warren: 19). There is an endnote that takes us to the back of the book. Once there, looking for endnote 3, we have to figure out which of the forty days we are in. So with one finger in the endnote section, we go back to where we started to find out we were in day one. Now we go back to the end note section for day one and find out the reference is to Matthew 16:25 Msg. Assuming that msg is not the food additive, we proceed to the section in the back of the book that tells us the meaning of the abbreviations, and we find out that it is from a Bible called The Message. Now, having determined what passage is under consideration, we get out a real Bible (not a paraphrase) and find out what Matthew 16:25 says. Here it is: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).

Now we need to compare Matthew 16:25 with The Message perversion of it. In the context, Jesus was speaking of dying to self by taking up one’s cross (Matthew 16:24). The cross was not a burden to bear, but an executioner’s device. A person seen carrying his cross had literally been sentenced to death and was on the way to the place where he would be executed. So the person who “loses his life” is the one who has died to all hopes and dreams that the “self” ever had in this life. He is willing to suffer the loss of everything, even life itself if need be, for the sake of the gospel. His reward is eternal life. …

Having established the meaning of Matthew 16:25 in context, now we must return to the verse as cited by Warren: “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.” Matthew 16:25 is not discussing self-help, it is discussing life and death. Matthew 16:25 is not discussing “finding your true self.” The idea of a “true self” is a term of psychology and is not found in the Bible. Matthew 16:25 is not talking about self-sacrifice, it is talking about dying to self…. Warren’s version of the passage suggests that by self-sacrifice we find our “true selves.” All false religions teach self-sacrifice, and finding one’s true self is a New Age lie. The truth of the gospel is that we must die to self through the cross and put all of our hope in Christ by faith in His finished work.

Now, having established that The Message does not even have the same concepts as the Biblical passage it claims to be a paraphrase of, let’s return to Warren’s book and see how Warren uses it. He uses it to show that we need to find out the purposes God created us for. He says, “It is about becoming what God created you to be” (Warren: 19). Now we have been Bereans, searched the Scriptures, and found that Warren is abusing them. He has obscured the clear gospel message in Matthew 16:24, 25 and replaced it with a spiritual journey to find the “true self.” So Warren ostensibly is telling us we do not need self-help and then sends us on a self-sacrificing journey to find our true self (which is self-help). …

The essay ends like this:

In 1982 Robert Schuller announced his plans for a new reformation based on self_esteem.3 His stated purpose was to make theology less God-centered and more man-centered. Now that Rick Warren has sold eleven million copies of the Purpose Driven Life, he too wants a new reformation. He is promoting a PEACE plan to solve the world’s five biggest problems.4 Apparently, the church needs a new reformation every twenty years. What happened to Schuller’s reformation?

Thinking about this and carefully studying Warren’s book, I have come to the conclusion that Rick Warren is completely in step with Schuller’s reformation, and is carrying it forward in a way that is more appealing to evangelicals (whether or not he is consciously following Schuller). Warren’s man-centered theology comes with more evangelical ideas than does Schuller’s. Warren includes many more Biblical truths than Schuller ever did. In my opinion this makes Warren more deceptive than Schuller. Schuller ignored the Bible and depended on psychological concepts. Warren uses perverted Bible translations that change God-centered passages to man-centered passages. By carefully selecting the right mistranslation for each of his teaching points he has made the man-centered theology touted by Schuller seem Biblical.

Now Warren wants to reform the church to focus on social action rather than gospel preaching. Wow! Look how far we have come. One of these times this man-centered reformation will succeed. When it does the modern evangelical church will be the latest incarnation of liberalism.5

Each of us must choose between a man-centered, man-made method loosely derived from parts of the Bible and the clear message of the gospel. Rick Warren promotes the former, a broad path with millions of fellow travelers; John MacArthur promotes the latter, a narrow path that few follow.

The gospel is based on a crucified Jewish Messiah, a concept offensive to all sinners. However, to those who embrace the scandal of the cross and by faith escape the just wrath of God, that gospel is the power of God for salvation. Dear reader, you have a choice between a spiritual journey to discover your purpose and the message of the gospel that declares God’s purposes. The one will make you think you are on the path to heaven when you may not be, the other will put you on the path to heaven by God’s sovereign power. I urge you to embrace the gospel on God’s terms.

Categories: obama, politics, religion Tags:


December 18th, 2008 No comments

From a Pew Forum, via Parish the Thought:

An interesting factoid about Catholics that I’ll throw in just for your titillation is that about a third of all people born into Catholicism no longer consider themselves to be Catholic. That is fully 10 percent of the adult population. Ten percent of the adult population. Ex-Catholics outnumber every Protestant denomination except Baptists.

Categories: religion Tags:

Will There be Lawyers in Heaven?

December 10th, 2008 1 comment

A few weeks ago, I was struck by a line in Abraham Kuyper’s “Lectures on Calvinism” (1898), one of the great (and accessible!) modern Protestant works on politics and law. In a world without sin, Kuyper wrote, “every rule and ordinance and law would drop away, even as all control and assertion of the power of the magistrate would disappear.” Heaven, he suggests, is no place for law or lawyers.

We lawyers come in for a lot of abuse, much of it justified, but I’m not so sure our work will disappear in heaven. The conclusion that law and thus lawyers will be unnecessary seems to assume that in heaven we will be all seeing and all knowing, and all complexity will simply disappear. I’m not sure where that assumption comes from; it doesn’t seem especially consistent with the hints of heaven, with all its richness and diversity, that we get in the Bible. The absence of sin doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of complexity, and where there is complexity law and lawyers seem to have a role to play. (Professor Skeel)

Can we think of examples of situations where people of good will would find lawyers useful? Here’s one. Suppose two people are making an agreement about who will do which tasks before they meet again. A lawyer is useful for making sure they’ve covered all contingencies and that they really understand each other. “Contracts” are useful even if nobody expects a court to have to enforce them, just to clarify meaning, and ordinary people aren’t all that good at making clear agreements.

Any other examples?

Categories: law, religion Tags:

David Frum on Christmas

December 8th, 2008 No comments

David Frum writes on how Jews should deal with Christmas.

Categories: religion Tags:

Roman-Protestant Conversions

December 4th, 2008 No comments

From First Things:

That “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey” issued by the Pew Research Center last February continues to be sliced and diced by various analysts, including Robert Benne, who writes in The Cresset, a magazine published by Valparaiso University. “Continuing the list of surprises about Catholicism,” Benne writes, “ten percent of all Protestants are former Catholics but eight percent of Catholics are former Protestants. … “The big difference,” he says, “is that they aim at the weakest Catholics while we aim at the strongest evangelicals.” The claim is that evangelicals who are more theologically versed and religiously committed are more open to Catholicism, while Catholics who become evangelicals were, for whatever reason, alienated from Christianity. Put differently, religiously serious evangelicals are more likely to become Catholic, while religiously lapsed Catholics are more likely to become evangelicals.
… Some while back, I spoke at an Episcopal parish in the Northeast and afterward had dinner with the members of the vestry. Ten of the fourteen members present were former Catholics, and seven of them said they would be Catholics today if it were not for their divorces that prevented them from receiving Holy Communion. The pastor of an evangelical megachurch who says more than half his members are former Catholics tells me, with a smile, “I hope you guys don’t change your rules on divorce and remarriage.”

Categories: religion Tags:

Is The World Evil?

November 29th, 2008 1 comment

Three Hierarchies quotes Newman thus:

One literature may be better than another, but bad will be the best, when weighed in the balance of truth and morality. It cannot be otherwise; human nature is in all ages and all countries the same; and its literature, therefore, will ever and everywhere be one and the same also. Man’s work will savour of man; in his elements and powers excellent and admirable, but prone to disorder and excess, to error and to sin. Such too will be his literature; it will have the beauty and the fierceness, the sweetness and the rankness, of the natural man, and, with all its richness and greatness, will necessarily offend the senses of those who, in the Apostle’s words, are really “exercised to discern between good and evil.”

Newman’s hostile admiration to secular literature is perhaps in the same spirit as ascetism generally: if it feels good, don’t do it. This has both Protestant and Roman Catholic versions. I suppose it’s like the gnostic view that the body is bad. The other, correct, view is that God gave us the world to enjoy rather than as a damning distraction.

Categories: art, religion Tags:

Divine Law versus Natural Law

November 28th, 2008 2 comments

The distinction between divine law and natural law is that natural law can be deduced by man by introspection and observation, but divine law is revealed only by direct communication from God. One question is whether divine law can ever contradict natural law. Or, perhaps a little different:

Is a sin evil because God forbids it, or does God forbid it because it is evil?

In considering this question it is useless to think about sins that are forbidden by both natural and divine law, sins such as murder, theft, and adultery (in their traditional, uncontroversial, contexts). Rather, the question becomes important in situations such as the following: Is it okay to divorce a man for wife-beating? Did God really command the Israelites to slaughter Canaanite children? Is it just for people to be damned when they never had a chance to hear the Gospel?

As these examples indicate, the question bears heavily on the fundamentals of Christianity. If God forbids sins because they are evil, we are saying that we have a reason independent from God for thinking something is evil, and that reason trumps any reason we might derive from the Bible or systematic theology. Thus, if we believe that killing children is always wrong, so a good God could not command it, we must either reject God’s goodness or reject the books of Genesis (Abraham and Isaac), Joshua (the Canaanites), and Kings (I think— David and the Amalekites).

I think it’s important to believe that sins are wrong because God forbids them, not the reverse. Here are some reasons:

1. Otherwise you must reject the reliability of the Bible. This is not just a rejection of inerrancy: you must reject substantial portions,and, implicitly, all of the Bible that refrains from condemning those portions.

2. Because we are all biased when it comes to our own actions, when we are deriving natural law we will tend to exclude our own misdeeds from being called sins.

3. Because we are all culturally biased, when we are deriving natural law we will tend to exclude misdeeds that our own culture allows from being called sins.

4. Otherwise we have in effect replaced God with a higher divinity, the source of natural law, in which case we should move directly to worship of that divinity.

Note that if you are willing to throw out Christianity altogether, these reasons disappear. Indeed, that is the response of some people. They acknowledge, correctly, that the Christian God’s law conflicts with what we think is right and wrong in our culture, and they conclude, incorrectly, that He is not God. In effect, our culture is their god.

Categories: law, religion Tags:

Slate’s Exchange between Kmiec and Douhat on Abortion

November 23rd, 2008 1 comment

Slate had an exchange between Douglas Kmiec and Ross Douhat that shows very well the approach of the feminized male to political thinking and discussion, the European social philosophy leftism of even conservative Roman Catholics, the gullible bandwagon-jumping of so many Christians, and, perhaps, the “emergent church” attitude.

To summarize: Professor Kmiec (a devout Catholic and a former high Reagan official, remarkably) argued that anti-abortion people should really vote for Barack Obama, because he would spend more on anti-poverty programs that would reduce abortion, appointing anti-Roe judges reduces the quality of the judiciary, and regulating abortion makes Republicans the party of hate, not love. Mr. Douhat responded by attacking these claims and calling Kmiec a fool and a shill for liberals. Kmiec responded by saying how cruel Douhat was, forgiving him, and offering to pray for him. Carlson responded by saying that Kmiec should act like a man, and Douhat was right anyway.

Here are excerpts. Kmiec II and Carlson are the most fun to read.

Kmiec I:

Republicans have been trying to sell themselves for so long on the basis of judicial appointments and the supposed “fifth vote” to overturn Roe, sometimes you wonder if they realize how selecting judges on that basis disserves the rule of law. …

The Democrats had a brilliant strategy on abortion this year: Don’t play the futile court speculation game. Instead, Obama’s team promoted life in ways that don’t depend upon a Supreme Court vacancy and cooperating nominee. Specifically, Obama had the Dems commit to promote life with enhanced social and economic assistance. This idea had traction—the Catholic vote literally switched from Republican to Democrat, going (in preliminary numbers) 55-45 for Obama nationwide, which is amazing given the amount of outright lies and falsehoods the GOP was purveying about the president-elect on this issue. (Not to mention the co-conspiring clergy the Republicans captured, who were literally preaching that voters would go to hell for voting for Barack.) The Republicans became the party of fear and damnation rather than solution or respect for life. As a consequence, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia are in the Democratic, not the Republican, column.

It’s admittedly hard to untie the abortion knot, but here’s a thought: Republicans could have moved a constitutional amendment that would presume life to begin at conception, while further providing that no government, federal or state, is competent to legislate on the question absent a supermajority. The effect? Taking the Supreme Court’s “activist” thumb off the scale against life while at the same time avoiding the criminalization of a woman’s freedom. This is not the ideal Catholic position, but it’s closer, and the Catholic Church has less standing to complain about a grant of freedom that could then be fairly influenced by the moral instruction associated with a woman’s religious choice….

Finally, beyond these somewhat wonkish ideas for policy innovation, Republicans ought to remember occasionally that they are—or at least were—the party of Lincoln, and ought to promote civil and human rights. That is better than dragging one’s feet on reasonable ways to break up the systematic racism or gender stereotypes that still inhabit much of our culture.

Douhat 1:

The trouble with seeking common ground on abortion is that the legal regime enacted by Roe and reaffirmed in Casey permits only the most minimal regulation of the practice, which means that any plausible “compromise” that leaves Roe in place will offer almost nothing to pro-lifers. Even the modest restrictions that prevail in many European countries (and that, not coincidentally, coincide with lower abortion rates) are out of the question under the current legal dispensation. This, in turn, explains why the national debate inevitably revolves around the composition of the Supreme Court and the either/or question of whether a president will appoint justices likely to chip away the Roe-Casey regime or justices likely to uphold it. …

…to my mind any pro-choice American who sincerely seeks a national consensus on the subject of abortion should support overturning Roe and returning the issue to the democratic process—a position that I would have liked to see the pro-choice Rudy Giuliani experiment with, for instance, in his quest to become the GOP nominee. But I certainly understand why pro-choicers don’t see things quite that way.

What I don’t understand at all is Kmiec’s position, which seems to be that the contemporary Democratic Party, and particularly the candidacy of Barack Obama, offered nearly as much to pro-lifers as the Republican Party does. I am sure that Kmiec is weary of being called a fool by opponents of abortion for his tireless pro-Obama advocacy during this election cycle, but if so, then the thing for him to do is to cease acting like the sort of person for whom the term “useful idiot” was coined, rather than persisting in his folly. …

…what he calls “outright lies and falsehoods” about Obama’s views were, in fact, more or less the truth: The Democratic nominee ran on a record that can only be described as “very, very pro-choice,” and his stated positions on abortion would involve rolling back nearly all the modest—but also modestly effective—restrictions that pro-lifers have placed upon the practice and/or appointing judges who would do the same. There may have been reasons for anti-abortion Americans to vote for Barack Obama in spite of his position that abortion should be essentially unregulated and funded by taxpayer dollars. But Kmiec’s suggestion that Obama took the Democrats in anything like a pro-life direction on the issue doesn’t pass the laugh test. (And nor, I might add, does his bizarre argument that because the goal of placing a fifth anti-Roe justice on the court is somehow unrealistic, the pro-life movement should pursue a far more implausible constitutional amendment instead.)…

I can’t begin to fathom why the GOP should consider taking any advice whatsoever from a “pro-lifer” who has spent the past year serving as an increasingly embarrassing shill for the opposition party’s objectively pro-abortion nominee.

Kmiec 2:

I am stunned by the coarseness of your writing, Ross. While we have not met, so little of what you have written is in any way respectful or acknowledges that you are addressing not some abstraction but a fellow human that I can only pray that if any of your family or closest friends come into contact with this commentary that they reach out to you in the most gentle and understanding way, without precondition, to calm an anger that is harmful to the soul.

Genuine love and affection do not reside on the Internet, so I cannot extend it to you, but in my heart, I forgive your great unkindness. I do hope you can free yourself from its enslavement. Realize that your meaning is bound up in the occasions in your life to be of service. Ross, once you allow yourself to see your dependence upon others, and their need for you, I am certain you will appreciate the cruelty of what you have written…. One could sense that anger in the mobs riled by Mrs. Palin’s tirades about Obama being in a conspiracy of some sort with Bill Ayers. It was frightening to see on tape, and it is even uglier to see it rear its head here.

Ross, you are not ordinary in God’s eyes; nor are the women facing abortion as a tragic answer to a dismal, impoverished, and near-hopeless existence. Ross, you and she are brother and sister made in God’s image and are expected to be of help to one another. That is a lesson for the Republicans.

If it be useful idiocy to save even one child from death by lifting up the economic or social prospects of the mother, I accept the title as an honor among men. It is pro-life. If it is hypocritical not to want to treat as criminal the woman abandoned by the selfishness of an abusive spouse, I embrace the hypocrisy. It, too, is pro-life. …

…in the reminder from Benedict XVI, St. Paul admonished Christians to be reconciled with their brothers before receiving Holy Communion; and Pope Benedict echoes his words: “Each time you come to the altar for the celebration of the Eucharist, may your souls open to forgiveness and fraternal reconciliation, ready to accept the excuses of those who have hurt you and ready, in your turn, to forgive.”

Carlson (in full):

Hey, Doug. Toughen up. Seriously. I’ve read suicide notes that were less passive-aggressive than this. Let’s review what actually happened: You argued that Obama is not a pro-choice extremist. Ross disagreed. Rather than respond with a counterpoint, you got hysterical, dismissing Ross as a hater, even fretting about the future of his soul.

Come on. Get some perspective. And for God’s sake, stop whining. For a moment there, you reminded me of the McCain campaign, bitching about “sexism” when people started to ask tough questions of Sarah Palin. Republicans didn’t used to talk this way. Let’s stop the trend now, starting with you.

I understand it must have hurt when Ross accused you of shilling for Obama. On the other hand, he’s right. You did shill for Obama. That’s not Ross’ fault. Don’t blame him.

But if you are going to blame him, do it directly, like a man, without all the encounter-group talk and Pope quotes. People often attack the religious right, sometimes with justification. But as you just reminded us, there is nothing in the world more annoying than the religious left.

Douhat II:

Douglas, Tucker, Jim, Kathleen, and Christine,

I don’t want to hijack this entire discussion, so let me just say that I appreciate Douglas Kmiec’s prayers and leave it at that.

I do, however, want to second Tucker’s earlier point about the importance of finding candidates who can actually communicate. Going back to Bush the elder,…

November 24. There’s been speculation as to why Prof. Kmiec would make such a weak case for Obama. Could it be that he’s so serious about ending abortion that he’s hoping Obama will appoint him to the Supreme Court, so he himself can be the “Fifth Vote” and reverse Roe?

Categories: abortion, elections, religion Tags:

Does the Bible Esteem Happiness?

November 23rd, 2008 1 comment

That’s a good question my wife asked me. Answering it will involve a bit of word study, since it seems that Hebrew’s asher (ק ר א) and Greek’s makarios (&mu &alpha &kappa &alpha &rho &omicron &sigma) (sp?), which the King James Version translate as “happy” mean it in the sense “blessed”, so “joy” or “delight” might be the word to focus on. See, too, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Hooker. I wonder what Calvin and Luther have to say? I should also let Professor Kimball know what I find, since he gave an econ seminar last week on happiness as one of multiple goals.

Categories: religion, research Tags:

Creationism and Creeds

November 22nd, 2008 1 comment

Three Hierarchies has been discussing how one Lutheran bishop has elevated six-day creationism as an indisputable part of Lutheran doctrine. This kind of thing is one of my pet peeves with evangelicals. Let’s put aside for argument the question of whether God created the Earth in six days some 5000 years ago, and concentrate on the importance of this doctrinal point. Is it really on the same level of importance as the bodily resurrection,transubstantiation, salvation by faith alone, and suchlike? No. In fact, the topic was of no more than minor interest before 1880 or so. People did think about it– Augustine famously considered six-day creationism absurd– but it was a matter of explaining a particular Bible passage.

The main defense for insisting on creationism is that it is a good indicator of a person’s views on more important topics. That is indeed a good general argument. One of the “Five Fundamentals” was the Virgin Birth. That is doctrine trivial in itself, but it is a good indicator of whether a person believes in miracles, prophecy, and Scripture. Creationism serves as an indicator of inerrancy, but it is not a good one. A person can believe the Bible is inerrant without believing in six-day creation, by simply treating Genesis 1 as a metaphor, a reasonable thing to do given its style and context. A person can also believe in six-day creation without believing the Bible is reliable, by believing that Genesis is reliable but nothing outside the Torah (an Orthodox Jew, for example, would reject the New Testament).

A second defense would be that belief in creationism is a good indicator of a person’s willingness to buck the conventional wisdom. It shows you are willing to believe something that seems ridiculous to modern intellectuals. That is a good willingness to have, but this is not ground well chosen for exercising it. For one thing, belief in the bodily resurrection does about as well in showing that you are willing to contradict secularists, and that is a far more central doctrine. For another, creationism is highly culture-bound, unlike most other doctrines. As I said before, anybody before 1880 would wonder why it was so prominent, whereas the bodily resurrection has always been a point of contention between believers and unbelievers. For another, the particular method of creation has no implications for actual behavior, so it is picking a fight on a purely intellectual ground, without convicting anyone of sin. A better issue, though equally non-central and particular to our culture, would be the sinfulness of homosexuality. That doctrine is undisputably biblical, and much more offensive to modern unbelievers. If Christians are going to look unreasonable, let us do it on issues that really get other people riled up because they actually matter.

Categories: religion Tags:

The Chronology of the Crucifixion

November 9th, 2008 1 comment

Pastor Bayly preached a good sermon on Matthew 26 today, the chapter were Jesus tells the disciples at the Last Supper that one of them will betray him. Some ideas:

1. Judas must have been particularly trusted, since he was in charge of the money. He must have thought that he had no time to spare in betraying Jesus, once Jesus had said one of the disciples was to betray him.

2. The Last Supper was not the Passover meal. Passover was to start the next evening, when the Passover meal would be served. The Last Supper was during the Day of Preparation, when the lamb is killed. Jesus was to be killed that day, and there would be no more Passover meals. The Last Supper instituted a substitute.

3. When the Gospels speak of “the Sabbath”, they don’t necessarily mean a Saturday. Instead, they might mean a special day of rest, such as Passover or Yom Kippur. That was the case here.

Categories: religion Tags:

Surviving versus Living

November 2nd, 2008 No comments

I told my Bible study group about this Bill Stuntz post today.

…Medical care is usually about maximizing time itself, about keeping the patient’s heart beating as long as possible. But time isn’t what I want to maximize. Longevity is fine, but life is what matters. And those two words are definitely not synonyms.

Which leads to a crucial characteristic of chemotherapy, at least as I’ve experienced it. Chemo is a strange beast: it restores life by first killing it….

“Killing” is the right word. Forget the many side effects that are too gross to describe. Chemo drains the life from its recipients. …

… I’ve read and heard a good many stories of stage 4 cancers over the past few months, and in more than a few of them, the patient spends his or her last years—the number of years can be considerable—oscillating between yet another surgery to remove the latest tumor, and more months of chemo to slow the cancer’s spread. They call it “extending life,” and sometimes, that’s what the treatment does—but other times the label misleads; patients survive but don’t really live. Which is why this week’s news seemed so joyous: my oncologist told me that, when I resume chemo after this summer’s thoracic surgery, the dosages of the drugs can be dialed back, and if I so choose, dialed back a lot. Thanks be to God: I can do more than survive; I still have some living to do. Before I heard that news, I was starting to wonder.

… Doctors see their job as fixing the broken places in our ailing bodies. When it comes to the kinds of brokenness that can be repaired, that is as it should be. But there is another set of medical problems that cannot be fixed: cancers that won’t disappear, pains that will last as long as life does. When it comes to those problems, repair is not the proper goal. A better word is redemption: the enterprise of carving out some space, however small, for life—not mere survival—in the midst of diseases that seek to squelch it.

Oncologists are better on this score than most doctors, probably because they see the destructive character of the treatments they administer up close. Even so, the tendency to equate success with survival is strong. Too much so, I think: that tendency needs resisting. I suspect I’m far from alone in saying that survival holds little appeal for me. I want to live—for as much time, or as little, as I have left.

That mind-set follows naturally from my faith, I believe—but a good many of my fellow believers seem to disagree. One of the more surprising aspects of Christian culture in our time and place is the widespread embrace of longevity and survival not just as moral goods, but as moral imperatives. That embrace seemed all too evident in the Terri Schiavo controversy of a few years back, and in the long-running conversation about medical treatment of dying patients. I’m no fan of euthanasia, but I’m also no fan of the idea that physical longevity is a morally proper goal in circumstances like Schiavo’s—or in circumstances like mine. Just because medicine can sustain the body for awhile longer, that doesn’t mean it should always do so. Life is more than a beating heart. And life is what we should be seeking. The good news is, if you look in the right places, it’s usually there to be found.

Categories: living, religion Tags:

Learning Hebrew

October 15th, 2008 No comments

John Parsons has a good Biblical Hebrew site, Hebrew for Christians. The page I’ve linked has the ABCD song with Hebrew letters, nicely done, and if you click on the letters on that page, you get interesting tidbits of information

The Scriptures begin with the book of Genesis, but in Hebrew this book is named after its first word: [Hebrew omitted] (bereshit). The first letter of revelation from the LORD, then, was the Bet found in this word….

Note: The sole difference between the letter Bet and the letter Vet is the presence or absence of the dot in the middle of the letter (called a dagesh mark). When you see the dot in the middle of this letter, pronounce it as a “b”; otherwise, pronounce it as a “v.”

Categories: religion Tags:

Rick Warren

August 24th, 2008 1 comment

I blogged back in 2006 on Pastor Rick Warren, whose words range from pandering to liberals to the fatuous to the perceptive. He did a good job with the Saddleback interviews of Obama and McCain, I think, choosing some good questions for them. I came across something else to count in his favor in a 2008 New Republic article by Alan Wolfe (my boldfacing):

I have yet to let Jesus enter my life, but I admire Warren. We once appeared on a panel together along with Harvard’s Peter Gomes at the Aspen Ideas Festival. When it came time for questions, a woman stood up, proclaimed her Judaism, and asked Warren if she was going to burn in hell. He paused before responding–and then answered her question the only way it could be answered. Yes, he said to audible gasps. My reaction was that either you believe that Jesus is the savior or you do not, and I found myself impressed that Warren remained true to his convictions, knowing full well that the audience would not like what he said.

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Obama and McCain on Evil

August 20th, 2008 No comments

Here’s more from the Saddleback Church interviews of McCain and Obama, on the question of evil. The transcript of the Obama interview says:

WARREN: … Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?

OBAMA: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, now, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God’s task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil’s been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.

WARREN: In the name of good.

OBAMA: In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.

The transcript of the McCain interview says:

WARREN: … Does evil exist and, if so, should ignore it, negotiate it with it, contain it or defeat it?

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple of points. One, if I’m president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that. And I know how to do that. I will get that done. (APPLAUSE). No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American — innocent American lives.

Of course, evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcended challenge of the 21st century — radical Islamic extremism.

Not long ago in Baghdad, al Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled, and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and, by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn’t evil, you have to tell me what is. And we’re going to defeat this evil. And the central battleground according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden is the battle, is Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Iraq and we are winning and succeeding and our troops will come home with honor and with victory and not in defeat. And that’s what’s happening.

And we have — and we face this threat throughout the world. It’s not just in Iraq. It’s not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us al Qaeda continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America. My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge. And we must totally defeat it, and we’re in a long struggle. But when I’m around, the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubt, none.

Obama’s position is correct. Evil exists, and we should confront it, we will not defeat it completely, and there is evil within us.

McCain, however, is right in saying that we should and will defeat evil. We will not defeat all evil, but we will defeat some of it. He does not address the problem of evil generally, only in one area of national policy.

McCain’s answer is more impressive than Obama’s because he is inspiring and specific. You can tell he really means it. He sees specific evil, and he has specific plans to defeat it.

Obama is vague in his examples of evil, and he doesn’t seem to have either much interest in defeating it or specific plans. Evil is seen “all the time”: “in Darfur”, “on the streets of our cities”, and “in parents who viciously abuse their children”. Obama sounds like a politician who makes excuses for defeat even before he starts, because he doesn’t really want to address the problems. He is going to “confront” evil, not “fight evil” or “defeat evil”. He is most concerned that in confronting these evils we will not perpetrate evil ourselves. “Let’s not be too hasty in trying to end evil” is his message.

THe next day. I should add another excerpt. It is from just before McCain is asked about evil. They are talking about abortion and stem-cell research. What is interesting about it is that when the topic shifted to Evil, McCain did not mention abortion, even though the topic had just come up.

WARREN: OK. (APPLAUSE). All right.

Another issue, stem cells. We’ve had the scientific break-through of
creating pluri-potent (ph) stem cells through adult stem cells.


WARREN: So would you favor or oppose the federal funding of embryonic
stem cell research since we had this other break-through?

MCCAIN: For those of us in the pro-life community this has been a
great struggle and a terrible dilemma because we’re also taught other
obligations that we have as well. I’ve come down on the side of stem
cell research. But I am wily optimistic that skin cell research, which
is coming more and more into focus and practicability, will make this
debate an academic one.

WARREN: How about the issue of evil. I asked this of your rival, in
the previous debate. Does evil exist and, if so, should ignore it,
negotiate it with it, contain it or defeat it?

MCCAIN: Defeat it. A couple of points. One, if I’m president of the
United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of
hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that.
And I know how to do that. I will get that done. (APPLAUSE). No one,
no one should be allowed to take thousands of American — innocent
American lives….

Categories: obama, religion Tags: