Saturday, December 30, 2006

Video Game Venom: "Gears of War" Review

Words fail me--and that's rare. Read this review of AOL's "Video Game of the Year," and think of what it is doing to the souls of millions of people around the world. Consider also the soul-less, amoral attitude of the writer. It utterly stuns me that human beings would spend countless hours in these hellish virtual environments. But, then again, humans are dreadfully fallen. It is even worse that this kind of cyber excrement is publicly lauded. It is one thing to hide vice and relish its evils secretly; it is quite another to shout it from the rooftops as does this article.

Well, I guess words did not entirely fail me. The last word goes to Scripture:

"But those who fail to find me [the wisdom of God] harm themselves; all who hate me love death."--Proverbs 8:36.


Review : Gears of War
Microsoft's PlayStation 3 killer is an action filled blood bath.
by Chris Buffa


Epic's Xbox 360 game Gears of War has been injected with so much testosterone that the disc should grow hair. There's nothing in this game that isn't ridiculously big, covered in dirt, and infected with a bad attitude. Hell, even the grenades look mean. Anti-violence crusaders will no doubt retch when confronted with the blood and guts splattering the screen, but for everyone else, Gears is a big-budget blockbuster chock full of monsters, weapons, and mayhem.

The game actually has a pretty decent story that chronicles the war between humans and a race of creatures known as the Locust Horde. The main character, a mean looking soldier named Marcus Fenix, has been tasked with saving the world. Naturally, nothing goes according to plan, things get FUBAR, and a small team of army guys find themselves stuck in the middle of hell (not literally, however). There's certainly more to the story, but let's skip the formalities. Gears of War is all about grabbing a gigantic machine gun and killing big, ugly monsters that die about as well as any glorified Hollywood stuntman. Blood erupts from wounds, heads explode, and dismembered body parts fly in multiple directions. It's a gorgeous display of war at its absolute worst, a fabulous combination of delectable gameplay and luscious visuals that are shock and awe at its most demonic. It's also akin to watching Robocop for the very first time. Despite the gore, despite the all of the offensive material, it's the coolest damn thing, the type of experience that begs for a replay mode, just so the best kills are seen a billion times.


Friday, December 29, 2006

The New Nihilists

A Noncreed for 2007

We are the new nihilists.

We don't care much for philosophy, theology.
We can’t tell you what they mean.
But "whatever" is what does the trick.
"Whatever" is the scene.

Nihilist sounds cool; awesome right now; so nihilists we are.

We cram our heads with lots of cool stuff.
We take it wherever we go.
We love our designer world, we create it wherever we are.
Don't bluff me with your call to truth, we're too busy with the show.

iPods and Palm Pilots and Cell phones and MySpace,
YouTube and Second Life and Digital Cameras.

We're spiritual, you know.
We're real, it's true.
We've picked out our iTunes.
They make us the rule.

iPods and PalmPilots and Cell phones and MySpace,
YouTube and Second Life and Digital Cameras.

No time for books.
They don't even move.
We're busy with data.
That's the real groove.

iPods and PalmPilots and Cell phones and MySpace,
YouTube and Second Life and Digital Cameras.

Posing and morphing, dig the digital fix.
We crave the unreal whatever the mix.

Nihilist sounds cool; awesome right now; so nihilists we are.

God, yeah sure.
I guess God must be there.
But whatever the God,
He must fit with my hair.

Download that God
Bring him right in
Download the sacred
Right now on my iPod.

Posing and morphing, dig the digital fix.
We crave the unreal whatever the mix.

iWorld, iChoice, iRock.

Whatever… We are the new nihlists. Yeah.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fifteeen Refusals for 2007

In good curmudgeonly fashion, I will forgo the tradition of resolutions for 2007. Instead, I offer refusals, negations, denials. I soon turn 50 after the beginning of the year, so these refusals are born out of the gravity of aging and the thirst to make the most of the time God gives us in this vaporous life. But with every refusal comes an "instead," or an affirmation. Every true curmudgeon (in the sense defined and, I hope, illustrated on this blog) denies only because he is utterly enthralled by the transcendent Ideal, the divine Yes.

1. I refuse to waste time on trivia: that means 95% of popular culture. Instead, I will center on study, teaching, preaching, writing, and mentoring.
2. I refuse to accept the anti-intellectualism (and even misology) of American evangelicalism. Instead I will teach, preach, and write in ways that demand concentration; I will write what ignites the intellect; I will preach as deeply as I can and dare you to come with me.
3. I refuse to dumb down anything, anywhere, any time. Instead I will inspire people to rise to the occasion intellectually.
4. I refuse to join those Christians who seldom read or reflect on the Bible. Instead I will read it, reread it, study it, memorize it, and meditate on it. I will try to incorporate it increasingly into my thoughts and words.
5. I refuse to seek no more than "personal peace and affluence" (as Francis Schaeffer put it thirty years ago) for my life. Instead, I will contribute to Kingdom endeavors here and abroad.
6. I refuse to tolerate bad preaching, superficial books, or kitschy Christian culture (Precious Moments, Thomas Kinkaide, etc., ad nauseum). Instead I will seek out the best, praise it, and challenge underachievers to climb higher.
7. I refuse to ever play a video game. Instead, I will look for Kingdom opportunities in the land of the living.
8. I refuse to waste time on small talk. Instead, I will endeavor to make all my words count for eternity.
9. I refuse to speak in cliches or outworn adjectives ("awesome," "cool," etc.). Instead I will try to find the right word for the right thought. Or say nothing.
10. I refuse to pose. Instead, I will live.
11. I refuse to accept the de facto deism of so many evangelicals who do not seek God for supernatural manifestations of Christ's Kingdom (healing, signs and wonders). Instead, I will seek (but never presume upon) God's miraculous, supernatural presence in this dark world.
12. I refuse to confine the Kingdom of God to America. Instead, I will keep an eagle eye for ways I can bless, encourage, and edify Christ-followers around the world.
13. I refuse to consign Christian women to second-class status in the church, the home, or the world. Instead, I will support and encourage gifted women to serve God in accord with their gifts and opportunities.
14. I refuse to preach only to the choir, to limit my ministry to the church, Christian school, parachurch, and so on. Instead, I will in every way possible seek to inject Christian truth creatively into culture through my writing and teaching, to colonize alien lands with truths not normally found there.
15. I refuse to follow any trend simply because it is a trend. Instead, I will seek to discern the hand of God in the world.

None of this can be achieved in my own power: "Yet not I but Christ who lives in me."

Islam: The Religion of Peace?

Thanks to Tim McGrew, I just discovered a web page called, "Islam: Religion of Peace (Believe it or Else). It looks very solid. Their book recommendations are on target. Some essays are not signed, but that it out of self-preservation. I also noted worthwhile links. It looks to be a very thorough and courageous source of information.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Curmudgeon of the Year: Oriana Fallaci

When popular culture "remembers" the deaths of mostly celebrities in 2006, let us turn our attention elsewhere, to someone who mattered. The Constructive Curmudgeon hereby names the irrepressible, incorrigible, and indefatigable Italian, Oriana Fallaci (d. 2006), Curmudgeon of the Year. The storied journalist and intrepid interviewer died early this year from cancer, but managed to write two explosive and deeply truthful books during her illness unto death, The Rage and the Pride and The Force of Reason, both of which lamented the loss of Christian, European culture to the invasion of Islam. She paid dearly for her courage, receiving countless death threats and public excoriations of the most vile manner. She was even convicted of "blaspheming Islam" in Italy. She spent her last days in New York, in order to avoid arrest. It boggles the mind and turns the stomach simultaneously.

Miss Fallaci (she never married) was no saint. She was an atheist; but, as she put it, "a Christian atheist." By that she meant that she loved the culture and much of the ethics of Christendom, even in the absence of God; and she would not accept Allah as a void-filler. Her arguments against the existence of God turned on the problem of evil. They were hurled at the reader with red heat, then dropped. She had to move on to decry the evil of Islamic terrorism and warn of its threat to the West and to civilization as we know it. Her arguments for atheism were paper thin; her passion for justice was deep and courageous. She respected Jesus, but denied his deity--an intellectually hollow perspective since Jesus' self-perception as divine was inextricably tied to all he did and all he said.

Yet Oriana Fallaci is Curmudgeon of the Year. I was drawn to her courage, her wit, her Italian passion, her extremity, her insouciance. As a young girl, she worked with her family to oppose Mussolini's fascism (as did some of my relatives) and that spirit of rebellion against oppression stayed with her to the end. I read that she published one last book in Italy before she died, which was an interview of herself by herself! Yes, she was a bit of a narcissist as well. So be it. I eagerly await the translation of that last testament to this remarkable, if deeply flawed, woman. God may even use the blast of an atheist to rouse a stupified world--if we have ears to hear.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Audio Sermons of High Exegetical and Theological Value

My friend and Denver Seminary graduate, Rev. Douglas White, is making his sermons available on-line. Doug is planting a church in Boulder called New Day Covenant Church. Boulder is infamous for being the graveyard of church plants as well as for being one of the most spiritually oppressive places in America. Buddhism is the unofficial religion of the city. A professor at the University of Colorado there who favors infanticide just received a prestigious title. And on it goes Yet Doug is building a ministry based on prayer, character, and biblical teaching. I could go on about this remarkable man; but instead, I challenge you to listen to some of these deeply biblical, practical, and heartfelt messages.

Unplug the Television: From US News and World Report

Unplug the Television
By Beth Brophy
Posted Sunday, December 17, 2006

Consider these statistics from the Center for Screen Time Awareness, founded in 1994, to warn about the evils of excessive tube time: The average child watches 1,680 minutes of TV per week. The average student spends 1,500 hours watching TV versus 900 hours in school. And the number of 30-second commercials seen in a year by an average child is 20,000.

"Television is a great enabler," says Robert Kesten, the center's executive director. It enables us to be sedentary, to buy unhealthy food products, and our kids to watch bad role models." For the past two or three years, Kesten's kids, now 12 and 13, can't watch TV from Monday to Friday and are restricted to two hours per day on the weekends. Their grades have gone up, and they read and run around outside more than they used to, he says.

Brent Bozell, president of Parents Television Council, a group that advocates decency in entertainment, favors not completely unplugging the TV but limiting and monitoring instead, as he did for his five children, whose ages now range from 9 to 28. "It takes a herculean effort, but if you involve your child in an activity with you or with another person, instead of sitting passively in front of the TV, the child will develop better," he says. Bozell's a fan of substituting board games, cards, and musical instruments.

Service project. Alternative activities to watching TV also can include after-school clubs, family walks, puzzles, organizing a photo album, drawing, the children reading to each other, and learning a foreign language. On weekends, ask your child to be your exercise partner, invite family over, or do a community service project.

Kesten warns that it's not so easy to turn the TV off, and parents should steel themselves for complaints. To be fair, he doesn't work on his computer until after his sons go to bed. Now, a few years later, everyone has adjusted so well that his sons often don't even use up their allotted two hours of TV on the weekends.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

US News and World Report Recommends a Media Fast!

[The only problem is that the duration of the abstention is too short. You need to unplug for a least one week.]

Give Each Week a Tech-Free Day
By Diane Cole

Posted Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Take out the earplugs and plug into the world!" That was the message from protesters at Western Kentucky University recently who were encouraging students to reconnect with the actual world by disconnecting from their cellphones and iPods.

"It wasn't a protest against technology itself but against the way we use it today" and our overdependence on it, protester Tom Cannon explained. "The purpose is that we take charge of the technology before it takes charge of us."

It's a message that appears to be gaining traction.

Peter Whybrow, director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California-Los Angeles, calls it "electronic cocaine"-tech addictions revealed by "people checking their BlackBerrys under the table while they're on a date."

Overdependency on technology has so eroded personal time that the national chain Panera Bread cosponsored "Take Back Your Time Day" to get families to schedule time to connect and converse with each other at mealtime (whether at home or at a local Panera) with minimal wireless interruptions.

Overload. Technology's double-edged sword troubles high-tech gurus like David Levy, a professor at the Information School at the University of Washington. Last year he informally surveyed his undergraduate students; 80 percent said they felt they spent too much time online. Levy also asked a class to log its E-mail behavior. "People became aware that they were checking E-mail because they were bored or anxious," Levy says, "and sometimes found that it made them more anxious."

For his part, Levy observes a 24-hour Sabbath break each week from all things electronic. "Whether you think of this as a religious mandate or simply as a good idea," he says, "it's a piece of ancient wisdom that people can incorporate into their lives."

Second Life: Shameless, Sinful

It only gets worse, it seems. I wrote of the dangers of virtual worlds in The Soul in Cyberspace a decade ago. What was once in the perverted vanguard is now mainstream muck.

There is nothing wrong with virtual adultery or flaunting it before millions, according to "My So-Called Second Life." Joel Stein writes of his venture into Second Life (a virtual reality role playing environment) in the December 25-January 1 issue of Time. He recounts his "relationship" with a sexy virtual character, whose real-life counterpart is pictured (trying to look wholesome) and described as married and a mother of three. The word that describes it all is "shameless."

Mr. Stein, who sadly has no moral discernment (especially considering a previous article, which confessed that he could not live one week without television), enters the Second Life "world" amorally and navigates it as such. His world--and, apparently the world of Second Life denizens as a whole--is one without morality, without sexual decency, without soul, without consequences, and a world without God, without the audit of Eternity (Kierkegaard)--or so they imagine. The article betrays no sense guilt or of even wondering if this cyber-activity is somehow debasing or dehumanizing or demoralizing. I'm sure the avatars in Second Space cannot blush (although they can activate and wield genitalia).

Those reveling in Second Life should consider finding a life worth living, a life embodied in and edified by Truth. This is a world where "love of neighbor" become a reality day by day, a reality that has demands, rewards, and joys enough...without the surrogate and vain imaginations and high-tech perverseness of Second Life.


Communing with thoughts through words,
written, spoken; human or divine.

Words: the gateway to minds.
Minds: knowing or unknowing.
Knowledge: truth worth believing, truth held wisely.
Truth: thoughts worth reality.
Falsity: thoughts missing their mark.
Reality: what is...stubbornly, persistently

Reality: In the beginning was the Word.

John Coltrane: "Naima" (1965)

I am further amazed and delighted to have discoverd this. This video (also on Google Video) is said to be from 1965 and done in France. The filming is artistic and appropriate. The classic quartet seem to be in the open air: you can see their breath. Trane was starting to go "outside" at this point, and the quartet would break up later that year. The last half of "Naima," after McCoy Tyner's piano solo is transcendently passionate and powerful. Prepare thyself for a near miracle.

If anyone knows any more historical facts about this performance, please let me know. Perhaps it was the Antibides Festival. I'm sure Lewis Porter (the foremost Coltrane scholar) would know.

Friday, December 22, 2006

John Coltrane and Stan Getz Video (1960)!

I never knew that Trane played with Getz, let alone that it was captured on video. There is very little video of John Coltrane, but apparently this recently emerged. It is posted on Google Video. The filming is very dark, with players barely appearing from time to time. Paul Chambers is on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Oscar Petersen on piano. What a find.

The Glorious Incarnation

I will send my eight-page sermon outline, "The Glorious Incarnation" to anyone who wants it. Again, may God zap you if you steal this sermon! May God bless you if you read, look up the texts, and ponder deeply the profound truths in John 1:1-5, 14. Email me at

One More:


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Welcome to YouWorld. YourWorld, all the time, for You.

You matter to us. You do. You are worth it. It's all about You. You can do it. You have done it. You can have it. You have it all. You will do it. We know You. You are special. Everyone will like You; it is guaranteed. You deserve the best. In fact, You are the best. You for You, in You, ever You, world with You, Amen.

YouTube. YouAudio. YouAuto. YouFood. YouRest. YouWork. YouDress. YouPerfume. YouLotion. YouPotion. YouMotion. YouBody. YouMind. YouMate. YouLover. YouSpirituality. YouOrientation. YouMultiTask. YouSpace. YouPlace. YouTime--all the time.


You are You of the year, You! You are You of the decade--all of You. You are the One--all of you. With You is the You-ness of You.

We never flatter You: You just are the one and only You--all of You. None of You are can be left behind. You can get the edge on all the others--all of You. You are never alone because You are with You. The You of You is Your's. You own it. You know You do. We know You know You are the one. You rock, You Rocker. Celebrate You. You go, You.

...Go away, You.

[Inspired, in part, by Thomas De Zengotita, Mediated and Time Magazine's "Person of the Year [2006]: You."]

G.K. Chesterton on Christmas

[Thanks to Paul Adams for this post.]

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home:
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost--how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

G.K. Chesterton, "The House of Christmas," from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1985), 304-5

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Masculine Christianity?

There is something of a trend to blame the problems in the church on the lack of masculinity in leadership. More testosterone equals more spirituality, more outreach, more "kicking demonic [posterior]" as one over-heated word-waster recently (unworthy of a link) put it. There are too many "girly men" in pulpits; the decor is too feminine in church buildings; we need men "wild at heart," and so on.

Perhaps these commentators (if I may so dignify them) are concerned about a lack of courage in American Christianity. If so, I agree. We need to grow backbones theologically, apologetically, and ethically. But courage is not exclusively masculine; nor is leadership in general. We don't need more masculinity in the pulpit or anywhere else. We need more Christian virtue: faith, hope, and love. We need more of the glorious power of Jesus Christ to be manifested in female and male leaders: "Your sons and daughters will prophesy." May the Holy Spirit (who is neither male nor female) empower God's blood-bought children to do great exploits for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). This is our greatest need.

For all my curmudgeonly complaints, whines, rants, and denunciations of the chronically underachieving American church (to which I am committed), a lack of masculinity has never crossed my melancholic mind--no not even once. I have been offended by bad doctrine, terrible art, pitiful oratory, and abysmal music; but I have never left a service thinking, "Oh, it was too feminine!" In fact, much of our malaise stems from male monopolies: those doctrines and churches and parachurches that limit women's participation simply because they are female. Some of the best sermons I have heard were delivered by women. They were not masculine women either. They were Spirit-led, truthful, and pastoral in demeanor--and thank God for them.

"In Christ there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:26-28). This means that gender does not place men above women spiritually or vocationally. The Kingdom of God does not advance by an increase of testosterone or because deep voices yell and beat their hairy chests, but as believers seek God, repent, exercise intelligent faith, love each other from the heart, and do exploits of eternal value.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Doug Groothuis Veritas Forum Lecture

My friend Paul Adams just told me that my 1996 Veritas Forum lecture at the University of Colorado is on line. It is called "Are All Religions Created Equal?" A google search would not expose it since my last name is misspelled: Groothius (intead of Groothuis). I wonder how many other things are listed under a misspelling of my Dutch name.

My Story and the Gospel of Jesus

My web site has just posted an updated version of my testimony and presenation of the Gospel, "My Story and the Gospel of Jesus." I often give this to people who need to understand what Christianity is and how to enter into it. Perhaps it may help some one out there.

Harper's December Cover Story: Lies about Schaeffer

[I sent Harper's the following letter to the editor regarding their December cover story by Jeff Sharlett slamming the Christian right. I could have written in much more depth regarding the distortions, the ignorance, and meanspiritedness of the article (which also managed to make a few good points), but I chose to address what sparked the most fire in my bones. They have not contacted me, so they will not likely publish it.]

Jeff Sharlet's piece on the Christian right's understanding of American history was an eccentric admixture of random insight and radical misrepresentation. Perhaps his most egregious error was to describe the Christian study center) of theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer as a "Christian madrasah." Madrasahs are Islamic centers for indoctrination and jihad. Schaeffer never indoctrinated, but welcomed questions from doubters, skeptics, and unbelievers. He encouraged intellectual challenges instead of rejecting them; he modeled persuasion, not coercion; he issued intellectual arguments, not theological fatwas. He never engaged in the ignorant invective displayed by Sharlet.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dorothy Sayers Strikes Again

"Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine—dull dogma as people call it. The fact is quite the opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Greg Koukl on Truth, Faith, and Belief

Greg Koukl has written a superb article on truth, faith, and belief. This distills paramount truths that so many are missing, especially those stupified under the spell of postmodernist philosophy. These concepts are vital to every aspect of the church's witness today. Spread the word. Bravo to Mr. Koukl!

Dorothy Sayers on Christ, the Controversialist

The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore--on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him 'meek and mild,' and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.

Friday, December 15, 2006

G.K. Chesterton on the Incarnation. From The Everlasting Man

Omnipotence and impotence, or divinity and infancy, do definitely make a sort of epigram which a million repetitions cannot turn into a platitude. It is not unreasonable to call it unique.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

National Census: Less Reading, Less Meaning, More Media

[The following material is from The New York Times review of the national census figures. My comments follow the Times report.]

Adolescents and adults now spend, on average, more than 64 days a year watching television, 41 days listening to the radio and a little over a week using the Internet. Among adults, 97 million Internet users sought news online last year, 92 million bought a product, 91 million made a travel reservation, 16 million used a social or professional networking site and 13 million created a blog.

The demand for information and entertainment seems almost insatiable,” said James P. Rutherfurd, executive vice president of Veronis Suhler Stevenson, the media investment firm whose research the Census Bureau cited.

Mr. Rutherfurd said time spent with such media increased to 3,543 hours last year from 3,340 hours in 2000, and is projected to rise to 3,620 hours in 2010. The time spent within each category varied, with less on broadcast television (down to 679 hours in 2005 from 793 hours in 2000) and on reading in general, and more using the Internet (up to 183 hours from 104 hours) and on cable and satellite television.

How does all that listening and watching influence the amount of time Americans spend alone? The census does not measure that, but since 2000 the number of hobby and athletic nonprofit associations has risen while the number of labor unions, fraternities and fan clubs has declined.

“The large master trend here is that over the last hundred years, technology has privatized our leisure time,” said Robert D. Putnam, a public policy professor at Harvard and author of “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.”

“The distinctive effect of technology has been to enable us to get entertainment and information while remaining entirely alone,” Mr. Putnam said. “That is from many points of view very efficient. I also think it’s fundamentally bad because the lack of social contact, the social isolation means that we don’t share information and values and outlook that we should.”


More than half of American households owned stocks and mutual funds in 2005. The 91 million individuals in those households had a median age of 51 and a median household income of $65,000.

That might help explain a shift in what college freshmen described as their primary personal objectives. In 1970, 79 percent said their goal was developing a meaningful philosophy of life. By 2005, 75 percent said their primary objective was to be financially very well off.


Please notice the coorelation between the decline in reading, the increase in media consumption, and the freshman's lack of concern to find a "meaningful philosophy of life." (Although I don't have any statistics on this, I wager that older people as well as less interested in this pursuit or have trivialized it.) I don't think the relationship is incidental. It reflects our descent into a "sensate culture," as Pitrim Sorokin put it years ago. (Harold O.J. Brown also wrote a book called The Sensate Culture.) The realm of ideas, philosophy, and objective meaning is eclipsed as people immerse themselves in the realm of subjective, sensory immediacy. For us, that means the blanishments of restless electronic images: TV, video games, movies, and more. As Professor Putman points out, since most of these activities are solitary, this leads to social isolation. This is not the isolation of the contemplative, who prizes silence and solitude as a realm for the illumination of higher things. No, it is the the sonic and visual isolation of the over-stimulated, the wired, the restless, the chronically ADD and proud-of-it multi-taskers.

But even music DVDs need not be isolating. Recently, I spent a fulfilling evening having dinner and watching a music video with a long-time friend. I had watched the video, Pat Metheny Group's "The Way Up," by myself, and was very impressed. However, watching it on an excellent system with a bona fide musician who possesses superb musical taste added a richness to it not otherwise possible--not to mention the enjoyment received through judicious intake of a liquid substance celebrated in Psalm 104:15.

The trends the census reports are ominous. Millions spend the equivalent of 64 days of the year rotting their minds and souls watching television. Books--and the Good Book--are pushed aside. We are creating a false digital heaven that will one Day be revealed as hell. Selah.

Christmastime for Curmudgeons

How does a curmudgeon approach Christmas?

1. This curmudgeon despises all the terrible music foisted upon innocent victims in public. Any other time of year a foray into a public space (such as a bookstore, swimming pool, or supermarket) might expose one to the good (rare), the bad (common), and the ugly (all too common). But at Christmas, it is all bad; unless someone is playing Handel's Messiah or Vince Guaraldi, which is almost never. Instead we get Dean Martin singing about a reindeer...or some pop/shlock icon screeching about something pointless or another or Stevie Wonder doing "Ava Maria."

Oh, to hear John Coltrane's version of "Greensleaves." In fact, I will hear it, since I brought that CD with me here from Denver.

The worst by far is the putrid, appalling, and horrific John Lennon Christmas song. Who cares what the name of the poison is. Lennon, an anarchistic atheist and virtuoso corrupter of youth, a hyper-narcissist, and as overrated as any artist ever has been or probably will be, dares to sing about Christ-mas. He threw in the children's voices for the effect of innocence, since Lennon had no innocence of his own. I met a man whose ex-wife--Yoko Ono--was seduced by Lennon while he and "Oh, no" were still married.

2. I will reflect on and teach about the doctrine of the glorious Incarnation. Since I am preaching on John 1:1-5, 14 on December 17, that is exactly what I am doing: reading commentaries by F.F. Bruce, D.A. Carson, Craig Blomberg, and Leon Morris, and reflecting on many passages in that beloved and profound book. Compare the glories of the Incarnation with the American observation of Christmas. Then weep. A sign on a front yard in Sun City West cries out amidst holiday trapping, "Think snow." How about, "Think Jesus"? That's too snappy, to be sure; but it's an improvement.

3. Try not to gain any more weight by consuming Christmas goodies. The holiday is rigged to encourage the already overinflated inflate even more. Gluttony is still a vice this time of year (I hear, anyway).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Antipathy and Apathy Toward Christianity

Antipathy toward Christianity is in some ways easier to engage than apathy toward Christianity. The one who cries "Wrong!" is engaged. The one who mutters "Whatever.." is disengaged. The former needs answers; the latter needs questions.

By Request

I sometimes receive emails from folks who request I write on certain topics. That leads me to ask what sort of things you might want a (free) curmudgeonly perspective on.

There is no master or systematic plan to this blog. I write and link as things strike me--and often I strike back!. One hopes it stems from a unified, true, and compelling worldview, of course.

This blog is not my life; I have a day job (and more). I cannot invest huge amounts of time into it. However, I am interested in what you may take to be of value for its content.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Homosexuality, Creation, and the Fall: A Response to The New York Times

The New York Times has run an article called "Gay and Evangelical: Seeking Paths of Acceptance," which cites several examples of men and women who purport to hold orthodox beliefs about the Bible and who love Jesus, but who believe that God made them homosexuals. Thus, they want to be evangelical and practice homosexuality. This fits the postmodern proclivity to mix and match beliefs and behaviors apart from any received moral or theological tradition. But two deep theological concepts are missing from the article: creation and fall. (Leave it to The Times to omit the essential when covering religion.)

The Times gives heart-wrenching accounts of people who beg God to take away their sexual attraction to the same sex, who do not change, and who then end up believing that God made them homosexual. This is false. Genesis chapter two teaches and Jesus reaffirms (Matthew 19:4-6) that sexual intimacy is reserved for heterosexual monogamy. This is the God-ordained pattern, the definitive norm, for life-long, sexually involved coupling. Homosexual desires and actions stem from the fall of humanity into sin, wherein the human person is radically disoriented and fragmented (Genesis 3; Romans 3). These categories of creation and fall are clearly discerned in Paul's discussion of the pattern of sin in Romans chapter one.

But what of the woman or man who confesses Christ and still has homosexual desires, even after asking God for healing? First, solitary pleading, however earnest, may not be sufficient for change. Various programs and support groups exist for the purpose of helping those tempted by homosexuality to find sexual restoration. Exodus Global Alliance is one such group. Second, even if protracted efforts fail to change one's sexual desires from homosexual to heterosexual, biblical morality does not allow for the physical expression of these desires, since all homosexual activity is forbidden in Scripture. The Bible never depicts any homosexual inclinations or behaviors as godly. (In fact, illicit sexual thoughts are harmful as well; see Matthew 5:27-30). Here again, the doctrine of the fall gives us wisdom. God may wonderfully deliver people from homosexual inclinations at conversion or quickly after. I once met with a man who told me he was delivered from a lifetime of homosexual desires in an instant by God's power. Nevertheless, we must remember that it is a very fallen, broken, and bent world (see Roman 8:18-26). Those justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8), still struggle with various kinds of sins (1 John 1:8-10). A homosexual may never completely leave that sinful tendency behind until he or she meets the Lord face to face. Nevertheless, a Christ-follower must resist acting out those desires or dwelling on them. That means that a Christian who is sexually injured in this way must be celibate. Since Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him (Luke 9:23), denying a strong inner urge is intrinsic Christian discipleship. Of course, we also seek to have our desires transformed so that we can enjoy God and God’s creation as they should be enjoyed.

Yes, it is quite a sacrifice for one to never be able to act on one's sexual desires. But the ultimate question is not one's sexual desires or one's honesty, but whether Christ is truly Lord. Since the creation is now fallen, Jesus Christ came as its divine Redeemer. If he is Lord, then no practicing homosexual (who unrepentantly insists on homosexual expression as a divine right) can authentically claim to follow the Jesus Christ of Holy Scripture. Jesus may redeem homosexuals from their inclinations in this life or help them cope with unhealed homosexual proclivities. Christ can redeem the homosexual! But if he does, that person will seek divine deliverance and will submit to biblical teaching. “You will know them by their fruits” (see Matthew 7:15-23). But Christ does not and cannot redeem homosexuality itself, since it is rooted in the fall, not in creation.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Apologetics Resources: Free

1. I recently gave a talk at the Aslan Society luncheon held on the Arizona State University campus called, "Is Jesus the Only Way?" I handed out a four-page outline, loaded with facts, Bible references, and a resource list at the end.

2. Today I gave a talk to a group of teens called, "Teens, Truth, and Christ." This is a two-page outline of a much simpler nature; and it was a much tougher crowd, believe me. I am increasingly becoming aware of how vital it is to reach teens with a biblical concept of truth, apologetics, doctrine, and ethics. On this, see Christian Smith, Soul Searching and Josh McDowell, The Last Christian Generation.

I will make either or both outlines available to anyone who asks me. But remember, No lecture or sermon stealing! This is for your edification and education. Email:

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Some Thoughts on the New Atheism

The fact that three recent books have lauded atheism and savaged religion has caught the attention of the media. A recent Wired cover story wrote of "The New Atheism." US News and World Report had a similar story in a November issue. Time Magazine weighed in (mostly with pictures, as usual) as well.

The two books leading the charge are Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation and Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion. I plan to review both for The Christian Research Journal soon, but I offer a few preliminary comments. (The other is by Breaking the Spell, by Daniel Dennett, and I will not comment on it.)

1. These two books are offering nothing new by way of critiques of theism or specific religions. Christian philosophers and biblicla scholars have responded to all the charges before. What is different is their severe tone. Religion is not just wrong, but terribly dangerous. It should scarcely be tolerated. To demonstrate this, one must argue that a belief is both false and deleterious. That doubles the intellectual load--and produces a fair amount of bombast.

2. Harris especially assumes that all believers are fideists or rely on the worst possible arguments. This is false. A debate with Bill Craig would demonstrate this in short order. When Harris's book was discussed on NPR, the host said, "Should religion, which is based on faith and not reason, have a say in public policy?" Talk about the fallacy of the complex question! Some people's faith is unsupported by evidence and argument, but this is not true of all religions people. It is not true of me, for example. So, the good old straw man makes another appearance to supply the fallacy.

3. Harris and Dawkins are correct in demanding that religious worldviews supply good arguments for their beliefs. Blind faith is no virtue in Christian teaching and apologetics is not optional (Acts 17:16-34; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3).

4. Harris in particular conflates all religious claims: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. They are all of a piece in being irrational, false, and dangerous. He thus commits the fallacy of hasty generalization. Believing that one will receive the ministrations of exactly seventy two virgins after dying in a jihad is an order of belief far different than believing that since Jesus Christ rose from the dead in space-time history, one who believes in him will enter paradise after death as a martyr (which precludes anything resembling jihad). Christianity is well supported apologetically; Islam, which denies the central tenets of Christian, is not. For example, it denies that Jesus was crucified--a fact affirmed by virtually every biblical scholar in the world today. The fact that both are "religions" says nothing about their relative epistemic status.

5. Harris and Dawkins are wrong in saying the religious moderates (this probably includes evangelicals to them) give safe haven to religious extremists, such as jihadists. Their reasoning seems to be that moderates give religion a pretty face and insulate it from rational testing. That means that radicals' religious beliefs cannot be intellectually critiqued either. Some moderate may make this claim to intellectual immunity, but I do not. As an evangelical (or historic Protestant) I believe that (a) religious beliefs should hold water philosophically and historically, (b) that Christian fulfills the condition of (a) and that (c) Islamic militants' religion is at once false, irrational, and dangerous. I fail to see how my "moderate" religion encourages, shields, or emboldens radicals in any way whatever.

There is much more to be said. This is but a preliminary blast of the trumpet. The rest of the troops will follow later.

You Tube Offensive

I checked YouTube for my name and came up with nothing by me. However, a class wished a "Mr. Groothuis" (pronounced the same way!) "Happy Birthday." So, I wonder if anyone out there has any video of me to put on YouTube. I rather doubt it, but if you do, please let me know. I did appear on "Day of Discovery" twice several years ago to talk about apologetic themes. I'm not big on appearing on video, as one may guess; I usually turn down TV interviews--not that this happens often. (I cannot strike poses or smile on command.) However, a few chops on that medium might stimulate someone to read of my books or articles. It could have instrumental value at least.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You Tube and Apologetics

You Tube is now the rage, taking the net by storm, and all that. I wonder if there is any video there on apologetics. If not, perhaps someone could post a short lecture on the reasonableness of Christianity. Would it be censored? Would it do any good? What do you think? Or is it that all the content is entertainment and no instruction? I have only seen musical performances and a few short clips from elsewhere. Tell me what you think.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Swearing in on the Koran: Dennis Prager from

America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on
By Dennis Prager
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.

He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

A Palestinian woman holds the Koran during a Hamas rally against Israeli troops operation in northern Gaza strip November 3, 2006. Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinian women acting as human shields between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen during a clash at a Gaza mosque on Friday, witnesses said, before the gunmen escaped. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA)

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism --my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison's right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

Of course, Ellison's defenders argue that Ellison is merely being honest; since he believes in the Koran and not in the Bible, he should be allowed, even encouraged, to put his hand on the book he believes in. But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either. Yet those secular officials did not demand to take their oaths of office on, say, the collected works of Voltaire or on a volume of New York Times editorials, writings far more significant to some liberal members of Congress than the Bible. Nor has one Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon. And it is hard to imagine a scientologist being allowed to take his oath of office on a copy of "Dianetics" by L. Ron Hubbard.

So why are we allowing Keith Ellison to do what no other member of Congress has ever done -- choose his own most revered book for his oath?

The answer is obvious -- Ellison is a Muslim. And whoever decides these matters, not to mention virtually every editorial page in America, is not going to offend a Muslim. In fact, many of these people argue it will be a good thing because Muslims around the world will see what an open society America is and how much Americans honor Muslims and the Koran.

This argument appeals to all those who believe that one of the greatest goals of America is to be loved by the world, and especially by Muslims because then fewer Muslims will hate us (and therefore fewer will bomb us).

But these naive people do not appreciate that America will not change the attitude of a single American-hating Muslim by allowing Ellison to substitute the Koran for the Bible. In fact, the opposite is more likely: Ellison's doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America.

When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11. It is hard to believe that this is the legacy most Muslim Americans want to bequeath to America. But if it is, it is not only Europe that is in trouble.

Dennis Prager is a radio show host, contributing columinst for, and author of 4 books including Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.

From The Wall Street Journal: On the Vapidity of "Personal Philosophies"

Friday, December 1, 2006 12:01 a.m.


Nothing Personal
But this is not philosophy.


"This I Believe" is the title of a new book of essays by authors renowned and unknown alike. The book contains a series of three-page essays that the subtitle calls "The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women." Some of the authors are remarkable--Albert Einstein (whose essay is reproduced from an earlier round of the project), for example, or Bill Gates. Some are remarkable only in the sense that, as elementary-school teachers are fond of saying, "every child is special."

The essays, solicited by and published "in association with" National Public Radio, are arranged in alphabetical order. This has some entertaining effects--Einstein's essay about the importance of "service" and the beauty of the "mysterious" comes immediately before playwright Eve Ensler's discourse on the importance of saying "vagina" often. The alphabetical ordering also means that the first essay, by an apparently charming English professor named Sarah Adams, is about the importance of being "cool to the pizza dude." As a life-rule, it beats Eve Ensler's anatomical imperative. (Although that too has its appeal. My children, for example, love chanting "bathroom language" in public as well.)

Being cool to the pizza dude is of course important: All of us, metaphorically if not literally, find ourselves in the pizza dude's position at some point, serving others in a vulnerable way, at the mercy of thoughtless little cruelties. But treating subordinates right--being "cool" to them--is a "philosophy" only in the basest sense of the word.

Ms. Adams is constrained, however, by the strictures of the genre chosen by the project's editors. A three-page essay cannot really capture a philosophy--even a "personal" one. To be worthy of the name, such a statement ought to be either much, much shorter--e.g., Socrates' idea that the unexamined life is not worth living--or much, much longer. Immanuel Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" approaches 700 pages, none of which, to my knowledge, contain the word "vagina," although "the amphiboly" sounds vaguely like something my mother wouldn't want to hear at the dinner table.

To call Kant's book a "personal philosophy," though, would be misleading, not to mention demeaning. He did not intend his "Critique" as a statement of personal belief. Exactly, one might respond: A "personal philosophy" is not the same thing as "philosophy," and doesn't try to be. But the matter is not so simple. The very phrase "personal philosophy" seeks to traffic in the gravitas of that second word. There's a reason that the book is not subtitled "The Personal Opinions of Random People."

"Personal philosophies" are not a modern innovation. Socrates himself spent his days asking people for theirs--and then poking holes in what he heard. Most of the time, in Plato's telling, his interlocutors reacted by walking away, changing the subject or sticking their fingers in their proverbial ears. Eventually, though, he angered enough people with his incessant questioning that they killed him for it, even though the formal charge read a little differently.

Our rules of public discourse aren't really all that different from those of Socrates' Athens. True, death is generally off the table. But people today do not offer a "personal philosophy" with the notion that someone will challenge them. Ours is a culture of affirmation--people expect a pat on the back simply for stating an opinion. For Socrates, an unexamined belief--or philosophy--was not worth holding, much less publishing. But the worthies at National Public Radio who solicited the manuscripts for "This I Believe" take up the popular view rather than the Socratic one. Studs Terkel, who writes the book's foreword, tells us: "We need not dwell on the old question: What is truth? What you see with your own eyes may differ from the received official truth."

The second statement is unimpeachable; it would make Socrates himself proud in its defiance of authority. But the first sentence bears no relationship to it. To assert that the official truth is wrong is, in fact, to engage the "old question." By saying that we "need not dwell" on what truth is, Mr. Terkel is suggesting that it would be impolite to question these "philosophies" at all. Jay Allison, one of the two editors of the book, makes a similar point in his introduction. "To make such an earnest, exposed statement," he writes about those who submitted essays, "is itself an act of bravery."

If we lived in an age in which people were actually punished for their beliefs, Mr. Allison's claim would make some sense. Even in Socrates' time, the more dangerous occupation was probing the "personal philosophies" of others, not making a statement of one's own. Today, even saying "vagina" onstage doesn't take much courage. Luckily, I won't be made to drink hemlock for saying so.

Mr. Carney is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Demented DiVito: Inebriated Television

Several talk radio hosts have played portions of Danny DeVito's drunken, scatological emissions aired recently on some television program. (I didn't see it.) He was vulgar, idiotic, and perfectly in keeping of the tenor of most television. Someone who is inebriated lacks inhibition, is insensitive, irrational, and at odds with the good, the true, and the beautiful.

In that sense, then, DiVito's performance wasn't shocking or out of place at all. He was in his element. Television typically exhibits the marks of inebriation: it lacks restraint; it is callous; it is stupid and stupifying; and it pays no respect to the higher verities. It is, in a word, inebriated. It inebriates. It caters to the enebriated. DeVito was right at home--splashing in the druken sewer.

As Scripture says, "Be not drunk with wine, but filled with the Spirit." That is, shun both alchoholic and vidiotic forms of enebriation.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ten Irrefutable Laws of Curmudgeonly Leadership

Having spent some time in the “Management” section of Barnes and Noble today (hey, I’m on sabbatical, after all), I discerned the need for a short, simple, snappy, guide to curmudgeonly leadership. The management/leadership books struck me as platitudinous at best and artificially formulaic at worse. I was amazed at how much they cost relative to the number of pages and words. So, it is time for a constructive alternative—offered to the world for free.

1. Irrefutable Law #1: Never trust irrefutable laws of leadership. You may get refuted.
2. Irrefutable Law #2: Pundits are typically not to be trusted, except to be pundits-- sell many books, mug for many cameras, speak at many conferences with jumbotrons, and make much money.
3. Irrefutable Law #3: Small books featuring big print, many endorsements, and lots of illustrations make for poor flyswatters, but adequate coasters.
4. Irrefutable Law #4: Curmudgeons lead by lamentation.
5. Irrefutable Law #5: Curmudgeons lead by failing often.
6. Irrefutable Law #6: Curmudgeons lead by being unpopular, misunderstood, and neglected. Who they lead is another question.
7. Irrefutable Law #7: Curmudgeons will be curmudgeons.
8. Irrefutable Law #8: Curmudgeons tilt at windmills, defend lost causes, try to turn back the clock, and wait eagerly for the Last Judgment.
9. Irrefutable Law #9: Curmudgeons perpetuate gloom for the common good.
10. Irrefutable Law #10: Question Irrefutable Laws #1-#9 whenever possible.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Robert T. Herbert: A Eulogy

Dr. Robert T. Herbert
May 26, 1928 - February 16, 2006

I just discovered that my dissertation chairman at the University of Oregon, Robert T. Herbert, passed away several months ago. He had been retired for quite a few years, and I had not had any contact with him for several years. I was sad to hear of his passing.

Professor Herbert was not a very well-known or a highly productive philosopher, but he was a very good one. He was an excellent writer, with a sense of humor; this is not often the case with philosophers. His emphasis was philosophy of religion and his main influence was Wittgenstein, whose writings he was introduced to through his professor, O.K. Bouwsma. This made for a tough customer for a graduate student to deal with. Herbert would "puzzle" (one of his favorite words) over philosophical issues, looking at them from every possible angle, and make probing suggestions. While not a stunning lecturer, he was not afraid of long pauses, and always carefully crafted his thoughts and expected his students to do so as well.

Professor Herbert and I disagreed on many things. In a Philosophy of Religion seminar he was leading, I voiced concerns about a paper in which he argued that believers come down with faith as one comes down with a cold. That is, the faith is neither rational nor irrational. (The paper was subsequently published in Faith and Philosophy.) He asked me to write a response to his paper. I agreed with some hesitation. (Whether I really had a choice, I do not know.) When I received the paper back, it was filled with red ink comments challenging nearly every one of my criticisms. At the bottom of the last page was the grade: A+. I published my response in The Bulletin of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, which eventually upgraded and became Philosophia Christi.

Professor Herbert thought that philosophy could show that Christian doctrines were coherent, but not that they were evidentially established. But he thought that was enough, and held to some manner of Christian faith, it seemed. Thus, he argued for the coherence of the Incarnation against Kierkegaard's views. These arguments, along with papers on free will and determinism, and other subjects, can be found in his book, Paradox and Identity in Theology. (My own apologetic goals are more ambitious.)

Although I did well in his classes and on the comprehensive exams, I had a rough time discerning what Professor Herbert would acccept for a doctoral dissertation; but eventually, with the help of my wife, Rebecca, I found something that he was really interested in: the reasons why Blaise Pascal rejected natural theology. That was a nice "puzzle" to muse on—and no one had written very much about it. So, chapters were produced and few good comments leaked out from his infamous pen. One remark, "good patch," written next a line of about an inch long, carried me along for several weeks in the dissertation process. Professor Herbert was not , you may have guessed, lavish in his praise. After reading another chapter, he referred to it as "heartening." That became one of my favorite commendatory adjectives to this day.

The last battle, so to speak, was over the final chapter of my dissertation. Professor Herbert wanted me to conclude my dissertation with what I thought was the best argument for God's existence. My thesis had tried to refute all of Pascal's arguments against natural theology, so Professor Herbert thought I should marshal an ideal exhibit of what Pascal thought should not be done. I dreaded that, since Professor Herbert thought that no arguments for God's existence were rationally compelling! We went through several rounds of chapter drafts until I had a meeting with the entire dissertation committee. To my amazement, another professor, Don Levi, essentially and mysteriously took over the meeting and said to me, "Herbs [that is what he called him] has given you enough grief. Just turn in a final version and you're done." Professor Herbert just sat there, saying nothing. I left the meeting a free man. “Herbs” signed my dissertation form a few weeks later after the defense. Miracles still happen.

In our lighter moments (there were a few), Professor Herbert and I talked about baseball. We both rooted for the Braves. When he found out that I had accepted a position at Denver Seminary, he gave me a Colorado Rockies Baseball cap, which I still have. It was a nice touch.

All in all, Robert T. Herbert—crusty and demanding philosopher that he was—made me a better philosopher than I would have been otherwise. For that, I am grateful. And, thank God, I also told him so before he died.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving: Books (updated again)

Having been thoroughly disgusted by the AOL caption and images about "Movies to be Thankful For" (perhaps there are some, but not the pop/shlock ones they picked), here is a brief list of books for which I give thanks to God. There are ten items listed, but some specify several books by the same author. The books are not ranked in significant, except for the first: the Bible. May this list stimulate you to read these books and to consider what books have inspired you. And may it encourage everyone to give reading a treasured place in your life--contemporary insanity/illiteracy/vidiocy to the contrary.

1. The Bible. The Books of books: divinely inspired, completely true, dependable, endlessly challenging, and applicable to all of life for eternity. The Book that brings us Jesus Christ, Lord of the universe.

2. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There. Schaeffer's heart cry on reaching the lost with the truth of Christianity. It helped set the course for my calling as a Christian.

3. Blaise Pascal, Pensees. The unfinished masterpiece of apologetics by the 17th century philosopher and scientist. While not systematic and not even Protestant, the apologetic gems and general themes (particularly on the Christian account of the human condition and the stakes concerning Christian belief) continue to inspire and instruct me. Just last Sunday I preached a message called "Deposed Royalty: Christianity and Being Human" that drew considerable inspiration from his anthropological argument. For more on this, see the chapter, "Deposed Royalty" in my book, On Pascal.

4. Os Guinness, The Dust of Death. Having come out of the last vestiges of the counterculture (it hit Anchorage, Alaska, where I grew up, about five years late), Guinness's masterful Christian assessment of the roots, fruits, errors, and aspirations of the counterculture gave me a perspective I have not forgotten. Any book by Os Guinness is worthwhile. Read them all.

5. James Sire, The Universe Next Door. This contemporary classic on the nature and meaning of worldviews is now in its fourth edition. I first read it for a class in the late 1970s, and have taught out of every one of the editions. Sire is an excellent writer and is able to bring philosophical concepts to the general reader without condescension or dilution. He also gave one of the first explanations and critique of the New Age worldview (originally called The New Consciousness).

6. Soren Kierekegaard, The Sickness Unto Death and Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. I do not appeal to Kierkegaard for apologetic method, since he was too much of a fideist. However, The Sickness Unto Death set forth a theological/psychological account of sin that exposed and arrested my rebellion against God when I first read it in 1976. Purity of Heart , which I read a few years after my conversion, is an arresting challenge to live the Christian life before the "audit of eternity." Everything matters before God and all must be done for his glory. This, along with The God Who is There, more than any other books (besides the Bible) helped give me direction for my calling (such as it is).

7. G.K. Chesterton. Orthodoxy. Endlessly witty, but never merely funny, Chesterton set forth this creed in unforgettable ways, deflating a host of philosophies that are still with us today, such as pragmatism, relativism, pantheism, and agnosticism.

8. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The Abolition of Man, Miracles. Of all Lewis's many books, these three gave me fundamental apologetic tools to use in my college studies and beyond. I have read The Abolition of Man at least seven times and benefit from every reading. I first read it as a sophomore or junior in college. I was stunned recently when two graduate students in a class of mine found it too difficult to read.

9. Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority. Six volumes. I read volumes one through four (about 2000 pages) in the summer of 1981 before taking a summer course from Dr. Henry at New College, Berkeley. The set, which is a kind of systematic theology organized around apologetic and philosophical themes and concerns, is encyclopedic, rigorous in logic, deeply biblical, and philosophically and theologically rich. Reading the volumes is like a seminary education in theology and apologetics. Dr. Henry was a Clarkian presuppositionalist, who rejected natural theology. I now part company with him on this, but still am immensely grateful to have read these volumes and to have studied (albeit briefly) at his feet (as my African friends put it).

10. Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults. This pivotal book, which helped launch the modern evangelical countercult movement, clarified the differences between Christian orthodoxy and the many varieties of heresy. It gave me the essential categories of theological discernment that I use to this day.

Of course, there are so many more, but this will suffice for my short list of books for which to be thankful. I read all of these books within the first four of five years after becoming a Christian in 1976. There have been hundreds more. What is on your list?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Going Out of Business Sale: Curmudgeon on Demand

Well, it has come to this. I am having a going out of business sale. You might wonder what my “business” is, since I am academic and a minister. My business is ideas, presented truly and rationally and wisely. At least has been my aim.

But I came up with a way to retire, enrich myself, and bless the entire world in so doing. Stories of preachers selling their sermons have inspired me, as has a web page that copped without attribution much of Unmasking the New Age (my first book). I am offering to all of you all of my outlines, sermons, books, articles, and anything else of mine in print or recorded—for a price, of course. Why continue to fight the consumer ethos when it is everywhere?

Any curmudgeonly insights over nearly three decades of lecturing, preaching, writing, debating, and general muck-raking can be your’s for the paying! (I have repented of freely giving as I have freely received—what an outmoded concept!) And you need not worry about attribution, of course. (Most people misspell my last name anyway.) The celebrated “death of the author” means the rebirth of the plagiarist, but without all those nasty connotations associated with that modernist-infected word. No longer is one a “plagiarist” but a media-savvy amalgamator.

Of course, the idea of mass-marketing curmudgeonly insights may strike one as strange as Jeremiah preaching in the Crystal Cathedral; but, hey, it’s worth a shot. Maybe an enterprising plagiarist—oops, I mean amalgamator—could mix and match Groothuis with Rick Warren or Groothuis with Ed Young. Talk about an incoherent postmodern pastiche-- just like television. It could happen. It could work.

Those antiquated, antique principles about the integrity of authorship, studiousness (putting your own time into the ideas you express), and proper attribution can go the way of the dodo bird, I say. Now everything is flexible, fungible, elastic, and fantastic! It’s a revolution.

Curmudgeon for sale!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Memorial for Jean Merrill, died November 12, 2006.

[I read the following essay at the funeral of my mother-in-law this past Saturday. Although few of you knew her, you should reflect on the kind of life she led and on matters eternal.]

“Cheerful” is the first word that comes to my mind about Jean Merrill, my beloved mother-in-law. Mom was cheerful and delightful for several reasons. First, she deeply loved and enjoyed her husband, Paul. He was always a great source of her joy. Second, she loved people and especially her family. Third, she found delight in music, especially in performing it. For many years she was the organist at Gospel Echoes Bible Church and knew every hymn and chorus by heart. This involvement in the church’s life overall was a fourth reason for her cheer. Worship, teaching, church attendance, and Christian service were integral, meaningful, and consistent parts of her life. Fifth, and most importantly, she loved her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and always endeavored to live faithfully and prayerfully before Him for the glory of God. She knew “the joy of the Lord.”

Mom enjoyed the small things in life as well as great blessings. She was always interested in something: a new song, a new book, or the proper interpretation of a Bible verse. She was never bored. She loved scouring through Bible commentaries and Bible Study helps. It was fitting, then, that she managed the book table and later the book store at Gospel Echoes Bible Church. Whenever anyone had a question about a particular subject, Mom would work hard to recommend just the right book. She had verses from the Bible pasted throughout her home and hid the Word in her heart, as well. She collected many teaching tapes and loved to listen to the Psalms on tape. Rebecca and I would often send Mom and Dad tapes of our messages, knowing she would listen to and savor every word. She was always interested in our lives and wanted to learn from us as well as give us her wisdom.

Mom’s cheerfulness was also born of her generosity. She was always eager to please and serve her friends and family. One incident, among many, stands out to me. When Rebecca and I were first married, Mom and Dad noticed that the U-Haul trailer that was to take our belongings from Eugene, Oregon, to Madison, Wisconsin, looked far too big for our little 1976 Gremlin to pull. So, they decided to hitch it to their truck and drive out to Madison themselves so I could drive the Gremlin without being encumbered by an overstuffed caboose. Mom and Dad also contributed generously to Christian ministries, including all the ministries I worked for before finally moving into the world of guaranteed salaries.

I also remember Mom as stately and striking in demeanor, posture, and gait—just like her daughter. She was a class act. In the early 1990s, Mom and Dad lived part-time in Eugene, Oregon, where Rebecca and I were living while I was in graduate school. This afforded us much time with them for several years. I remember seeing Rebecca and Mom at the church we all attended striding swiftly through the lobby on their way to some important destination: mother and daughter—sleek, graceful, beautiful, and unforgettable. One of the parishioners even dubbed Mother “Momma Gams.” (For you young people, “gams” means legs.)

While the last few years—and particularly the last few months—of Mother’s life were discouraging and difficult, we still saw her old personality shine through at times, penetrating the layers of pain, weakness, and heartbreak. But right now, Mother is far more than merely cheerful; she is ecstatic, exultant, elated, and ebullient, basking in the radiance of the glorious God who lovingly saved her, guided her, and brought her safely to heaven’s far shore.

And better yet, all who know Christ as Lord will one day dance and sing and play and work and worship along with Jean Merrill in a resurrected world of boundless beauty before the very throne of God. And we will do so forever and ever: world without end. Amen.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Scriptures on Death, Resurrection and Eternal Life

John 11:25-27 TNIV (Today's New International Version)

25 Jesus said to [Martha], "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

John 14:2-3 NRSV

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

2 Corinthians 5:1-9 TNIV

1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

1 Corinthians 15 (selected texts) TNIV

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive...
36 What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body....
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 TNIV

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Philippians 1:21-24 TNIV

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 TNIV

6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Psalm 116:15 TNIV

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of those faithful to him.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Explanation of the "Family Crisis"

Here is a personal note.

Some of you may be wondering what a "nonmoral family crisis" is, given my post before last mentioning a "blog recess." It is no scandal, but a great loss. My mother-in-law, Jean Northrup Merrill, entered eternal glory early last Sunday morning. Her funeral is Saturday, November 18, in Phoenix, where we are now staying.

I may write more about her in the near future. Until then, ponder this verse: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15). See also Arthur Pink's essay on this verse in his book, Comfort for Christians.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Preacher Speaks

Ecclesiastes 7 KJV (King James Version)

1A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
2It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
4The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
6For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
7Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.
8Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
10Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.
11Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.
12For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
13Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?
14In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
15All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
16Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself ?
17Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
18It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
19Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
20For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
21Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:
22For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.
23All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.
24That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?
25I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:
26And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
27Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:
28Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
29Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Blog Recess

Because of a (non-moral) family crisis, there will be no new postings on The Constructive Curmudgeon for some time.

1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity. Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, King James Version.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Voting for Nothing

[A recent commentary on NPR (I can remember none of the details) inspired the following observations.]

Americans are obsessed with voting. I don't mean voting for insignificant things like Senators, Congresspeople, Presidents, Governors, and so on--less than half eligible voters usually do vote, I hear. I refer to another kind of voting. America On Line wants me to vote now for President. In fact, it wants me to vote for all manner of things all the time--as do any number of other web pages. What do all these appeals for votes mean?

They mean nothing; they keystrokes in the wind. They are empty amusements that deceive us into thinking that our opinions (rendered into votes) mean something simply by being asserted. I heard that TV zombies vote for the "American Idol." That has quite a payoff for the idol, but what bearing does it have on actual taste, aesthetic quality, or virtue of any kind? A vote is not an argument. Most voting on line, moreover, has no outcome whatsoever. Nothing is changed by this voting. (What if I were voted the world's greatest philosopher? I still wouldn't give the Gifford Lectures next year or get hired by Harvard, Yale, Princeton...)

Further yet, why assume that bare assertions Yea or Nay have any purchase on reality? All flies vote for excrement. Well, they vote with their wings, so to speak. The excremental Kenny G sells more units than the excellent John Coltrane... You get the (ugly) picture, by now, I hope.

I suggest we stop this meaningless and vane voting and try to learn what opinions are worth holding. This requires study and the pursuit of knowledge, not opinion slinging through vaporous voting.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard's Fall: A Time for Reflection

Ted Haggard, now ex-mega-church pastor and ex-president of the National Associations of Evangelicals, has sinned grievously by committing homosexual acts and possibly through taking illicit drugs as well. He has admitted committing some of the sins—but not which ones—accused of him by a homosexual prostitute who recently went public about his liaisons with Haggard. He has been dismissed by his church for sexual immorality. His letter to his church can be read here.

This is cause for some reflection and prayer. Yes, the media are licking their collective chops at the prospect of a feeding frenzy, "rejoicing in the wrong," but we should do better. Haggard’s accuser states that his revelation was politically motivated: He wanted to expose Haggard’s homosexual behavior since Haggard is a supporter of a Colorado Amendment that defines marriage monogamously. Nevertheless, there is far more than the dirty world of politics to consider here.

It may be that Ted Haggard wielded too much power for one man to bear. This could well have been part of his precipitous downfall—in addition to many other things, most of which only God knows. How can one man be the pastor of a giant church and the head of a giant organization? For fallen mortals, with power comes pride; with pride comes an entry point for the dark and demonic forces let loose in this fallen world. When these powers get their sweetened and poisoned talons into the soul, all manner of evil breaks in and breaks out. One with power must guard his or her heart diligently and have others available to set up sentry as well. Otherwise the fortress will be overrun and the casualties will be many. Bloody carcasses will be strewn everywhere as a result of Ted Haggard's sin.

Let us all take this to heart, since we, too, are subject to manifold temptations, however much power we may possess. As Francis Schaeffer somewhere said, a successful Sunday school teacher can become prideful at having more in his class than another teacher. This is as much a sin or pride as any other. It must be rooted out by repentance. We should remember the log in our own eye and the heart problems we all suffer from. And when we remember, let us repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. This is an upside-down Kingdom where the humble are exalted, the poor blessed, and the prideful sent empty away.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Election Realities

The New York Times is crowing that the Republicans are doomed in the upcoming elections. I hope and pray they are wrong. All I can do is offer these considerations. With the elections days away, there are three hard and unpleasant realities that need to be faced by all voters.

1. The war in Iraq is not going well, although progress has been made. You cannot easily paste a republic over a culture that knows little of the sensibilities and morality required for a constitutional order that recognizes fundamental human rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of speech. It is not 1776 in Iraq. This is a conservative observation, not a liberal one. Culture is deeper than politics; and culture is rooted in worldview.

However, whatever the long-term prospects for Iraq may be, and whether or not the United States should have invaded Iraq, to pull out of Iraq now would result giving the country over to the terrorists. The jihadists will not be placated by an American withdrawal; they would, rather, be emboldened, just as they were emboldened by the USSR’s withdrew from Afghanistan. Terrorists are never placated or appeased; any concession to them is their victory and their empowerment. If the jihadists take over Iraq, civilization will be further jeopardized, and all the American soldiers who died for this cause—however noble they may have been in battle—will have died for the sake of a defeat, not for a victory. For more on this, see the essays by Victor Davis Hanson for National Review on line.

Now, which party wants to leave Iraq as soon as possible? Which party views Islamic terrorism as essentially a criminal problem? Which party thinks that the terrorists will back off if we try to “understand their pain” and make concessions to them? That would be the Democrats, not the Republicans. The latter are, of course, not perfect in their understanding of Islamic fascism; neither are their strategies always for the best. But at the end of the day, the Republicans understand that we fighting a war for civilzation; the Democrats do not.

2. The push to fund embryonic stem cell research with federal and state dollars is tremendous. In some cases, this means creating a member of the human race in order to destroy it for the purpose of (possibly) helping another human being. This is what is advanced by Proposition 2 in Missouri. See The National Right to Life article on this. In other cases, preexisting embryos are used and killed. This orientation is merely instrumental, utilitarian—and inhuman. Moreover, embryonic stem cells have yielded no beneficial results for treating diseases and no one knows if they will. Private groups are not poring money into this line of research. If they were, there would be more evidence of possible therapeutic results. But positive results are immaterial. A human society does not create and destroy humans for the sake of other humans. You treat humans as ends (because they bear God’s image), not a means to other ends. See the on-line essays by Charles Colson, Robert George, and Nigel Cameron on this topic.

Which party supports state and federal funding for embryonic stem cell research? Which party attacks attempts to protect embryonic life as “anti-science” and “theocratic”? It is the Democrats, of course. And we must never forget that it is the Democrats who support abortion on demand (including partial-birth abortions) as a constitutional right. Thus over a million human fetuses are legally slaughtered every year in the United States, and have been since 1973.

3. Having thrown off the concept of creation and the idea that moral principles built into the universe by its Creator and Designer, millions stump for equal legitimacy and equal legal privileges for “same sex couples,” even claiming the state should create a new category never heard of in human history: same sex marriage (an oxymoron, to be sure). Consult the on line essays by Charles Colson on this issue.

Which party endorses same sex marriage a fundamental human right? Which party would overturn millennia of moral tradition and pore contempt on the Bible’s view of marriage? It is the Democrats, once again.

Given these immensely important issues, who deserves your vote next week? Yes, some Democrats will demur on one or more of these points and not all Republicans agree with what I’ve written above. But one has to remember that whichever gains a majority, calls the shots. The rogue Democrat who opposes embryonic stem cell creation and destruction or opposes pulling out of Iraq has little say in the party’s platform and will usually vote with his or party anyway. Like it or not, party politics is what moves politics in America. See Hugh Hewitt’s book, If It’s Not Close they Can’t Cheat on that.

Therefore, I adjure you:

1. Do not let the Democrats pull our troops out of Iraq prematurely.
2. Do not let the Democrats let loose billions of dollars of governmental money to fund stem cell destruction.
3. Do not let the Democrats redefine marriage as same sex coupling.

That is, do not vote for Democrats on November 7.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dr. Jonathan Wells Responds to Critics

[The following comments are from Jonathan Wells in light of the controversy raging on this blog. Thanks to Dr. Wells for providing this essay exclusively for The Constructive Curmudgeon.]

Comment for Doug Groothuis’s blog:

The issue here is not all that complicated. Darwin thought that “community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent” and concluded that early vertebrate embryos “show us, more or less completely, the condition of the progenitor of the whole group in its adult state.” Darwin considered this “by far the strongest single class of facts in favor of” his theory. (Origin of Species, Chapter XIV; September 10, 1860 letter to Asa Gray)

But early vertebrate embryos do not look alike. They become somewhat similar (though not as similar as Haeckel made them out to be) midway through development, then they diverge again. This is illustrated by the “developmental hourglass” drawing on page 31 of my Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Developmental biologists (including P.Z. Myers, to judge from his Panda’s Thumb review of my chapter) are well aware of this pattern, which has been described repeatedly in the developmental biology literature.

But an hourglass pattern does not provide the evidence Darwin needed for his theory. If “community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent,” then a pattern of early differences followed by convergence followed by divergence makes no sense. Some modern Darwinists, instead of acknowledging the problem, simply attribute the early differences to evolution. In other words, they assume their theory is true and then use it to explain away anomalies in the very evidence that was supposed to provide the strongest support for it. Meanwhile, other Darwinists provide a smokescreen for this circular argument by calling their critics names…

Is that how science should be done?

Jonathan Wells

Sunday, October 29, 2006

My Denver Post Review of Two New Books on Darwinism and Intelligent Design

A sharp split on Darwin, design
Two authors' takes on science and life
By Douglas Groothuis Special to The Denver Post
Article Last Updated:10/29/2006 12:31:39 AM MDT

These two books - released within a few weeks of each other - address Darwinism and its critics, but in radically different ways. Not only do the authors hold entirely different positions on Darwinism and the alternative theory of intelligent design, but there also is a vast chasm between the tone and approach of these books.

Jonathan Wells, who holds doctorates in both religion and embryology, is a leading advocate of intelligent design. This view holds that "it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than unguided natural processes."

Wells criticizes Darwinism - a view that says every aspect of the natural world is explained by unguided natural processes - because of its lack of evidence. This stance requires that Wells shoulder the burden of proof, since Darwinists control the scientific establishment.

But Wells takes up the challenge by sticking closely to the scientific and philosophical issues at the heart of the debate. He not only critiques the weaknesses in Darwinism, but presents intelligent design as a constructive alternative. While titled a "politically incorrect guide," the book is never glib, although it is not lacking in wit or confidence.

On the other hand, editor and author Michael Shermer, formerly a professor of psychology, is generally condescending toward intelligent design. He even writes that his friends Stephen J. Gould and Richard Dawkins, leading evolutionists, advised him to not stoop so low as to write a book against the theory.

Nevertheless, Shermer believes that intelligent design's influence in recent public debates - especially the attempt to teach it in public schools - merits a response. Shermer's contempt for intelligent design is evident from the first chapter. While recounting his expedition to the Galapagos Islands - famous for Charles Darwin's studies there - Shermer abruptly asserts, "Creation by intelligent design is absurd." This premature editorializing sets a sharp tone for the rest of the book.

Shermer conflates creationism and intelligent design, sometimes referring to "intelligent-design creationism." Yet these two approaches, while critical of Darwinism, are distinct in both their methods and their conclusions, as Wells argues.

Creationism insists on a literal view of Genesis. This requires divine creation in six literal days and a young Earth and universe. Intelligent design makes no appeal to Genesis for its arguments and avoids questions of the age of the Earth. Instead, it concentrates on whether particular aspects of the natural world (such as DNA and microscopic molecular machines) display evidence of a designing intelligence.

Whereas the majority of Wells' book concentrates on the evidence for design in nature, Shermer takes up this issue only in his chapter defending Darwinism and his chapter criticizing intelligent design. Shermer aims at many irrelevant targets: American cultural history (the Scopes "monkey" trial); psychological reasons why people do not believe in Darwinism; makes points against creationists that do not apply to intelligent-design thinkers; and lectures Christians that they should not expect a transcendent God to be detectible in the physical world. This would be a dubious claim coming from a theologian, let alone an agnostic psychologist.

Wells' case is arguably the more thorough, respectful and thought-provoking of the two. He disputes Darwinian claims that the fossil record, embryology and molecular biology prove evolution. Wells assesses the claims of Darwinism empirically and rationally, never appealing to religious texts to support his arguments.

Wells also notes that contemporary scientists typically presuppose a materialistic philosophy, which locks them in to Darwinism. They then bring this philosophical perspective to their endeavors - as opposed to making a solid case for Darwinism based on the empirical evidence. Shermer himself claims that science is permitted to give naturalistic explanations for life only because "there is no such thing as the supernatural or paranormal."

Yet to define science in this way must philosophically exclude any possible evidence for an intelligent designer. In informal logic, this is known as the fallacy of begging the question: What should be proved is instead presumed. Shermer's definition of science does not allow him to take sophisticated arguments for intelligent design as seriously as they should be. After all, they have to be wrong.

For Shermer, Darwin matters because he has been vindicated by science, and science gives us the best account of reality possible. For Wells, Darwin built a house of cards that is supported more by ideology and materialist philosophy than science itself. Thinking people should be apprised of both sides and judge accordingly, because two very different and exceedingly important visions of reality are at stake.

Douglas Groothuis is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and the author of "Truth Decay."
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design
By Jonathan Wells
Regnery, 273 pages, $19.95, paperback
Why Darwin Matters
The Case Against Intelligent Design
By Michael Shermer
Times Books, 199 pages, $22