Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Philosopher's Lament and Hope

What is a philosopher to do
with so much mental goo,
with so much intellectual stew?

With minds on hold.
With brains in mold.
With understanding unglued?
With books unread,
And arguments unsaid?

Answer: work against the tide of wasted thought
and arguments in tatters.
Rebuild the ruins.
Let hope do its wild work against the odds.
Since with God, all things are possible:
"Come let us reason together," says the Lord.
  • The Wall             Street Journal

When the Archbishop Met the President

Cardinal Dolan thought he heard Barack Obama pledge respect for the Catholic Church's rights of conscience. Then came the contraception coverage mandate.


New York

The president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops is careful to show due respect for the president of the United States. "I was deeply honored that he would call me and discuss these things with me," says the newly elevated Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. But when Archbishop Dolan tells me his account of their discussions of the ObamaCare birth-control mandate, Barack Obama sounds imperious and deceitful to me.

Mr. Obama knew that the mandate would pose difficulties for the Catholic Church, so he invited Archbishop Dolan to the Oval Office last November, shortly before the bishops' General Assembly in Baltimore. At the end of their 45-minute discussion, the archbishop summed up what he understood as the president's message:

"I said, 'I've heard you say, first of all, that you have immense regard for the work of the Catholic Church in the United States in health care, education and charity. . . . I have heard you say that you are not going to let the administration do anything to impede that work and . . . that you take the protection of the rights of conscience with the utmost seriousness. . . . Does that accurately sum up our conversation?' [Mr. Obama] said, 'You bet it does.'"

The archbishop asked for permission to relay the message to the other bishops. "You don't have my permission, you've got my request," the president replied.

"So you can imagine the chagrin," Archbishop Dolan continues, "when he called me at the end of January to say that the mandates remain in place and that there would be no substantive change, and that the only thing that he could offer me was that we would have until August. . . . I said, 'Mr. President, I appreciate the call. Are you saying now that we have until August to introduce to you continual concerns that might trigger a substantive mitigation in these mandates?' He said, 'No, the mandates remain. We're more or less giving you this time to find out how you're going to be able to comply.' I said, 'Well, sir, we don't need the [extra time]. I can tell you now we're unable to comply.'"

The administration went ahead and announced the mandate. A public backlash ensued, and the archbishop got another call from the president on Feb. 10. "He said, 'You will be happy to hear religious institutions do not have to pay for this, that the burden will be on insurers.'" Archbishop Dolan asked if the president was seeking his input and was told the modified policy was a fait accompli. The call came at 9:30 a.m. The president announced the purported accommodation at 12:15 p.m.

Editorial board member Joe Rago predicts how the Supreme Court will rule on ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion and the law's severability.

Sister Carol Keehan of the pro-ObamaCare Catholic Health Association immediately pronounced herself satisfied with the change, and the bishops felt pressure to say something. "We wanted to avoid two headlines. Headline 1 was 'Bishops Celebrate . . . Accommodations.' . . . The other headline we wanted to avoid is 'Bishops Obstinate.'" They rushed out a "circumspect" statement, which Archbishop Dolan sums up as follows: "We welcome this initiative, we look forward to studying it, we hope that it's a decent first step, but we still have very weighty questions."

Within hours, "it dawned on us that there's not much here, and that's when we put out the more substantive [statement] by the end of the day, saying, 'Whoa, now we've had time to hear what was said at the announcement and to read the substance of it, and this just doesn't do it.'"

Having rushed to conciliate, they got the "Bishops Obstinate" headlines anyway.


Terry Shoffner

Archbishop Dolan explains that the "accommodation" solves nothing, since most church-affiliated organizations either are self-insured or purchase coverage from Catholic insurance companies like Christian Brothers Investment Services and Catholic Mutual Group, which also see the mandate as "morally toxic." He argues that the mandate also infringes on the religious liberty of nonministerial organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Catholic-oriented businesses such as publishing houses, not to mention individuals, Catholic or not, who conscientiously object.

"We've grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom," he says. What rankles him the most is the government's narrow definition of a religious institution. Your local Catholic parish, for instance, is exempt from the birth-control mandate. Not exempt are institutions such as hospitals, grade schools, universities and soup kitchens that employ or serve significant numbers of people from other faiths and whose main purpose is something other than proselytization.

"We find it completely unswallowable, both as Catholics and mostly as Americans, that a bureau of the American government would take it upon itself to define 'ministry,'" Archbishop Dolan says. "We would find that to be—we've used the words 'radical,' 'unprecedented' and 'dramatically intrusive.'"

It also amounts to penalizing the church for not discriminating in its good works: "We don't ask people for their baptismal certificate, nor do we ask people for their U.S. passport, before we can serve them, OK? . . . We don't serve people because they're Catholic, we serve them because we are, and it's a moral imperative for us to do so."

To be sure, not all Catholics see it that way. Archbishop Dolan makes an argument—which he prefaces with the admission that "I find this a little uncomfortable"—that federal intrusion bolsters those who are more selfishly inclined: "Some Catholics . . . are now saying, 'Fine, we'll get out of all that. It's dragging us down anyway. Rather than be supporting 50 Catholic schools in the inner city where most of the kids are not Catholic, and using a big chunk of diocesan money to do that, we'll just use it for the schools that have all Catholics, and it'll serve us a lot better.' . . .

"I find that, by the way, to be rather un-Catholic," he continues. "I don't know what that would say to the gospel mandate to be 'light to the world' and 'salt of the earth.' It's part of our religion to be right out there in the forefront, right there in the nitty-gritty."

An insular attitude, Archbishop Dolan suggests, plays into the hands of ideologues who favor an ever-more-powerful secular government: "I get this all the time: I would have some people say, 'Cardinal Dolan, you need to go to Albany and say, "If we don't get state aid by September, I'm going to close all my schools."' I say to them, 'You don't think there'd be somersaults up and down the corridors?'"

Another story comes from the nation's capital: "The Archdiocese of Washington, in a very courteous way, went to the City Council and said, 'We just want to be upfront with you. If this goes through that we have to place children up for adoption with same-sex couples, we'll have to get out of the adoption enterprise, which everybody admits we probably do better than anybody else.' And one of the City Council members said, 'Good. We've been trying to get you out of it forever. And besides, we're paying you to do it. So get out!'"

What about the argument that vast numbers of Catholics ignore the church's teachings about sexuality? Doesn't the church have a problem conveying its moral principles to its own flock? "Do we ever!" the archbishop replies with a hearty laugh. "I'm not afraid to admit that we have an internal catechetical challenge—a towering one—in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach. That's a biggie."

For this he faults the church leadership. "We have gotten gun-shy . . . in speaking with any amount of cogency on chastity and sexual morality." He dates this diffidence to "the mid- and late '60s, when the whole world seemed to be caving in, and where Catholics in general got the impression that what the Second Vatican Council taught, first and foremost, is that we should be chums with the world, and that the best thing the church can do is become more and more like everybody else."

The "flash point," the archbishop says, was "Humanae Vitae," Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical reasserting the church's teachings on sex, marriage and reproduction, including its opposition to artificial contraception. It "brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the church, that I think most of us—and I'm using the first-person plural intentionally, including myself—kind of subconsciously said, 'Whoa. We'd better never talk about that, because it's just too hot to handle.' We forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day."

Without my having raised the subject, he adds that the church's sex-abuse scandal "intensified our laryngitis over speaking about issues of chastity and sexual morality, because we almost thought, 'I'll blush if I do. . . . After what some priests and some bishops, albeit a tiny minority, have done, how will I have any credibility in speaking on that?'"

Yet the archbishop says he sees a hunger, especially among young adults, for a more authoritative church voice on sexuality. "They will be quick to say, 'By the way, we want you to know that we might not be able to obey it. . . . But we want to hear it. And in justice, you as our pastors need to tell us, and you need to challenge us.'"

As we talk about sex, Archbishop Dolan makes a point of reiterating that his central objection to the ObamaCare mandate is that it violates religious liberty. In their views on that subject, and their role in politics more generally, American Catholics have in fact become "more like everybody else." When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he found it necessary to reassure Protestants that, in the archbishop's paraphrase, "my Catholic faith will not inspire my decisions in the White House."

"That's worrisome," Archbishop Dolan says. "That's a severe cleavage between one's moral convictions and the judgments one is called upon to make. . . . It's bothersome to us as Catholics, because that's the kind of apologia that we expect of no other religion." But times have changed. Today devout Catholic Rick Santorum is running on the promise that his faith will inform his decisions—and his greatest support comes from evangelical Protestants.

The archbishop sees a parallel irony in his dispute with Mr. Obama: "This is a strange turn of the table, that here a Catholic cardinal is defending religious freedom, the great proposition of the American republic, and the president of the United States seems to be saying that this is a less-than-important issue."

Religious freedom has received a more sympathetic hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court—which, coincidentally, has had a Catholic majority since 2006. In January, in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the court ruled unanimously in favor of an evangelical Lutheran church's right to classify teachers as ministers and therefore not subject to federal employment law. Archbishop Dolan sums up the decision: "Nowhere, no how, no way can the federal government seek to intrude upon the internal identity of a religion in defining its ministers."

But whether the government has the authority to define a ministry—excluding, as the ObamaCare mandate does, church-affiliated institutions like hospitals and schools—is a separate legal question, one that may be resolved in litigation over the birth-control mandate.

It's possible that the Supreme Court or a new president will render the issue moot. After our interview, the archbishop has a question for me: If the high court rules against ObamaCare, will that be the end of the birth-control mandate? Probably not, I tell him—though such an outcome seems much likelier now than it did early in the week when we met. The justices could end up striking a blow for religious liberty without the question even having reached their docket.

Mr. Taranto, a member of the Journal's editorial board, writes the Best of the Web Today column for

A version of this article appeared Mar. 31, 2012, on page A11 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: When the Archbishop Met the President.

Oracle of...

Oracles without oracle.
Words without meaning.
Spectacle without story.
Spokespeople without speech.

Context fades to
amorphous atmospheres.
Stories stop.
Factoids reign.

Much is lost.

And Yet
there is a World left to win,
and knowledge and wisdom
to gain.


the context of (almost) no context:
the spaceless, placeless, spectacle on demand at our command
(or so we think).


In the End,
there will be no secrets.
All secrets have expiration dates.

All has been transcripted,
all facts conscripted as eventual revelation.

Herein lies the secret of atheism,
and pietism.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Consider "the least of these"

Dear Healthy People:

Not everyone is like you, even if they look normal. Many suffer terribly from chronic illnesses that rob them of mental acuity, physical stamina, and hope. They need patience; they need you to go the second mile; they need sympathy.

These poor folks do not need angry outbursts or lectures on toughing it out. They do not need your disgust that their disease is an inconvenience to you. Consider what their maladies do to them. Reflect on the emotional pain you add to them by your unloving actions. You are compounding their misery and perhaps turning it into agony. You are needlessly increasing sorrow in this world of vanity and vexation of spirit. You are being unwise and foolish. You are re-wounding those already broken, bleeding, and deeply wounded.

Healthy people, for God's sake, use your health (which others lack) to minister to the chronically ill, to help lighten the load. Listen to the laments--and enter into them

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Narrative Thins Out

In literature, we find several styles of narrative. Consider the thick, psychologically complex story-telling of Dostoevsky on the one hand; on the other, think of Hemingway's sparse, thin, and muted accounts of people and events.

Many those now stricken with debilitating chronic illness once had robust and Dostoevskiannarratives: their minds were active, their memories deep, their affections complex and well-suited to the varied circumstance of life under the sun. They were quite fully alive: complex, but robust and fascinating.

Then, it struck: one of the sickeningly many chronic illnesses. You supply the one that has most wounded you the most. The narrative now alters, even dramatically; it thins out; loses weight and depth: the sentences are shorter, as are the paragraphs; the page count diminishes. One is shunted into a kind of Hemingway world. Much is lost. (I am not pitting writer against writer, but simply using their respective styles to illustrate a point.)

As a soul's narrative moves from thick to thin, part of the person is lost--or strangely changed. The body refuses to perform the acts of the old story line. The mind slows and cannot summon its former memories, cannot accomplish skills so easily done yesterday. Survival becomes more important than adventure. One tries to endure, not prevail.

Those who witness this painful peeling away, this cruel diminution of faculties must learn to read a new story--not forgetting the old, thicker life, but not expecting it to return either. The wounded person, made in God's image (come what may), is still there, there, there. But the newer chapters of the life story seem to be composed by someone not a little different than the one who composed the earlier ones. The stylistic shift is jarring, wearing, and lamentable.

Yet, "love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13). We must love the person who is there, no matter how withered, wilted, or wronged by this groaning world of woe, still awaiting its final redemption.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Meditation on Ecclesiastes 7:1-6.

Let godly sorry do its good work,
and resist not
its edifying wounds.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Malediction, imprecation,
cruel conviction in diction.

Hurled like sharpest spears
out of the fiery mouth,
prepared in
a wounded and vengeful heart.

Then they lodge deep into another heart.
And burn,
and burn,
and sap life, hope, and faith.

"The power of life and death is in the tongue."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Become a connoisseur of the Sublime,
and sublimity may arise in your own
poor being,
such that others
Behold that sublime--
even in you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Free technology seminar:

Free technology seminar:

1. The most important technology is between your ears.
2. Your most important teaching tool in your life.
3. The killing app is speaking the truth in love with wisdom and prayer.
4. The most important preparation is study and prayer.
5. The most important "feedback" (I hate that word in reference to human beings under the sun) is received when you grow "big ears" (jazz term) to listen to the heart, mind, and soul of what your students ask.
6. Silence is not what happens when the technology breaks, but when you listen for truth together with your class.
7. One could go on.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Do not dry all your tears.
Wear the best of them,
they are your badge, even
as they dry.

Obama silent while Saudi grand mufti targets Christianity


The Washington Times

Friday, March 16, 2012

If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.

On March 12, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region." The ruling came in response to a query from a Kuwaiti delegation over proposed legislation to prevent construction of churches in the emirate. The mufti based his decision on a story that on his deathbed, Muhammad declared, "There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula." This passage has long been used to justify intolerance in the kingdom. Churches have always been banned in Saudi Arabia, and until recently Jews were not even allowed in the country. Those wishing to worship in the manner of their choosing must do so hidden away in private, and even then the morality police have been known to show up unexpectedly and halt proceedings.

This is not a small-time radical imam trying to stir up his followers with fiery hate speech. This was a considered, deliberate and specific ruling from one of the most important leaders in the Muslim world. It does not just create a religious obligation for those over whom the mufti has direct authority; it is also a signal to others in the Muslim world that destroying churches is not only permitted but mandatory.

The Obama administration ignores these types of provocations at its peril. The White House has placed international outreach to Muslims at the center of its foreign policy in an effort to promote the image of the United States as an Islam-friendly nation. This cannot come at the expense of standing up for the human rights and religious liberties of minority groups in the Middle East. The region is a crucial crossroads. Islamist radicals are leading the rising political tide against the authoritarian, secularist old order. They are testing the waters in their relationship with the outside world, looking for signals of how far they can go in imposing their radical vision of a Shariah-based theocracy. Ignoring provocative statements like the mufti's sends a signal to these groups that they can engage in the same sort of bigotry and anti-Christian violence with no consequences.

Mr. Obama's outreach campaign to the Muslim world has failed to generate the good will that he expected. In part, this was because he felt it was better to pander to prejudice than to command respect. When members of the Islamic establishment call for the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing, the leader of the free world must respond or risk legitimizing the oppression that follows. The United States should not bow to the extremist dictates of the grand mufti, no matter how desperate the White House is for him to like us.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saint Patrick's Prayer

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet 'well done' in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

An Unsolicited Letter

Dr. Groothuis-

I have just finished reading Christians Apologetics, and wanted to thank you for all the time and thought you put into it. It has been a "ministry-elevating" experience - one of those books read or lectures heard or videos watched after which you know your perspective on God, life, and Kingdom service will never be the same.

A vast majority of the issues you address are ones that I have studied or processed through, whether in a classroom or ministry setting. However, you were able to peel layers off theological onions that I didn't even know existed. I discovered I craved that level of depth, and needed it to deepen my own understanding and confidence. There were plenty of other subjects, too, that you brought up that I hadn't even considered. In both categories, you greatly expanded the available tools that I have in my theological toolbox.

My reason for originally picking up your book was a five-week series on Apologetics I had decided to preach to my congregation. Your statement in the conclusion, "We should hear apologetics ringing out from the pulpit and being discussed in every level of Christian education," has definitely been proven out in the first three weeks of this series. The congregational response has been very strong. So many Christians are uncomfortable with their biblical and apologetic illiteracy. When they are given answers, it's like handing out Gatorade to a marathon runner. In a congregation of 160, I have 60+ who have signed up to receive an email of my sermon notes, so that they can study the subjects with more depth.

So, again, I say thank you. I know how lonely the writing process is. To produce a work such as yours takes endurance, patience, and, most of all, calling. Your book has rekindled in me a passion for apologetics and philosophy that has been lying dormant for some years.

Steve Yohn


Book of Common Prayer

For Missions.

OGOD, who hast made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the whole earth, and didst send thy blessed Son to preach peace to them that are far off and to them that are nigh; Grant that all men everywhere may seek after thee and find thee. Bring the nations into thy fold, pour out thy Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten thy kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some Thoughts on Social Media, Self-Promotion, and Christian Ethics

Several Facebook folks have recently criticized me for promoting myself or for being egotistical. This leads me to reflect a bit on the matter.

I am responsible to made good on the gifts God gave me, to not bury my talent or hide my lamp under a table. Since I am a teacher and writing, I need to get the word out. I am driven by my conviction that Christianity is true, rational, and pertinent to all of life, that Jesus is Lord of all.

I am also a sinner, so I may at times promote my own work too much or present things on Facebook that are not fitting. (Sometimes the etiquette is difficult to fathom.) Please bear with me. Strong criticism that judges my motives, given by strangers is hard to swallow, I must admit. It is rude. But even rudeness may speak the truth.

However, I view social media as a limited means to get out the message of my work and other things I think are worth thinking over--or even just worth laughing at (doggies).

Therefore, I will continue to try to use this medium to its best. Please help me with your comments and prayers.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Lecture on Jesus as God

My lecture outline for my talk this Saturday morning at Cherry Hills Community Church, part of "Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask."

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary

Jesus was a Good Man—But the Son of God?

"Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” -- C.S. Lewis

I. Jesus Christ and the American Mind

A. Most are very favorable toward Jesus

B. Most do not hold the Bible’s view of Jesus, however

C. Argument: If Jesus was a good man, what else do we need to believe about him?

II. Sources of our Knowledge of Jesus

A. The Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

1. Transmitted accurately over time: manuscript evidence

2. Written by eyewitnesses (Matthew and John) or those who consulted them (Mark and Luke)

3. Are written as space-time history, not myths or legends (see Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16)

B. The Apostle Paul (letters in The New Testament)

1. Paul was a converted Jew

2. Was authorized by the author original Apostles

3. Wrote in the 50s

III. Some Claims of Jesus

A. Claimed the authority to forgiven sins (Mark 2:1-14); give his life for sinners

B. Was the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:15-28)

C. Was “one with God, the Father (John 10:30-31)

D. Claimed he would die and rise again (throughout the Gospels)

IV. Some Credentials of Jesus

A. Taught with authority; was a masterful philosopher (On Jesus)

B. Worked miracles of many kinds: over nature, illness, demons

C. Was the crucified and resurrected Lord (1 Corinthians 15)

1. Facts of history

a. Known burial place of Jesus

b. Empty tomb of Jesus

b. Many appearances of Jesus

c. The resurrection changed the lives of the disciples

2. Best explanation: simplest, explains the most: Jesus’ resurrection in space-time history

V. The Conclusion About Jesus: Four Options

A. Was a legend; No: the evidence supports the New Testament record.

B. Was deceived; a madman: No: his character was sane and rational, not insane and irrational

C. Was a deceiver

1. No: there was no benefit in doing deceiving people

2. Being a deceiver does not fit the rest of his character or his actions

D. Conclusion: He was who he said he was: Lord and Savior!

VI. Jesus Christ Best Answers the Human Condition (John 10:10)

Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.—Blaise Pascal, Pensées

For much more on these arguments:

1. Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2011), chapters 19-22.

2. Douglas Groothuis, On Jesus (Wadsworth, 2003).

3. Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

On Third Parties

Stan Van Sant: Voting for a third party candidate is like peeing your pants. It may make you feel warm for a bit, but in the end it leaves you cold.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

‎"Nothing is easier than to have good intentions but, without an understanding of how an economy works, good intentions can lead to disastrous consequences for an entire nation. Many, if not most, economic disasters have been a result of policies intended to be beneficial - and these disasters could often have been prevented if those who originated and supported such policies had understood economics." - Basic Economics, Thomas Sowell

Can You?

Can you lovingly give more love?
Can you lovingly receive more love?

Friday, March 02, 2012

My New Cell Phone

My new low-tech cell phone frightens me. It is a black box of deep mysteries--and it is disposable.

1. It photographed me without my volition. I heard a (simulated) shutter sound, then I shuddered.

2. It talked to me without me asking it a question. More disturbingly, I answered back.

3. Strange indecipherable things appear on the screen for no apparent reason.

4. It took me a week to figure out how to...answer it.

I wish I had been born in 1940.


Statists will take away as much power from the private sector--private property, free trade, and liberty--as you let them. Do not let them.
‎"Though the Bible says men are lost, it does not say they are nothing. When a man says he is a machine or nothing, he makes himself less than the Bible’s view of fallen man." ~ Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

RENEWING YOUR MIND IN A WORLDLY WORLD: How Christians Can Take Back Their Minds

Douglas Groothuis

Published in the Christian Research Journal

Americans are being lied to every day. Popular culture tells us that deep thinking and reflective living is pointless. Instead, we must move faster. We need faster cars, faster food, and faster computers—now. We need more things, more toys, more power, and more perks. We need more hair (if baldness threatens), but we don’t need more knowledge or more wisdom. We need less wrinkles (hence Botox parties) and less pounds, but not less vices (as long as we can get away with them). Our media are dominated by celebrities who are not wise, learned or godly people. They are usually over-paid and ego-driven athletes or movie stars. Next to nothing in popular culture encourages us to slow down and cultivate a contemplative life before the God “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Instead we are tempted to believe that God has nothing to do with our most valued activities and dreams. We can do fine without him. Or, we may redefine the God of the Bible and godly religion to fit our designer preferences. Either way, worldliness reigns, world applauds, and the mind is deadened.

The myriad messages of popular culture have been sticking to and deforming our souls. American men and women are not known for their reasoned convictions about those things that matter most. Polls show that Americans are very “religious” concerning belief in God and church involvement. Yet they watch an average of four hours of typically mindless and violent television per day, are terribly ignorant of basic biblical truths, seldom read thoughtful books, and are theologically confused on basic doctrines. Some of the most popular Christian teachers and writers today often lapse into heresy or aberrant doctrine. (Hence the need for The Christian Research Journal’s many articles correcting these errors). Few Christians share their faith regularly or wisely. If they do, they are often stumped when faced with skeptical questions and challenges, since their evangelism is not grounded in solid apologetic arguments (see 1 Peter 3:15-17; Jude 3). Pollster George Gallup found that many of the same people who say, “Yes, Jesus is the only way,” also affirm that “Yes, there are many paths to God.” But this is logically impossible. Jesus cannot be one of many ways—and the only way! Gallup comments, “It’s not that Americans don’t believe anything; they believe everything.” Here Proverbs give a word to the wise: “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15).

So-called “spirituality” is on the rise, but spiritual discernment—even among Christians—is languishing. Many feel free to combine ideas and practices from various religions with little or no concern for logical consistency or allegiance to any received religious tradition, let alone biblical authority. A kind of smorgasbord mentality prevails. One might, for example, consume servings of happy Christian thoughts (“God loves you”), self-effort (“God helps those who help themselves”), and some yoga for physical wellbeing and inner peace—and feel no pain of inconsistency. This is despite the fact that God’s love is not an amorphous energy that permits everything (including Hindu practices such as yoga), ratifies works-righteousness, and condemns nothing. Quite the contrary, God’s love is manifested concretely through the gracious work of Christ who alone liberates us from counterfeit spirituality and the futility of self-salvation. Yet these radical and world-changing truths are easily lost in fogs and bogs of our worldly environment.

The Media Fast: Breaking Free and Reaching Up

The Lord Jesus Christ does not want us to believe everything—only the truth (John 14:6). He commands us to love our God with all of our minds (Matthew 22:37), to know the truth that sets us free by following him (John 8:31-32) and to make that truth known to others (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:15). The Apostle Paul commands us to “test all things. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalions 5:21). Rather than letting culture conform us to its mold, we should be transformed through the renewing of our minds so that we know and accomplish God’s will in all of life (Romans 12:2). Similarly, the Apostle Peter wrote his readers to stimulate them to “wholesome thinking” (2 Peter 3:1) and to admonish them to prepare their minds for godly action (1 Peter 1:13). In his Pensées, Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal issued a strong indictment: “Man is obviously made for thinking. Therein lies all his dignity and his merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought.” Yet instead of pondering God and the soul, the world inclines us to think more about diversions, such as “dancing, playing the lute, singing, writing verse, fighting, and becoming king, without thinking what it means to be a king or what it means to be a man.”

How do Christians break free from the deceptive temptations of popular culture and reach up to receive with open hands all that God has for us? We need first to disengage from worldly distractions and then engage our God-given minds in constructive and rewarding ways. As the Psalmist cries to God, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12)

“My mind cleared. I had fewer lustful thoughts. I started to think more deeply about life. I prayed more. I spent more time with my family and friends. I want to be this way more often!” Hundreds of students at Denver Seminary offer testimonies like this after completing a required “media fast” for my class on ethics and contemporary culture. For at least one week they abstain from at least one popular medium (usually television) and meditate on various Scriptures, such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-18). Reading their reports is a rewarding task for me, because they reveal that God is at work renewing my student’s minds and liberating them from subtle snares.

Why should anyone fast from media when they are everywhere and so easy to use? Should we become cultural hermits, who spurn all of popular culture? No. This spiritual discipline follows from the spirit of Jesus’ teachings on fasting from food. For a time, we deny ourselves something that is routinely part of our lives in order to focus more intently on God and his Kingdom (Matthew 6:16-18, 33; see also 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 for another application of fasting). In our media-saturated, self-focused, and dumbed-down culture, a media fast is often a tonic for the beleaguered and benumbed mind. Some of my students initially suffer from withdrawal symptoms. The silence roars in and the mind races after they unplug. They automatically reach for the remote control and have to stop themselves. Something must fill the “empty” time. But they soon find there is much to do that refreshes the soul and renews the mind. These principles apply to any Christ-follower, not just seminary students who are doing an “assignment.”

First, the media fast allows for—but doesn’t automatically produce—more reflection, prayer, and a deeper life before God. Instead of being yanked along at a breakneck pace by television, movies, radio, or video games, we can slow down, “be still,” and remember God in all our ways (Psalm 46:10). We can listen to the voice of conscience, repent of our sins, and seek a more godly and peaceful life (Matthew 7:7). Just as King Hezekiah had the temple purified by priests and Levites after many years of defilement and abuse (2 Chronicles 29), so should we purify ourselves from the habitual sins so readily encouraged by popular culture, since our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Second, we discover time to pursue intellectually challenging activities, especially reading. Christian author Larry Woiwode notes that television is a “Cyclops that eats books.” Many Christians don’t read a single thoughtful book in a year because they are too occupied with a myriad of mind-numbing media. If they do read, the are often short, simplistic, or sensational and of dubious theological and intellectual substance. (Consider most Christian bestsellers.) But a deeply meaningful life in Christ cannot be experienced without consistent exposure to and enjoyment of great thinkers. The Bible ranks first in great thoughts since God is its ultimate Author, and because it is the truest and wisest book ever written (Psalm 119). Because it is God’s own word, it cuts to the quick and teaches us the truth we need to know in order to love God and others aright (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12).

We should also seek out and savor thoughtful books and articles about the Bible, theology, apologetics, history, art, ethics, literature, and so on. Great books can be good friends, and for a lifetime. The writings of C.S. Lewis are a treasury on many topics, from apologetics to ethics, to science fiction. He was a delightful and arresting writer, a dedicated Christian, and a brilliant thinker whose works stand the test of time. I have read his apologetic classics—Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, and The Abolition of Man—many times and with great profit. You can also stay abreast of contemporary culture from a Christian perspective by receiving Charles Colson’s daily “breakpoint commentary” (see and by listening to Ravi Zacharias’s radio program, “Let My People Think”—as well as by reading their thought-provoking books.

Getting Down to Business

Compare the time you spend on entertainment with the time you spend reading and reflecting on Holy Scripture and profound books. Then compare it with the time you spend in prayer and biblical meditation. Prayerfully seek God for the necessary adjustments in thought, word, and deed. Engage in a media fast for yourself. Instead of languishing in front of the TV with your family and friends (or by yourself), read a meaty book together and talk about it. Invite your family and friends to resist the hollow enchantments of worldly culture and to instead glorify a holy God in their thinking, speaking, and doing (Colossians 3:17). But be sure to begin the process with yourself as you resist worldliness and pursue godliness (Matthew 7:1-5).