Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nuff Said...

What exactly would we do without the mainstream media?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In the Tank...and Waiting

And for the much awaited prize - let the 2008 Gaffe-Fest begin:  "President Joe Biden" and "Barak America," respectively:

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A "Wordle" for All Nations Under God

A Wordle is a graphical "word cloud" which gives greater prominence to words that appear most frequently.  In a sense, it is an artistic way of seeing what is emphasized in any piece of literature.  Hence, I decided to throw the full text of All Nations Under God in there, and the picture above is the result.

Wordle link credit: David Kjos & image is courtesy of Wordle Net.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sin Not Leading to Death

1 John has been a rich preaching and devotional experience for me.  Despite its small size, it is a massive treasure chest full of God's riches regarding the truths of salvation, preservation, and sanctification.  Now that I am coming to the close of this wonderful epistle, I find that John provides a very interesting instruction regarding prayer.

1 John 5:13-16: 

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but He who has been born of God keeps him, and the wicked one does not touch him.

This text has presented some long-standing challenges for expositors throughout the years.  When surveying commentaries on this subject, I find that too many fail to address the broader context of verses 16 & 17; as well I find that not enough expositors delve into the text very well, and as a result some will merely assume that John is speaking of physical death and life without explaining why they think that this is so.  However, one must wonder what John would mean if he is indeed speaking in physical terms alone: "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to [physical] death, he shall ask and God will for him give [physical] life to those who commit sin not leading to [physical] death."   Why would a Christian pray for physical life for someone who is not sinning unto physical death?  It should be evident that John's symmetry of thought is in fact spiritual, as Simon Kistemaker points out in his analysis of 1 John 5:16-17:

"What is the meaning of the word death?  In addition to 5:16, where it occurs three times, the word appears twice in 3:14: 'We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.  Anyone who does not love remains in death.'  John is not thinking of physical death.  Rather, he is referring to spiritual death.  He contrasts death with eternal life (3:15) to set apart the believer, who possesses this life, from the person who denies that Jesus is the Son of God (2:22-23) and who hates the believer (3:13)." New Testament Commentary, 1 John.

I agree with Kistemaker that the notion of spiritual death/life is much more in keeping with John's overall theme in the epistle, and it is in closer keeping with the Apostle's immediate development concerning assurance and prayer:

1 John 5:13-16: 

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but He who has been born of God keeps him, and the wicked one does not touch him.

As Christians, we have a real hope (v. 13) in view of our faith in the One who keeps us and preserves us from the evil one (v. 18).  Because of this, we have a real assurance (v.13), confidence (v.14), and knowledge (v.15) because we know that the Lord hears our every petition, the greatest of which was our petition for the mercy of forgiveness and salvation, and therefore we are assured that He secures us in the Beloved One, Jesus Christ.  These contextual considerations are, frankly speaking, unavoidable.  I would suggest that anyone who approaches verses 16-17, apart from such a context, would be in great danger of missing the Apostle's broader point.   Ultimately, John is teaching believers how they ought to pray for other brethren (v. 16a.  "If anyone sees his brother committing sin...").  Therefore, when Christians sin, it must be remembered that such sin is not unto apostasy, or spiritual death (eternal condemnation).  Thus, John's mention of "sin unto death" is designed to establish an important contrast between the child of God and the reprobate.  Calvin secures this same important observation:

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "There is a sin unto death. I have already said that the sin to which there is no hope of pardon left, is thus called. But it may be asked, what this is; for it must be very atrocious, when God thus so severely punishes it. It may be gathered from the context, that it is not, as they say, a partial fall, or a transgression of a single commandment, but apostasy, by which men wholly alienate themselves from God. For the Apostle afterwards adds, that the children of God do not sin, that is, that they do not forsake God, and wholly surrender themselves to Satan, to be his slaves. Such a defection, it is no wonder that it is mortal;* for God never thus deprives his own people of the grace of the Spirit; but they ever retain some spark of true religion. They must then be reprobate and given up to destruction, who thus fall away so as to have no fear of God."

Calvin is correct, I believe, when he reveals John's polarity of thought.  Believers do not forsake God (sin unto death), and thus their sins, though still grievous, can never lead to apostasy.  When we consider the application of John's teaching about prayer, coupled with his description of the believer's true assurance in Christ, we find that John is giving us an instruction on prayer which curbs judgementalism - which is a fitting capstone to an epistle that is filled with critical tests for assurance:

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "The Apostle in the meantime exhorts us to be mutually solicitous for the salvation of one another; and he would also have us to regard the falls of the brethren as stimulants to prayer. And surely it is an iron hardness to be touched with no pity, when we see souls redeemed by Christ’s blood going to ruin. But he shows that there is at hand a remedy, by which brethren can aid brethren."

The entire epistle of 1 John is indeed filled with several tests that are useful for evaluating fruit in the lives of the children of God and the children of the devil.  These lists are needful, but in the wrong hands they can be used as an instrument of cold judgementalism.  If we know that we are praying for a brother (which is the premise of John's instruction), then we ought to pray in the proper context of a believer's need.  As Christians, our need is the abundance of Christ's life and power in order to overcome sin.  It is this spiritual life that all Christians possess in regeneration and in our progressive sanctification, and it is this life which dwells in us through the person of the Holy Spirit.  However, when we sin, we quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), thereby diminishing the influence and vitality of life (zoe) within us. But remember, thought the vitality of spiritual life may be partially quenched at times, through sin, the believer never sins unto spiritual death via apostasy.  This, no doubt, is why John says: 

1 John 5:16c:  There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

What might seem to be an obscure statement within some interpretive constructs, is readily clarified in view of John's description of the believer's security.  When we are praying for a true brother who is struggling over sin (v.16a), we are not to judge them harshly by praying for them as though they were an apostate.  Again, Calvin hits the nail on the head when he observes the Apostle's call to compassionate petition: 

Calvin (Commentaries, 1 John 5:16):  "And when the Apostle recommends sympathy to us, he at the same time reminds us how much we ought to avoid the cruelty of condemning our brethren, or an extreme rigor in despairing of their salvation."

The epistle of 1 John does in fact give us a vast list of tests for evaluating fruit.  Such lists are needful in order to evaluate potential self-deception; the reality of false brethren; as well as the deceptions of false teachers.  However, if we were to treat this list of tests without personal evaluation and humility, we could become like the Pharisees who went about testing others with a cold spirit of judgementalism, pride, and arrogance.  I believe that it is no wonder that John gives us this important and humbling call to prayer for others - remembering that we all struggle and battle with sin on a daily basis (1 John 1:8-10). 

*Note:  Calvin's use of the expression "mortal sin" is in reference to his earlier discussion of Rome's view of venial and mortal sin.  Mortal sin is a reference to sins which lead to eternal condemnation.  Calvin rebukes Rome's distinction of venial (i.e., tolerable sins) and mortal (i.e., intolerable sins) by reminding the reader, that all sin is intolerable in the eyes of God and is therefore mortal (worthy of eternal condemnation); therefore, if it were not for Christ's shed blood and salvation in the life of any sinner, all would sin unto death.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Devotion to History

America's devotion to the subject of history consists, not of knowing history, but of repeating it.  I am convinced our nation's foreign policies are dangerous for the express reason that they are often fraught with the worst kind of historical ignorance.  For example, policy makers are now insisting that the words Islamic Terrorist should not be used together, because to them it seems implausible that the words Islam and terrorism should be so conjoined.  By such a protestation, we see evidence of an illiteracy concerning the bloody trail that flows from the hands of the true followers of Muhammed.  Instead, Pentagon officials should draft a policy that would reconsider using the words government intelligence in the same breath.

More recently, we see the evidence of our short term memories in view of Russia's advancement into Georgia.  In the wake of this historical repeat of Russia's aggression, many have praised Secretary of State Rice's "strong words" where she said: "This is not 1968."  On the one hand, I agree: it's not 1968 - it's 2008; however, if her point is that history cannot repeat itself in Georgia, then she is already wrong.  Consider this 1968 BBC report on Russia's deception as it entered into Czechoslovakia:

1968: Russia brings winter to 'Prague Spring':

"Dozens of people have been killed in a massive military clampdown in Czechoslovakia by five Warsaw Pact countries.

Several members of the liberal Czechoslovak leadership have been arrested, including Prime Minister Alexander Dubcek.

The Soviet news agency, Tass, claims "assistance" was requested by members of the Czechoslovak Government and Communist party leaders to fight 'counter-revolutionary forces.'

But in a secret radio address, Czechoslovak President Ludvik Svoboda condemned the occupation by Warsaw Pact allies as illegal and committed without the government's consent."

May I be so bold as to suggest that Prime Minister Putin is pursuing Georgia with the 1968 playbook in hand, and that history is already being repeated - at least in part?  I offer you this piece from the New York Post as an excellent description of how we, the West, have been left dumbfounded through our gross historical illiteracy:

A CZAR IS BORN:

...This is intelligence work at the hall-of-fame level. (For our part, we had all the intelligence pieces in our hands and failed to assemble the puzzle.)

On the military side, the months of meticulous planning and extensive preparations for this invasion were covered by military exercises, disingenuous explanations - and maskirovka, the art of deception the Red Army had mastered. The Russians convinced us to see what we wanted to see.

Equally as remarkable was the Kremlin's ability to lead the global media by the nose. (Oblivious to the irony, a BBC broadcast yesterday portrayed tiny, poorhouse Georgia as a propaganda powerhouse and Russia as an information victim - an illustration of the Russian propaganda machine's effectiveness.) From the start, every Russian ministry was reading from the same script (try to orchestrate that in Washington). Breaking off his phony play date with Bush in Beijing, Putin rushed back to the theater of war.

Upon arrival, he publicly consoled "refugees" who had been bused out of South Ossetia days in advance. Launching the war's Big Lie, Putin deployed dupe-the-rubes code words, such as "genocide" and "response."

Wearing his secret-policeman's stone-face, Putin blamed Georgia for exactly what his storm troopers were doing to the Georgians. And lazy journalists around the world served as the Kremlin's ad agency.

"...lazy journalists around the world served as the Kremlin's ad agency."  Well stated.  What mystifies me is the general sense of surprise that overcomes the masses when such predictable events occur.  As the oft quoted expression goes:  "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." 

Sadly, this is our devotion to history - the devotion of repeating, rather than knowing.

 

Ecclesiastes 1:10-11:

10 Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. 11 There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.

 

The Commercialization of Science

One of the most important but little known chapters in Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box is the eighth chapter, entitled Publish or Perish.  I say most important because Behe says things there that are not said enough: that modern/secular science is much more of a commercial industry than anything else.  Those who want to "make it" within the scientific community of the modern age must sing the Darwinian National Anthem  with mindless devotion or face permanent exile.  This attitude is becoming more prevalent in a culture which disdains anyone who would dare to question Darwin's general and special hypothesis of evolution.  All of this is quite ironic since there is no scientific proof that genetic mutations yield an increase of information in the genome in question.  Until such evidence can be given, evolution remains, at best, a strained hypothesis; and we are thereby left to our imagination about how a T-Rex can transform into a chicken, how cows morph into whales - and while we're at it, why unicorns can fly (speaking in the realm of mere hypothesis).  In the realm of physics, and even mystical physics, we have the same dilemma.  Take for example string theory.  Most traditional physicists would agree that such a "theory" is not the product of empiricism and must be relegated to the realm of unproven hypothesis.  String theory may be true, but because it lies outside of the realm of direct observation it could never be absolutely proved, or disproved - i.e., a hypothesis.  But this won't stop some scientists from claiming that string theory is absolute science.  Nor will it stop men from using such mystical physics in the commercial industry of modern research.  Case in point - watch the short video below and note how Michio Kaku, author of "Physics of the Impossible," explains how it was necessary to sell CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) through the use of creative marketing and exaggeration.  I can at least appreciate his honesty.  

P.S., It's pronounced hadron, not haedron:

 

What is always striking, in such examples as these, is the unmitigated arrogance which attends those who suppose that they can "find God" with a manmade machine.  Sadly, this is the world in which we live.  As they say - Publish or perish.

*Hadron is the nominative English transliteration of the Greek word 'adrotes > 'adros - meaning something that is thick, well-grown or abundant. 

Monday, August 04, 2008

Unlocking the Mystery of Life

Unlocking The Mystery Of LifeI recently had the opportunity to take a look at the video entitled Unlocking the Mystery of Life by Illustra Media.  I won't go into much detail here, but I would rather refer you to a review that I wrote for Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box (here)* for more information.   My best summary of this excellent video is that it is (in a sense) the video version of Darwin's Black Box plus a brief history of the beginnings of the ID movement.  Not everyone will want to take the time to read Behe's book, but with a video like this, a viewer could easily digest the basic arguments advanced by Behe, while being introduced to other leaders within the ID movement in the process.  Additionally, this video is simple enough for children to comprehend.  The CGI reconstructions of various biochemical processes is absolutely stunning, and helps the viewer to see a portion of the vast measure of complexity that lies within the smallest levels of cellular life - the likes of which Darwin could only assume (and hope) was simple and non-complex.  This video does an excellent job of exposing the black box of unproven hypotheses, as held intensely by Darwin and his devoted followers, while at the same time revealing the majesty, wisdom, and glory of the Creator who created life for His own glory.
 
 

*My normal disclaimer concerning ID usually includes a reminder to the viewer/reader that the ID community is quite broad.  While tools like these are useful, I would like to encourage caution to those who use such things.