Saturday, July 28, 2007

The scandal of grace

The Church of Jesus Christ has some problems - one of them being that its face to the world is fallible, sinful people - like me. Mark Galli at Christianity Today writes about a recent conversation and some new research:
.... The conversation was with a 20-something Christian who told me a few anecdotes about other 20-something Christians who refuse to identify themselves with the word Christian. They feel it comes with too much baggage and only makes their non-Christian friends think of stuffy churches, televangelists, the Crusades, and witch trials.

The book was Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity (Baker, October 2007) by David Kinnaman. The book's opening line is "Christianity has an image problem," and it proceeds to describe the many problems secular "busters and mosaics" (also known as generations X and Y) have with the faith. Though the book is grounded on statistical research, the list of complaints will not surprise anyone who reads the newspaper or has attended church recently: The church is proselytistic, anti-homosexual, sheltered, politicized, and judgmental.

Unchristian's motive is praiseworthy—the author implores us to take these generations' critiques seriously as we try to call them to follow Jesus. And the book's central assumption seems reasonable enough: If we could just get Christians to act like Christians, more people would be attracted to Jesus.

But the problem with the book, and with those who eschew the Christian label, is that they fail to take the sinfulness of the church seriously enough. They also fail to recognize how far the scandal of the Cross reaches. Simply put, Jesus not only died for but also chooses to associate with sheltered, judgmental, proselytizing hypocrites who have put their faith in him. In fact, he's willing to let them muck up his "brand," willing to let each collection of potential televangelists and crusaders be known as a "church of Jesus Christ."

Part of the scandal of the Cross is the scandal of grace. And part of the scandal of grace is that I am part and parcel of the company of the graced.
Christianity Today: Grace - That's So Sick

Friday, July 27, 2007

A step in the right direction?

The House Democrats have introduced legislation designed to reduce abortions by providing incentives and healthcare for expectant mothers, and assistance after birth, much of it to be provided through Planned Parenthood. Brooke Livitske at the Acton Institute blog asks whether this is something Christians should applaud, or is it just a ploy to attract pro-life voters?

Pro-Life Socialism? - Acton Institute PowerBlog

Which theologian are you?

In the spirit of "What religion am I?," via RightWingBob, a quiz that purports to tell you with which prominent theologian you are most in agreement. His results were Karl Barth. My result was John Calvin, although it isn't clear to me why Calvin, rather than Anselm or Barth. I'm not at all sure I would give the same answers each time I took the quiz. I doubt that I am a very systematic theologian. My "results":
Which theologian are you? You scored as a John Calvin

Much of what is now called Calvinism had more to do with his followers than Calvin himself, and so you may or may not be committed to TULIP, though God's sovereignty is all important.

Anselm 87%
Karl Barth 87%
John Calvin 87%
Friedrich Schleiermacher 60%
Charles Finney 53%
Jonathan Edwards 47%
Paul Tillich 33%
Martin Luther 33%
Augustine 33%
Jürgen Moltmann 7%
RightWingBob notes:
"No commitments are expressed or implied here regarding the reliability of any results you may obtain with the quiz linked above. Neither is any commitment made regarding any salvation you may or may not obtain as a result of any of your answers in that same quiz."
Which theologian are you?

The weight of glory


"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. .... Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses."
C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"
From The Inklings:
I know myself what others know far better - how unfailingly courteous Lewis was in answering letters. I think I corresponded with him on three or four occasions... there was a reply every time - it might be quite brief, but it was always written for you and for nobody else. I think this was his greatest secret.

He hated casual contacts; human contact must, for him, be serious and concentrated and attentive, or it was better avoided. It might be for a moment only, but that was its invariable quality. That is not only why so many people have precious memories of him; it is also why he couldn't write three words without the reader's feeling that they were written for him and him alone. It's why his massive books of scholarship read as delightfully as his children's stories, and why he's one of the few preachers who can be read without losing their message."
Erik Routley, "A Prophet", C. S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table and Other Reminiscences
[The Inklings site is invariably interesting about that group of Christians. It is also a very attractive site. The image of Lewis used here came from there, where it appeared with with the quotation from Breakfast Table. I added the link to Amazon.]

The Inklings: Memories of Lewis

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Squandering the moment

Michael Spencer, the InternetMonk, thinks that the mainline churches are missing an opportunity. In a post titled "Mainline Churches: We're Having a Moment Here":
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ…do you know what I mean? We’re having a moment, and it’s slipping right by.

What moment?

We’re having a moment when thousands of evangelicals are getting a bellyful of the shallow, traditionless, grown up youth group religion that’s taken over their pastor’s head and is eating up their churches.

It’s a moment when people are asking if they want to hear praise bands when they are 70…or if they will even be allowed in the building when they are 70. It’s a moment when the avalanche of contemporary worship choruses has turned into one long indistinquishable commercial buzz. ....

It’s a moment when a lot of people are pretty certain if they hear the words “new,” “purpose” or “seeker” one more time, they may appear on the evening news for an episode of “church rage.” ....

It’s a moment that- believe it or not- some people actually want to go to something that looks like church as they remember it, see a recognizable pastor, hear a recognizable sermon, participate in the Lord’s Supper, experience some reverence and decorum, and leave feeling that, in some ways, it WAS a lot like their mom and dad’s church. It’s a moment when reinventing everything may not be as sweet an idea as we were told it was.

It’s a moment when the baby boomer domination of evangelicalism is showing signs of cracking. Some younger people actually want to hear theology. They aren’t judging everything by how seekers evaluate it or what Rick Warren would say about it.

Yes, my mainline friends, we’re having a moment here. You can see it all around the edges of evangelicalism. It’s there and it’s real. It isn’t easy or automatic, but it’s there. And it is sad to realize that at the very time so many are looking for what you have, you’re mostly squandering the moment entirely. .... [all of it, and the comments are interesting, too]
InternetMonk: Mainline Churches: We're Having a Moment Here

"The embrace of Jesus..."

At Christianity Today, Patricia Raybon reviews The Divine Embrace by Robert Webber.
In his final ancient-future sojourn, Robert Webber, who died in April from pancreatic cancer, took up the rich matter of ancient Christian spirituality. His aim was to fully tell "the story of spirituality from the ancient church to the present day." ....

Webber is never better, in fact, than when defining Christian spirituality in terms of its ancient story. Or as he writes in this book: "Christian spirituality … does not fall into what Newsweek describes as a contentless 'transcendent experience.'" Instead, Christian spirituality "is the embrace of Jesus, who, united to God, restores our union with God that we lost because of sin." ....

... Without apology, he invites believers to return to "the identity" of baptism with water, the Eucharist, and the liturgical calendar—and to worship that spurns the "CEO model" of the church.

As for the big-business church and CEO preachers selling Jesus "to a consumer market," Webber urges a return to "the incarnate nature of the church," which he describes as "a need to rediscover the very nature of the church as the presence of God in the world."

To that end, Webber dares here to promote the ancient vows of stability, fidelity, and obedience—as modeled by the Rule of Saint Benedict—along with orderly prayer, study, and work. Such elements help evangelicals encounter Christ in daily life, he writes. .... [the review]
Spirituality Squared | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Are Our Children Learning Enough About Whales?

Whether about whales, ordinary Americans, or the self-esteem of the African continent, ONN has broadcast stories not well covered by the major media. Here is one of them:





In The Know: Are Our Children Learning Enough About Whales?

In The Know: Are Our Children Learning Enough About Whales?

"A gospel contrary to the one we preached..."

Albert Mohler has made his final contribution to the Beliefnet debate with Orson Scott Card about the relationship of Mormonism to Christianity.
The debate has never been about whether Mormons are good Americans or would make good neighbors. I dare say that most American Evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics would find more in common with Mormons in terms of child-rearing, sexual morality, the protection of marriage and family, and a host of other issues, than they would with liberal Catholics or liberal Protestants. No argument there.

The debate is not over Mitt Romney or his right to run for President of the United States. ....

The debate is not over the right of Mormons to hold their faith, promote their faith, and spread their faith. That, too, is a constitutional right – the same right that protects the religious liberty of all persons of all faiths and no faith.

For me, and as the question was posed to me, the issue is theological. That is why I cannot answer the question except as I have from the start.

Here is the bottom line. As an Evangelical Christian – a Christian who holds to the “traditional Christian orthodoxy” of the Church – I do not believe that Mormonism leads to salvation. To the contrary, I believe that it is a false gospel that, however sincere and kind its adherents may be, leads to eternal death rather than to eternal life.

Indeed, I believe that Mormonism is a prime example of what the Apostle Paul warned the Church to reject – “a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you” [Galatians 1:8-9].

And thus I must end where I began. Mormonism is not just another form of Christianity – it is incompatible with “traditional Christian orthodoxy.”

Beliefnet: Blogalogue - Debates About Faith, www.AlbertMohler.com: Are Mormons "Christians?" - Ending Where I Began

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

William Tyndale

The Catechizer over at The Wittenberg Door has posted an account of William Tyndale's life in two parts: Part 1, and Part 2. He summarizes Tyndale's contribution:
Tyndale’s translations were the foundations for Miles Coverdale’s Great Bible (1539) and later for the Geneva Bible (1557). As a matter of fact, about 90% of the Geneva Bible’s New Testement was Tyndale’s work. In addition, the 54 scholars who produced the 1611 Authorized Version (King James) bible relied heavily upon Tyndale’s translations, although they did not give him credit.

Tyndale is also known as a pioneer in the biblical languages. He introduced several words into the English language, such as Jehovah, Passover, scapegoat, and atonement.
The Wittenberg Door: William Tyndale - Part 1, Part 2

Debt-free after college

The College of the Ozarks, in Point Lookout, Missouri, received very favorable coverage in the New York Times this morning. The article says it's a good school, but
...what is truly different about Hard Work U. — as the college styles itself — is that all 1,345 students must work 15 hours per week to pay off the entire cost of tuition — $15,900 per year. If they work summers, as one-third are doing this summer, they pay off their $4,400 room and board as well. Work study is not an option as it is at most campuses; it is the college’s raison d’être.

This is a college that is philosophically opposed to students starting careers with an Ozark mountain of debt — 95 percent graduate debt free — and it believes that students who put sweat equity into their education value it more. ....

The College of the Ozarks — a four-year college since 1965, and rated No. 30 by U.S. News and World Report among Midwestern colleges offering both liberal arts and professional degrees — is one of seven so-called work colleges. Six describe themselves as Christian institutions and often, like Ozarks, are socially and politically conservative.

At Ozarks, drinking is forbidden, men and women live in separate dormitories and students must attend seven chapel services a year, whatever religion they are. The political outlook is evident in campus speakers like Margaret Thatcher and Tommy Franks, the retired general who led the Iraq invasion.
The college is one of seven belonging to the WorkColleges Consortium.

Fight Song at Ozarks: Work Hard and Avoid Debt - New York Times

John Piper

John Piper, along with Mark Dever and a few others, always seems worth reading and hearing. Several of his sermons that are available online are linked below:

The sermon that John Piper delivered at the organizing sessions of The Gospel Coalition was titled "The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth." It, along with several sermons by others, is linked here and from the image on the left.

Several sermons Piper preached at The Passion Conference have been posted at the Desiring God site here. One of them is "How Our Suffering Glorifies the Greatness of the Grace of God."

The Gospel Coalition | Media, Desiring God: The Passion Conference Videos

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Prince Caspian

"Glumpuddle" at NarniaWeb has had a chance to visit the set and shares what he saw and was told. Among others, he interviewed Andrew Adamson, the director.

NarniaWeb - NarniaWeb Visits the Prince Caspian Set!

Careless and dishonest polemic

Thomas Piatak in "Hitchens' Hubris" once again demonstrates why reading God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchens, would be time wasted.

Taki's Top Drawer: Hitchens' Hubris

"Thy will be done...."

Several years ago Bruce Wilkinson wrote and published, to great success, The Prayer of Jabez. This is the prayer, found in I Chronicles 4:10:
And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!" And God granted him that which he requested. [KJV]
Many Christians have read the book, and it has many advocates and critics within the Christian community [one of the critical books was titled The Mantra of Jabez]. In the book's preface, Wilkinson says "I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers.... I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God." Unfortunately some have taken the petitions for blessing, and "enlarging my coast," and "keeping me from evil" as a prayer for health and wealth which God cannot refuse. Another take on the prayer was offered in a sermon by Spurgeon around 1870:
Is it certainly a blessing to get an answer to your prayer after your own mind? I always like to qualify my most earnest prayer with, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt." Not only ought I to do it, but I would like to do it, because otherwise I might ask for something which it would be dangerous for me to receive. God might give it me in anger, and I might find little sweetness in the grant, but much soreness in the grief it caused me. You remember how Israel of old asked for flesh, and God gave them quails; but while the meat was yet in their mouths the wrath of God came upon them. Ask for the meat, if you like, but always put in this: "Lord, if this is not a real blessing, do not give it me." "Bless me indeed." .... Do not be quite so sure that what you think an answer to prayer is any proof of divine love. It may leave much room for thee to seek unto the Lord, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest blessed me indeed!" So sometimes great exhilaration of spirit, liveliness of heart, even though it be religious joy, may not always be a blessing. .... [the sermon]
Our Lord Himself prayed:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” [Matthew 26:39, ESV]
And taught His disciples [and us] to pray:
"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." [Matthew 6:9-13, KJV]
If the prayer of Jabez was intended to be a model for us - as the Lord's Prayer undoubtedly was - then it cannot be understood as "a prayer God always answers," or, at least, answers in a way we might prefer.
By God's grace may we grow into Him, so that what we ask for will truly be what He wants for us. Amen
Pyromaniacs: The Prayer of Jabez, The Prayer of Jabez

Authenticity

John Stott has delivered his final public address. The failure of Christians to be "Christ-like" is the most important barrier to evangelism:
Incarnational evangelism or entering into other people’s worlds with Christ-likeness, Stott noted, is essential to the church’s walk in the 21st century. However, our evangelistic efforts often lead to failure simply because we fail to look like the Christ we are proclaiming. Quoting John Poulton, Stott noted that, “The most effective preaching comes from those who embody their message. What communicates now are people, not words or ideas but rather personal authenticity, that is, Christ-likeness”.
Langham Partnership: John Stott's Final Public Address

Escaping Reality for a fantasy land?

Rules for Evangelical Politics

Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical advisor to the DNC, often reminds anyone who will listen that, "God is not a Republican…or a Democrat." This is almost certainly true, for as Biola professor John Mark Reynolds notes, "He's probably a monarchist."
Joe Carter begins a post today with the paragraph above. It is an annoying habit of liberal and apolitical evangelicals to assume that those of us who are politically engaged conservatives believe that "God is on our side," when, no doubt like them, we are fallibly but conscientiously endeavoring to be on His. Democratic politics requires the citizen to make choices, almost always between imperfect options, and in these choices, as in every other aspect of life, we need to do our best to do His will as we discern it.

Carter continues:
.... Political choices are almost always moral choices. Such decisions are fraught with moral danger and each Christian, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, must determine for themselves how best to follow their conscience.

Obviously some decisions are easier than others. Despite the excuses we may make for our historical-cultural setting, no Biblically oriented evangelical should ever support a candidate who condones such evils as "outrages against human dignity" (i.e., slavery, racial segregation, torture, abortion). Other times the options may force a choice among the lesser of two or more evils (pro-abortion candidate Hillary Clinton, pro-abortion candidate Rudy Giuliani, or a pro-life third party candidate?). In each case, though, the choice should be to follow one's conscience in applying Biblical principles to political decisions.
The occasion for Carter's comment was the publication of a list of "Rules for Evangelical Politics" by David Gushee, to most of which Carter takes exception. Carter is convincing.

the evangelical outpost: Politically Correct Politics: Gushee's Rules for Evangelical Politics

Friday, July 20, 2007

It is far better to agree to disagree than to pretend

Reacting to Albert Mohler's column "No, I'm not offended," about the Vatican statement on the Church, Carl Olsen at Ignatius Insight writes "None given, none taken." He concludes with this:
...[I]f Mohler wasn't willing to say these things, I'd doubt that he was really a conservative, evangelical Southern Baptist. He thinks the Pope and the Catholic Church are wrong; I think that he is wrong, which is obviously why he's Baptist and I'm Catholic. At first glance, this might appear to be a daunting roadblock. Personally, I find it refreshing, especially after seeing so many crocodile tears spilled by Catholics who are either clueless about authentic Catholic doctrine, or who are so enamored with a false understanding of tolerance that they happily toss Truth out the window of their politically-correct cubicles. Mohler, to his credit, understands Catholic teaching better than such people. And I think he actually respects it far more than they do as well. In the end, I think, it is far better to agree to disagree than to pretend that what we believe doesn't really matter.
Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: None given, none taken

The interval in between

Tony Snow, the President's press secretary, has cancer. He is a Christian. In an article for Christianity Today he describes how he has come to think about disease and death.
Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face. ....

I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat [this cancer]," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side."

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend—and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms. ....

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand.

Cancer's Unexpected Blessings | Christianity Today

"...in ways we never dreamed of."

Touchstone continues to put on-line early issues of the magazine. The passage below is from a 1990 article by Wayne Martindale of Wheaton College titled "C. S. Lewis on Gender Language in the Bible." At the end of the article, he passes on Lewis' good advice about how to deal with difficult passages of Scripture:
Lewis writes that baffling, even shocking passages in the Bible must be allowed to stand. He explains that our responsibility, when we don’t understand certain passages is to let them alone until a greater person will come along who knows how to read them rightly. When a person does come to understand such passages, Lewis explains, the result will be that God will appear “good and just and gracious in ways we never dreamed of.”

And what should our attitude be when, all about, the voices of theologians go up in a demand for changes in gender language in the Bible? Can we afford to ignore the experts? Here is a final caution from Lewis: “When you turn from the New Testament to modern scholars, remember that you go among them as a sheep among wolves. Naturalistic assumptions, beggings of the question . . . will meet you on every side—even from the pens of clergymen.” There is only one safe course: let us not try to conform the Word of God to suit our own standards, but let us conform our standards to suit the Word of God.
All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever.
(1 Pet. 1:24–25)
Touchstone Archives: C. S. Lewis on Gender Language in the Bible

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christians, bards, magic and spells

GetReligion isn't impressed with a Washington Post story this morning, heralding that a "Christian Fantasy Genre Builds Niche Without Hogwarts, Muggles or Spells."
This story contains all of the Bible verse quotations that one needs to know that, yes, there are people in Christian pews who are not comfortable with wizards, wands, spells and what not. But, folks, that is a really old, old story, too. In fact, one of the most serious holes in this long story is linked precisely to that fact.
...(Critics) have said that J.K. Rowling’s series gives Harry Potter deity-like powers, although he has no known religion. Critics also say that the books lack a definitive portrayal of good and evil. (Harry does engage in some occasional fibbing, and his skills at deceiving adults are well honed). A few critics have said that the lightning-bolt scar on Harry’s forehead represents the mark of the antichrist.

Rowling has dismissed such claims as “absurd.”

But Christian fantasy writers avoid those issues. Some deal with Christianity in overt ways, setting their stories in biblical times. Others follow in the footsteps of Christian fantasy writer C.S. Lewis, using allegory and symbolism to illustrate Christian themes.
The team at the Post that produced this story does not seem to realize that wizards and magic appear in the Narnia books and that there used to be people who were offended by these books, too. And it goes without saying that the same could be said of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, who expressed his strong Catholic faith in much more subtle ways. Believe me, the Tolkien bashers are still out there.

Meanwhile, there are other popular writers in the fantasy world whose work has long appealed to believers and nonbelievers alike. One of my favorites is Stephen Lawhead, whose work — much of it Celtic in nature — tends to be published by “Christian” companies in North America and by “secular” publishers elsewhere. Go figure. Needless to say, bards and magic play major roles in his books and you’ll find them in all kinds of bookstores. Book two of his Raven/Hood trilogy is about to come out. (Yes, Raven Hood.)

So this anti-Potter CCF story is, for me, a stretch on several levels.

Meanwhile, there is also a chance that the Post buried the lede, for most of its readers. Near the bottom we learn:
Many religious leaders have rejected such objections. They have said that the books have a strong moral message. Some even see Christian symbolism in them. Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Potter books.
Update 7/20: Apparently Dobson does not approve of the Potter books.

Crusaders

The positive uses of the words "crusade" and "crusader" have almost disappeared from public discourse. As recently as World War II, Eisenhower engaged in a "Crusade for Europe." The terms, today, supposedly remind us [and especially the Islamic world] of an unprovoked, imperialistic, assault on an innocent and peaceful, advanced civilization. But Muslims had previously conquered much that had been Christian - the Levant, north Africa - and their attacks would continue to threaten Europe for centuries. Once, the Crusades were viewed simplistically as a war for good against evil. Now, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. History doesn't provide very many instances in which all the heroes and villains are clearly on opposing sides, and the Crusades aren't among them. A recent history, Christopher Tyerman's God's War: A New History of the Crusades, is reviewed in Christianity Today by Alfred J. Andrea. An excerpt:
Adjectives for God's War almost fail. "Comprehensive," "monumental," and "epic" come to mind, and they are appropriate but scarcely adequate.

In brief, this is a work by a master historian that will replace Runciman's classic as the standard survey in the field. ....


Among the...misconceptions that Tyerman attacks head on is one that Runciman did not articulate but which has become fashionable today. It says that medieval holy wars between the Cross and the Crescent led directly to such phenomena as Western imperialism and contemporary Islamic anger over a presumed millennium-long assault on it by the Christian West.

Tyerman dismisses such putative connections as nonsensical inventions. In doing so, he mirrors an emerging consensus among Crusade historians that the Islamic world largely forgot about the Crusades after 1300. After all, it had been the victor, and under Ottoman leadership, it put Christian Europe on the defensive for about 400 years. All of this changed around 1900. At that time, Muslim anger over European imperial designs on the Middle East provided sufficient context for it to create the image of the "crusading Christian West."

A book that runs more than 1,000 pages (including notes) might be ponderous and unreadable. It is not. Tyerman's touch is light, his prose sparkles, and his delightful wit gives it spice. ....
Onward, Christian Soldiers | Christianity Today

Faith and science

At least one scientist who is also an atheist thinks those who find science and faith irreconcilable ignore the empirical evidence. Dale Carrico, quoted at the Acton Institute blog:
Given all the atheist militancy raising a ruckus lately, I suppose it isn’t too surprising that I am stumbling upon more regular and more baldly dismissive declarations these days about the ineradicable incompatibility of science and religion among Science’s self-appointed Elite Champions online.

I’ve been a perfectly convinced and rather cheerfully nonjudgmental atheist for well over twenty years at this point, but I must say that I think it is arrant nonsense to claim that scientific and religious practices or scientific and religious beliefs are incompatible, given the overabundant evidence of people who weave them together in their lives every day so conspicuously. A little respect for the facts you claim so to cherish, people?
World Magazine interviews Michael Behe [behind the subscription wall], who believes neither in "Creationism" nor in "random natural selection." He does, however, believe that God created this universe, with all its pain and suffering:
I'm no deist. I'm a Christian who believes strongly in an active, loving God. Yet as C.S. Lewis insisted, Aslan is "not a tame lion." God answered Job's complaint of suffering not by denying it, but by His majesty and transcendence. God did not place us in a toy world, with all the sharp edges smoothed. Rather, along with the pleasant, He designed a world containing real physical danger: tigers with claws, and remarkable parasites with sophisticated molecular technology. We Christians especially should expect to suffer in this life and, much worse, to witness those dear to us suffer. Yet our faith assures us that through the mystery of suffering with Christ, God will draw out much good.
Acton Institute PowerBlog: Speaking of 'Priestly' Science, World Magazine: Darwin Slayer

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thin places

God guide me with Thy wisdom
God chastise me with Thy justice,
God help me with Thy mercy,
God protect me with Thy strength.

God fill me with Thy fullness,
God shield me with Thy shade,
God fill me with Thy grace,
For the sake of Thine Anointed Son.

Jesus Christ of the seed of David,
Visiting One of the Temple,
Sacrificial Lamb of the Garden,
Who died for me.

Christianity Today has a slide show of images of sites related to Ireland's early Christian heritage. The photographer describes his experience:
Between the spring of 1997 and the fall of 1999, I made three trips to Ireland. Traveling from site to site, I felt like I was on my own pilgrimage. Indeed, while visiting some of these special places, such as Clonmacnoise or Skellig Michael, I felt like I was physically in a place between earth and heaven—what Irish Christians called a "thin place."

During these trips, my purpose was primarily to photograph what remains on the sites of early Christian Ireland. The images included in "Early Light" are documentary but also interpretive, as I've attempted to suggest the underlying spiritual heritage of the places I visited. ....
Early Light Slide Show

Proper, moral, and needed

The new Congressman from Georgia's 10th District, Dr. Paul Broun proposed a pretty good "four-way test" that he intends to apply before deciding whether to vote for legislation:
    1. Is it constitutional and a proper function of government?
    2. Is it morally correct?
    3. Is it something we really need?
    4. Is it something we can afford?

"...a style more John Wayne than Jimmy Cagney."

Michelle Cottle, at the venerable and liberal New Republic, is not entirely satisfied that Fred Thompson is up to the challenge of running for President. The article contains much information about Thompson's background and prospects from a source not predisposed to wish him success. His laid-back image is viewed negatively by some, but those who support him (like me) view it very favorably:
Looking back over the sweep of Thompson's life, you get the picture of a nice, decent guy fortunate enough to have had a string of helping hands propel him along the road to success. "Fred's charmed," says Ingram. "I mean, from Lawrence County, which was [back then] a Democratic stronghold, to his relationship with Howard Baker, to representing Marie, to finding himself playing himself in her movie, to asking the pivotal Watergate question about the tapes ..." Here, Ingram pauses and backtracks a bit to assure me: "He's very serious. He's very thorough. But he's also been at the right place at the right time with charmed results." Far from undercutting his presidential prospects, this laid-back reputation fuels the seductive story line of Thompson as a Natural Born Leader - a man who excels because of his intrinsic worthiness, not any grinding ambition. "It's part of his appeal," says Tennessee Representative John Duncan, co-chair of the "Draft Fred" committee. "I don't think people like people totally obsessed with politics." "He gives the impression of a man who has things in perspective," agrees Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's lobbying shop. "It's been my impression that workaholics don't work out in the White House." ....
Update: 7/19 - Ed Morrissey didn't like the New Republic article at all. He takes more offense at its portrayal of conservatives than what it says about Thompson. He's right about that, but, considering the source, its treatment of Thompson wasn't bad. An excerpt from his post:
Cottle writes somewhat derisively about how his first wife had to help him mature, which shouldn't be much of a shock, since they got married at 17 - and having a son and daughter-in-law go through a similar situation, it's not surprising that getting married and having babies matures someone. What should be considered is the fact that Thompson went through college and law school while doing so, which isn't easy now and was tougher back then.

The article basically consists of one unsupported hypothesis after another. She accuses Stephen Hayes of having a "particularly intense man crush" on Fred because he wrote this: ""As we spoke, I was struck by the fact that Thompson didn't seem to be calibrating his answers for a presidential run. On issue after contentious issue, I got the sense from both his manner and the answer he gave me that he was just speaking extemporaneously." Cottle also reveals a certain lack of humor when discussing an Internet post that joked, "If Fred Thompson had been at Thermopylae, the movie would have been called 1." Had Cottle had a sense of humor, she would have realized that the joke pokes fun at the sweeping enthusiasm surrounding Fred.
The masculine mystique of Fred Thompson

Prayer as second-class speech

The Acton Institute posts about Jeremy Jerschina, who was not permitted to include a prayer in his valedictory address this spring:
...[O]fficials at Jeremy’s high school rejected his speech because of its religious content. Jeremy wanted to pray at the end of his address to acknowledge God as the reason for his academic success, but the principal of Bayonne High School and its board of education told him he could only give the speech if he left out the prayer. So Jeremy chose not to speak at all. ....

Hearing about Jeremy was a reminder to me that the increasing secularization of schools and other state-run organizations has real consequences for Christians. Most frightening is that religious expression is coming to be viewed as second-class speech. ....

It also made me think about how Christians react when Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, etc. want to exercise their freedom of expression - we are (often rightly) accused of taking offense too easily at non-Christian demonstrations of religious sentiment. Perhaps it’s time for the Christian community to develop a tougher skin in this area. The minute we view others’ religious speech as second class, we give philosophical ground to those who would relegate our religious speech to sub-societal realms. Unless we’re prepared to retreat into the catacombs, we need to affirm the 1st Amendment’s guarantee to Americans of every creed.

And for my part, I’d be more “offended” to hear a narcissistic valedictorian praising himself than to hear a Muslim valedictorian praising Allah any day of the week.
Without A Prayer - Acton Institute PowerBlog

Relativism

Stand to Reason points out that a large section of the first chapter of Frank Beckwith's soon-to-be-published Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice has been made available as a pdf. It is titled "Moral Reasoning, Law, and Politics," and makes an argument against "moral relativism." As a teacher I often came across the "I have a right to believe what I want" position as if that freed the individual from any need to make an argument. Beckwith won't let those who are "pro-choice" avoid the need to justify their position:
Moral relativism has stunted the ability of many to grasp the nature of moral claims. Some people often confuse preference-claims with moral-claims or reduce the latter to the former. To understand what I mean by this, consider two statements:
  1. I like vanilla ice cream.
  2. Killing people without justification is wrong.
The first statement is a preference-claim, as it is a description of a person's subjective taste. It is not a normative claim. It is not a claim about what one ought or ought not to do. It is not saying, "Because I like vanilla ice cream, the government ought to coerce you to eat it as well" or "Everyone in the world ought to like vanilla ice cream too." A claim of subjective preference tells us nothing about what one ought to think or do. For example, if someone were to say, "I like to torture children for fun," this would tell us nothing about whether it is wrong or right to torture children for fun.

The second claim, however, is quite different. It has little if anything to do with what one likes or dislikes. In fact, one may prefer to kill another person without justification and still know that it is morally wrong to do so. This statement is a moral-claim. It is not a descriptive claim, for it does not tell us what, why, or how things are, or how a majority of people in fact behave and/or think. Nor is it a preference-claim, for it does not tell us what anyone's subjective preference may be or how one prefers to behave and/or think. Rather, it is a claim about what one ought to do, which may be contrary to how one in fact behaves and/or prefers to behave.

Unfortunately, the espousal of moral relativism has made it difficult for many people in our culture to distinguish between preference-claims and moral-claims. Rather than pondering and struggling with arguments for and against a particular moral perspective, people sometimes reduce the disagreement to a question of "personal preference" or "subjective opinion." For example, some who defend the abortion-choice position sometimes tell pro-lifers: "Don't like abortion, then don't have one." This instruction reduces the abortion debate to a preference-claim. That is, the objective moral rightness or wrongness of abortion (i.e.,whether it involves the unjustified killing of a being who is fully human) is declared, without argument, to be not relevant. ....
Stand to Reason: Abortion, Relativism and Tolerance

"Notice God, don't notice me."

Worship is adoration and praise. It is not sitting back to be entertained. A worship leader should be as transparent as possible, allowing the worshipper to attend to God, not the performance. Brian Doerksen, in an interview at Christianity Today:
When I first felt called to do this more than 20 years ago, I wanted to perform music on big stages. But God quickly called me to be all about worship, which is really, "Notice God, don't notice me." ....

The negative reason [for his new album] would be simply my deep concern about some of what is going on in the modern worship explosion—the shallowness, the man-centeredness, the banality. I wanted to do something that was about God and his core attributes. A song like "Holy God" is a God song, not a song about our feelings toward God. ....
Think About God | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blogs: What are they good for?

Ross Douthat asks the question, and his short answer is:
[I]f blogs are a big, big part of the future of web journalism, is this good news or bad? I'd say it's good news for punditry, and bad news for other, deeper forms of writing. [read more]
Ross Douthat

Honorable mention!

One Eternal Day received an "honorable mention" at the Evangelical Outpost's list of Christian blogs. Thanks!

Update 7:52 PM: I'm no longer "honorable mention," I am now #75!

the evangelical outpost: The EO 100

"Do unto others...."

In The Political Teachings of Jesus, Tod Lindberg describes what Jesus says about how people should treat one another. The implications of his teaching favor political freedom and democracy, it would seem. Christopher Levenick reviews the book this morning:
.... Mr. Lindberg believes that Jesus' teachings deserve our attention whether or not they have the force of divine law. They offer, he says, a "coherent account of how to live in the world." More important, they propose a "revolution in the idea of freedom," a revolution that gradually came to shape the mind-set that continues to define modern politics and social relations.

The revolutionary idea finds its most powerful expression in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The familiarity and brevity of the Golden Rule sometimes obscure its radical implications. Unlike the Ten Commandments or various secular codes, it does not list a series of prohibited acts. Instead, it provides a way to think about how to behave toward one's fellow man.

The Golden Rule is implicitly egalitarian: If we are obliged to treat others as we wish to be treated, we must regard them as basically like ourselves and equally deserving of fair dealing. All politics thus proceed from the assumption of the dignity of all persons; within this social framework there is no greater transgression than abusing one's power over someone else.

By this standard, social and political relations are more than a zero-sum game wherein one person's gain comes at another's loss. The Golden Rule proposes that, to the contrary, by identifying ourselves with one another, we arrive at moral virtue and mutual betterment. We become, as Mr. Lindberg writes, "a community of goodwill."

To be sure, the Golden Rule was not without precedent. Similar formulations can be found, among other places, in the Mahabharata, the ancient Indian epic, and Confucius's Analects. The rule in each of these texts, though, is stated negatively: In essence, do not do unto others what one would not like done to oneself. Jesus' positive wording, Mr. Lindberg says, allows for a greater "range of possibility for mutually beneficial interaction." Jesus does not merely forbid injustice; he proposes a principle applicable to our every act and constrained only by the limits of our imagination.
Lamb of God, Social Philosopher - WSJ.com

Monday, July 16, 2007

"Which God alone sees clearly"

The recent statement by the Vatican about the relationship of Roman Catholicism with Orthodoxy and Protestantism raises, once again, fundamental questions about the nature of the Church. Catholicism insists, as it always has, that the human institution headed by the Pope also wields divine authority and that its legitimacy is due to the place given by Our Lord to St. Peter, and through those men he ordained, and so on. And that because of that succession the sacraments are uniquely efficacious through the Roman church [in fact the statement's definition of "Church" is particularly related to the proper delivery of the sacraments]. A few Protestant denominations laid claim to that source of authority too, although the main current of Protestant thought, holding that Scripture is the supreme authority, argued that error, especially on justification, discredited the Catholic claim. The clarity of the Catholic reiteration of their position is beneficial because any true ecumenism must be based on honesty, not fudging. There is, though, another understanding of the meaning of "the Church" which is not based on institutions. S.M. Hutchens:
What makes me a Protestant is that there is a place to stand here where it is not required that I identify any particular communion as the one, true Church. I was not raised in that part of Protestantism, but in a part where...Catholics were not Christians...unless they...tended toward...belief in justification by faith alone and a personal conversion experience as its sacrament. ...[T]he Catholic might be a Christian, but could only be to the degree that he was a Protestant, and Catholicism could only be true to the extent (very dubious) that it was tributary to us.

But there were places to stand within Protestantism that did not require this, where the Church was perceived as C. S. Lewis perceived it (a perception, I must insist, not by any means peculiar to him), as a single thing that transcends the impossibility of church division—a creation of the Holy Spirit that was like him in both its reality and its invisibility—that one could perceive, “hearing the sound thereof,” but could not grasp fully in any ecclesial office or institution, no matter how excellent its constitution. It has seemed to me good to give up a kind of belonging that is offered by divided churches that are secure in their identities for an undivided church that I can (very imperfectly) perceive touching all of them—but which God and God alone sees clearly, just as I see Christ touching those who profess him, while only God can see our hearts and perfectly know our ends. This seems to me to do full justice to both the logic of identity—only this way can one reasonably perceive the Church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic—and the reality that comes down to the judgment of Christ, to individuals as to whether he knows them or not, and to churches, with respect to their final end on his lampstand.
Mere Comments: Notes on "Questions on the Doctrine of the Church"

Atheism

In The Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz on Christopher Hitchens.
Playing into the anger and enmities that debase our politics today, the new new atheism blurs the deep commitment to the freedom and equality of individuals that binds atheists and believers in America. At the same time, by treating all religion as one great evil pathology, today's bestselling atheists suppress crucial distinctions between the forms of faith embraced by the vast majority of American citizens and the militant Islam that at this very moment is pledged to America's destruction.

Like philosophy, religion, rightly understood, has a beginning in wonder. The most wonderful of creatures are human beings themselves. Of all the Bible's sublime and sustaining teachings, none is more so than the teaching that explains that humanity is set apart because all human beings - woman as well as man the Bible emphasizes - are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

That a teaching is sublime and sustaining does not make it true. But that, along with its service in laying the moral foundations in the Western world for the belief in the dignity of all men and women - a belief that our new new atheists take for granted and for which they provide no compelling alternative foundation - is reason enough to give the variety of religions a fair hearing. And it is reason enough to respect believers as decent human beings struggling to make sense of a mysterious world.
OpinionJournal - The New New Atheists

Death of the muggle God?

Does Harry Potter live in a world without God? Terry Mattingly reacts to a Time magazine essay.

Death of the muggle God? » GetReligion

Anti-Catholic bigotry

Catholic/Protestant ecumenism is usually thought of as a phenomenon of the old mainline Protestant churches, but Robert George points out that liberal Protestants have ignored recent anti-Catholic bigotry. He also draws a connection between such bigotry today and the writings of Americans United's Paul Blanchard.

FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » The Neo-Blanshardites vs. the Evangelicals

Friday, July 13, 2007

Christianity Today: Justification by faith

A Christianity Today editorial argues that:

Justification by faith, which gives us assurance of our standing before God, is not just a pastoral doctrine. It goes to the very core of our theological tradition.

Virtue That Counts | Christianity Today

"Dedicated to the proposition...."

Andrew Ferguson is the author of a recent book on Lincoln and what Lincoln means to Americans: Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America. Ferguson was recently interviewed on the subject by The Hoover Institution's Peter Robinson. It is an interesting interview with someone who obviously knows a great deal about our greatest President. It is generally understood now that Lincoln was not a Christian in any conventional sense, but he believed firmly in Providence, and that the survival of the idea that "all men are created equal" might well be determined by the outcome of the Civil War. The interview takes about half an hour.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Christianity and Politics


At Right Reason Jeremy Pierce is planning a series of posts about Christianity and politics. He describes his intention below. It should be interesting.
I'd like to use this opportunity to explore Augustine's views on how Christians should relate politically to a religiously pluralist society. I think he has a lot to offer to those current debates, and his views line up nicely with my own in several ways. I don't expect just to present Augustine's views, however. I expect this to be as much about how I see myself as an evangelical and how I relate to the pluralist society we live in, including how religious views can affect both political discourse and ground my support for particular policies.
Right Reason: Introduction: Christianity and Politics

Packer on Prayer

Inerrancy

At his site, Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig responds to an issue or an inquiry each week. Recently the question asked was about the authority of Scripture, given its apparent errors and inconsistencies. Craig responded with a definition and explanation of what biblical "inerrancy" means. But he also points out that the truth of the gospel doesn't rise or fall depending on that doctrine. Portions of his answer:
...[T]he late Kenneth Kantzer, Dean of the seminary I attended, argued for inerrancy by means of the following two syllogisms:
  1. Whatever God teaches is true.
  2. Historical, prophetic, and other evidences show that Jesus is God.
  3. Therefore, whatever Jesus teaches is true.
  4. Whatever Jesus teaches is true.
  5. Jesus taught that the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
  6. Therefore, the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
The claim here is that we have good reasons to think that the Bible, despite its difficulties, is the inerrant Word of God and therefore we should accept it as such. As Friedrich Schleiermacher once put it, “We do not believe in Christ because we believe in the Bible; we believe in the Bible because we believe in Christ.” ....

Now the question raised by your letter is what our reaction should be if we become convinced that there really is an error in the Bible. Won’t such a conclusion have a kind of reverse effect along our chain of deductive reasoning, leading us to deny Jesus’ resurrection and deity? This was apparently the conclusion of Bart Ehrman, who says he lost his faith in Christ because he discovered one minor error in the Gospels.

Such a conclusion is unnecessary for two reasons. First, we may need instead to revise our understanding of what constitutes an error. Nobody thinks that when Jesus says that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds (Mark 4.31) this is an error, even though there are smaller seeds than mustard seeds. Why? Because Jesus is not teaching botany; he is trying to teach a lesson about the Kingdom of God, and the illustration is incidental to this lesson. Defenders of inerrancy claim that the Bible is authoritative and inerrant in all that it teaches or all that it means to affirm. This raises the huge question as to what the authors of Scripture intend to affirm or teach. Questions of genre will have a significant bearing on our answer to that question. Poetry obviously is not intended to be taken literally, for example. But then what about the Gospels? What is their genre? Scholars have come to see that the genre to which the Gospels most closely conform is ancient biography. This is important for our question because ancient biography does not have the intention of providing a chronological account of the hero’s life from the cradle to the grave. Rather ancient biography relates anecdotes that serve to illustrate the hero’s character qualities. What one might consider an error in a modern biography need not at all count as an error in an ancient biography. To illustrate, at one time in my Christian life I believed that Jesus actually cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem twice, once near the beginning of his ministry as John relates, and once near the end of his life, as we read in the Synoptic Gospels. But an understanding of the Gospels as ancient biographies relieves us of such a supposition, for an ancient biographer can relate incidents in a non-chronological way. Only an unsympathetic (and uncomprehending) reader would take John’s moving the Temple cleansing to earlier in Jesus’ life as an error on John’s part. ....

So if we are confronted with what appears to be an error in Scripture, we should first ask whether we’re not imposing on Scripture a standard of inerrancy which is foreign to the genre of the writing and the intent of its author. ....

Evangelicals sometimes give lip service to the claim that the Gospels are historically reliable, even when examined by the canons of ordinary historical research; but I wonder if they really believe this. It really is true that a solid, persuasive case for Jesus’ resurrection can be made without any assumption of the Gospels’ inerrancy.

By contrast, the case for Jesus’ belief that the Old Testament Scriptures are inerrant is much weaker. I think there’s no doubt that (5) is the premiss that would have to go if biblical inerrancy were to be abandoned. We should have to re-think our doctrine of inspiration in that case, but we needn’t give up belief in God or in Jesus, as Bart Ehrman did. Ehrman had, it seems to me, a flawed theological system of beliefs as a Christian. It seems that at the center of his web of theological beliefs was biblical inerrancy, and everything else, like the beliefs in the deity of Christ and in his resurrection, depended on that. Once the center was gone, the whole web soon collapsed. But when you think about it, such a structure is deeply flawed. At the center of our web of beliefs ought to be some core belief like the belief that God exists, with the deity and resurrection of Christ somewhere near the center. The doctrine of inspiration of Scripture will be somewhere further out and inerrancy even farther toward the periphery as a corollary of inspiration. If inerrancy goes, the web will feel the reverberations of that loss, as we adjust our doctrine of inspiration accordingly, but the web will not collapse because belief in God and Christ and his resurrection and so on don’t depend upon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.
Reasonable Faith: What Price Biblical Errancy

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Salvation is by faith

Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest, confirms that the secular press doesn't "get it" when it comes to understanding what Christians are talking about. We Protestants understand the church universal [the "catholic" church] rather differently than Roman Catholic teaching does. There are important differences that should not be minimized. The statement by the Vatican ensures that they will not be, and ecumenism must always be based on honesty. Nevertheless, the differences shouldn't be exaggerated, either. The Pope is Catholic. Catholics may not believe that we are part of the "One Church" but they don't believe that, therefore, we are not Christians or that, because we aren't Catholic, we are going to Hell.
The headlines I have seen in the mainstream media confirm most journalists are not theologians, and in this case didn’t bother to consult experts of sound, Catholic theology regarding what the debate is all about. Without a proper context, we read that the Pope says some non-Catholic Christian communities are not churches “in the proper sense of the word” — meaning, they are not part of the one Church Jesus established while on Earth — and think he is trying to say if a person’s name and address is not registered in the local Catholic parish, he or she is not going to heaven. The Pope doesn’t mean that. I’ll say it again; the Pope is not saying only registered, baptized Catholics can be saved, and any journalists or critic who says otherwise, has officially missed the point.

Speaking of salvation, from the sight of things as I see it, it is quite possible that many present day non-Catholic Christians who are fervent believers in, and practitioners of, the teachings of Jesus will get to heaven before the throngs of wishy-washy, nominal Catholics who only show up to the church doors for infant baptism, the taking of marriage vows, and their own funeral. Of course, I don’t know who will be on the other side of the pearly gates, but I believe, with the Pope, that there is more to the challenge of personal justification and salvation than calling oneself a Catholic — or a Christian, for that matter. God works everywhere and in mysterious ways, and if we respond generously to him in as much as he reveals himself to us, I believe his grace will be sufficient. In this most recent document, the Pope puts this principle like this:
“It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them…”
The Pope, along with all Christians, believes salvation comes from belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ as one’s personal Lord and Savior, as the only mediator between God and man. The Bible says as much.
FOXNews.com - Document Released By Pope Stirs Catholic Controversy - FOX Fan

Moral action is freely chosen action

John Stossel interviewed Michael Moore for an upcoming 20/20 on ABC. Stossel is one of the few identifiable libertarians in the major media. Moore, of course, has just released his newest "documentary" Sicko. Stossel wrote about the interview, believing it provides an insight into Moore's ideology. This portion of the Stossel column begins with a quotation from Moore:
"I gotta believe that, even though I know you're very much for the individual determining his own destiny, you also have a heart."
Notice his smuggled premise in the words "even though." In Moore's mind, someone who favors individual freedom doesn't care about his fellow human beings. If I have a heart, it's in spite of my belief in freedom and autonomy for everyone. ....

Moore thinks respecting others' freedom means refusing to help the less fortunate. But where's the connection? All it means is that the libertarian refuses to sanction the use of physical force (which is what government is) to help others. Peaceful methods - like voluntary charity - are the only morally consistent methods. I give about a quarter of my income to charities because I've seen that private charity helps the needy far better than government does.

Moore followed up with a religious lesson.
"What the nuns told me is true: We will be judged by how we treat the least among us. And that in order to be accepted into heaven, we're gonna be asked a series of questions. When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was homeless, did you give me shelter? And when I was sick, did you take care of me?"
I'm not a theologian, but I do know that when people are ordered by the government to be charitable, it's not virtuous; it's compelled. Why would anyone get into heaven because he pays taxes under threat of imprisonment? Moral action is freely chosen action.
I was reminded of this book about charity, a review of which made this observation:
In Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books), Arthur C. Brooks finds that religious conservatives are far more charitable than secular liberals, and that those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others....
RealClearPolitics - Articles - Freedom and Benevolence Go Together