Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Muslim's New Year's prayer

A Muslim prayer for the New Year includes the following lines:

Oh Allah, direct your forces against America, the centre of kufr and fasad

O Allah direct Your forces against them

O Allah send upon them that which descends from the skies,

O Allah disintegrate their country

O Allah make them into divided countries and scattered parties,

Contain them within a fist's grip of Your slaves

O Allah, make hurricanes a constant for them

O Allah eradicate them with Your power and Omnipotence

Read the whole thing at Jihad Watch.

RNC challenges Bush's socialism

According to Fox News:

Republican National Committee Vice Chairman James Bopp Jr. submitted a resolution to the party Tuesday. If approved, it would put the party on record as opposing the bailouts of the financial and automotive industries.

The resolution, signed by at least 24 of the 168 party members, argues that the financial bailout effectively nationalized the banking system.

The statement says the rescue packages are "moving our free-market based economy another dangerous step closer toward socialism."

I'm glad to see this. I was beginning to think that our only two choices were between the fast track to socialism (Democrats) and the slightly slower track to Socialism (Republicans). I hope other Republicans sign on.

American Muslims and Israel

"Moderate" American Muslims pray for the destruction of Israel and protest for the destruction of Israel.

Israel, Hamas and moral equivalency

Those who support Hamas in the current Israel-Gaza war (like those in the last video I posted) are either idiots, evil or terribly mis-informed. For those who are not evil or idiots, Harvard law professor, Alan M. Dershowitz has written an outstanding article explaining what is really going on. Please take time to read it. In the mean time, I've pasted some exercepts below:
Over the past four years, Palestinian terrorists – in particular, Hamas and Islamic Jihad – have fired more than 2,000 rockets at this civilian area, which is home to mostly poor and working-class people.

The rockets are designed exclusively to maximize civilian deaths, and some have barely missed schoolyards, kindergartens, hospitals, and school buses. But others hit their targets, killing more than a dozen civilians since 2001, including in February 2008 a father of four who had been studying at the local university. These anticivilian rockets have also injured and traumatized countless children.

The most dangerous of the three responses is not the Iranian-Hamas absurdity, which is largely ignored by thinking and moral people, but the United Nations and European Union response, which equates the willful murder of civilians with legitimate self-defense pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

Moderate Islam in Ft. Lauderdale

Here is the face of "moderate" Islam in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. It includes shouts of "Nuke, Nuke, Israel; Nuke, Nuke Israel; and someone yelling that supporters of Israel just need a "big oven"!

Then an Imam says that if we all just understood the beauty of Islam we would have no choice but to accept it. I think what he meant to say is that if we all understood the coming power of Islam, we will have no choice but to accept it (or die). (The video comes via Jihad Watch).


A disproportionate response

Only an evil Leftist ideologue or Islamic zealot would argue that Israel does not have a right to defend itself from the hundreds of Hamas rockets that have terrorized Israel's citizens for the last half-dozen years or more.

But Muslims and many Leftists are now arguing that Israel's response is "disproportionate." They should pray to God that Israel does not give a proportionate response.

African-Americans, slavery and Islam

I am always surprised when I see African-Americans who have converted to Islam. Are they just not aware of Islam’s history with black people? I wish every African-American would read this article from Islam Watch. Among other things, it points out that:
Muhammad, the apostle of God, the Islamic prophet of peace, was a slaver. He owned 40 slaves some of them blacks. Muhammad had kept his female slaves as concubines, so did his comrades and pious companions.

Mohammed referred to Blacks as "raisin heads". (Sahih al-Bukhari vol. 1, no. 662 and vol. 9, no. 256).

In another Hadith, Mohammed is quoted as saying that Blacks are, "pug-nosed slaves". (Sahih Moslem vol. 9, p. 46-47).

UAW corruption

Michelle Malkin has an outstanding expose on UAW (United Auto Workers) corruption, abuse and waste:
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The UAW golfed. While carmakers soak up $17 billion in taxpayer bailout funds and demand more for their ailing industry, United Auto Workers bosses have wasted tens of millions of their workers’ dues on gold-plated resorts and rotten investments. The labor organization’s money-losing golf compound is just the tip of the iceberg.
Read Michelle's blog for the rest of this iceberg.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

U.S. Government support of Islam?

A recent article (and lawsuit) contends that the government bailout of AIG makes the U.S. Government a financial supporter of Islam in violation of the Constitution.

Where is the ACLU when you need them?

Monday, December 29, 2008

UAW's lakeside resort and golf course

As Americans prepare to fork over multiple millions of dollars to bail out Chrysler and GM, Fox News reports that the United Auto Workers union--which refuses to budge an inch in concessions--owns a 6 million dollar golf course and a 33 million dollar lakeside resort!

And the money that will be given to the auto companies is not as much as they said they must have to remain afloat, so they will almost certainly be back to the trough for more.

Meanwhile, the executives of other corporations we are bailing out continue to receive millions in bonuses for the good job they've done in running their corporations into the ground.

And now that the bailout gravy train is headed downhill, stopping it will be quite a trick.

But our President and Congress continue to pour billions and billions of our tax dollars--and our children's and grandchildren's future tax dollars--into these bailouts as if money grows on trees! It doesn't, of course. It grows on government printing presses and the more they print, the more worthless it becomes.

Abortion and mental health

Studies show a link between abortion and mental health issues. For example, an article by Steven Ertelt begins:

A new research study featuring numerous controls and a national data set finds a link between abortion and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University, led the research team that conducted the study. The study refutes the report the American Psychiatric Association released in August claiming abortion causes no mental health issues for women. The research team found induced abortions result in increased risks for a myriad of mental health problems ranging from anxiety to depression to substance abuse disorders.

Slavery in the U.S.

Slavery is alive and well, and apparently coming to the United States, thanks to moderate Muslim immigrants. This AP story is truly shocking.

Thousands protest againt Israel

A quick look at Google news this morning showed that more than a thousand people protested in Berlin, 1400 in Paris, 1500 in London, up to 2000 in New York City, and of course, thousands all over the Middle East.

All of them protesting for the right of the Hamas terrorist organization to continue--month after month--to launch rockets in their attempt to slaughter innocent Jewish men, women and children; blowing up their homes, synagogues and schools.

This is apparently the face of "moderate" Islam and "tolerant" Leftists!

An atheist on evangelism in Africa

In the TimesOnline, a committed atheist who once lived in Africa gives his insights on Christian evangelism in Africa. If you only read one article this week, please read this. It is outstanding! (Hat tip: Mitch H.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A call for cease-fire

Fox News just reported that the "world community" is calling for an immediate cease fire between Israel and Hamas.

Why is it that Hamas can fire rockets into Israel for months and the "world community" is silent, but as soon as Israel responds the whole world is calling for an immediate cease-fire?

Seems to me like this is a bit like a crowd standing around watching a woman being raped until she grabs a weapon and begins beating her rapist.....and only then the crowd suddenly gets upset about the violence!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vatican calls for cease fire

The Vatican is already calling for an end to Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Excuse me!!! Hamas has been shelling Israel for months! A call for Israel to cease fire is a call to allow the bad guys to keep killing innocent Israelis!

Israel strikes back

After enduring months of rocket attacks from Hamas, Israel finally strikes back! See Israellycool for live blogging (via Michelle Malkin's blog).

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Heart of Christianity

The following is a review I wrote on The Heart of Christianity, by Marcus Borg:

Introduction

In The Heart of Christianity Marcus Borg, a prolific writer and one time member of the Jesus Seminar proposes a new form of Christianity which he calls the “emerging paradigm.” Borg contrasts his “emerging paradigm” with conservative, Evangelical Christianity which he calls the “earlier paradigm.” This article will examine Borg’s view of four essential doctrines—the Bible, God, Jesus, and Salvation—and will argue that Borg’s “emerging paradigm” is not Christianity at all.

The Bible

According to Borg’s “emerging paradigm” the Bible is entirely “a human product, not a divine product”. Borg argues that the Bible should be interpreted metaphorically and understood sacramentally. It is clear that Borg’s view of the Bible is not consistent with historic Christian beliefs. As early as the first century AD, Christians believed that Scripture was “inspired by God”.

For example, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus called the Old Testament the “Word of God,” and the author of Second Peter called Paul’s writings “Scripture,” saying that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

This view of the inspiration of Scripture was continued into the second century with writers like Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, and especially Irenaeus who quoted extensively from both the Old and New Testaments and clearly believed they were inspired by God. Borg’s denial of the divine aspect of the Bible clearly places him at odds with earliest Christian teaching.

Second, Borg insists that “the Bible is a sacrament.” That is, the Bible is not read “for information, but space is left around it in the hope that a phrase or sentence will become the means for the Spirit to speak to us….”

Borg is not suggesting that God speaks to us audibly, but in other ways including “internal proddings and leadings”. Unfortunately, many Evangelicals approach the Bible in the same way. They read a Bible passage waiting for some kind of feeling or impression, and then naively assume that this is God speaking to them regardless of what the biblical text actually said in its original context.

Ironically, the second and third century Gnostics also abused the Bible this way. They either “cherry-picked” biblical verses out of their original contexts and twisted them beyond all recognition, or they downplayed biblical revelation in favor of their own “revelations.” This practice was vigorously condemned by early Christian apologists like Irenaeus and Hippolytus.

Finally, since Borg believes that many of the Bible stories never happened, he uses what he calls the “historical-metaphorical interpretation” which emphasizes metaphorical and “more-than-literal” meanings. All Bible scholars acknowledge that the Bible contains metaphors, but for Borg metaphor is not just a figure of speech but a thoroughgoing way of dismissing anything in the Bible that he doesn’t believe or that is politically incorrect.

Although Borg’s metaphorical method is designed to make the Bible more palatable to modern Americans, the method fails. Even if we interpret the stories metaphorically, and even if we sidestep the issue of whether the stories actually happened as Borg urges us to do, the biblical stories are still powerful stories of God’s judgment on sin.

For example, Borg argues that although the Genesis creation story never happened, understood metaphorically, it expresses the truth that God is the creator, creation is good, people are created in God’s image, something has gone wrong and we want to return. But even if the creation story is understood metaphorically, it is still a story about human rebellion against God that ends in judgment!

Similarly, the stories of the Flood, Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Judges, and Israel’s exile are all stories of judgment, as are the warnings of the prophets. Even if the Gospels were understood as one big metaphor, the theme of the story would have to be that people rebelled against God’s Son, whom God vindicated in resurrection, and whom God will one day send to judge the world.

In other words, even if we adopted Borg’s metaphorical hermeneutics, we still come up with a theology that is a far cry from the new paradigm that Borg is proposing.

Borg, however, makes an important point. He says that although Evangelical pastors believe the Bible to be literally true, many treat the Bible no differently than advocates of the “emerging paradigm.”

For example, Borg heard a sermon in an Evangelical church in which the pastor preached on the empty tomb of Jesus by continually referring to people who had suffered betrayal, grief, and shattered hopes. After each example the pastor would repeat “but the tomb was empty”! Borg’s point was that this pastor was not preaching what the passage actually said, but was treating the resurrection of Jesus metaphorically as a way to make a point about hope in the midst of suffering.

Unfortunately Borg is right. While giving give lip service to the importance of the Bible, Evangelical pastors regularly jump immediately from cherry-picked proof texts to modern application stories without pausing first to determine what the divinely inspired author intended to communicate to the original audience. This allows the speaker to twist the text to say anything he or she wants it to say.

God

Borg says that when his students tell him they don’t believe in God, he often asks them to describe the God they don’t believe in. He says they usually describe the God of the “earlier paradigm” and Borg tells them “I don’t believe in that God either”.

In Borg’s view, the universe is not separate from God but “in God.” Borg sees God as a “presence” but says “I have no problem…addressing God as if God were a person” (emphasis mine).

It is clear, however, that the God of the Bible is much more than just a “presence” (whatever that is). Jesus calls God his Father, and Moses speaks to God “face-to-face.” God is described as one who has emotions and wisdom, one who communicates to the prophets and responds to the prayers of his people.

Borg would, no doubt, say that these descriptions are just metaphors, but even if they were metaphors, they metaphorically describe a God who is much more than some vague notion of a “presence.”

The practical implication of Borg’s view of God is seen most clearly in his discussion of prayer in which Borg argues that God never intervenes in human affairs. Yet God is described throughout the Bible as intervening in human affairs. God creates the world, sends the flood, delivers his people from Egypt, and does miraculous signs through the prophets and apostles. Even if these stories were only metaphors, they still point to a God who intervenes in his creation.

Far from being the personal God of the Bible, Borg’s god actually seems more like the impersonal force of Buddhism or Hinduism than the God of Judaism or Christianity.

Jesus

According to Borg, the historical Jesus did not even think he was the Messiah or Son of God. Jesus was just a Jewish mystic, a wisdom teacher, a social prophet, a movement founder and a healer (though not a supernatural healer), who was “killed because of his politics”.

The Gospels, of course, paint a very different picture. The Synoptic Gospels, all present Jesus as one who thought he could forgive sins and who thought he had authority over the Torah. In a Jewish context (and context is crucial!) only God could forgive sins and only God was above the Torah!

The Synoptic Gospels also present Jesus as the Savior and the world’s judge, but in a Jewish context only God was the Savior and only God would judge the world. The Synoptic Gospels indicate that the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 was fulfilled as the messenger, John the Baptist, prepared the way for Jesus, but in Isaiah 40:3 the messenger was preparing the way for God!

The view of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels, therefore, is the same as that of John’s Gospel which places so much emphasis on Jesus’ deity. This view is also affirmed in the writings of Paul and other first century New Testament writers who present Jesus as Christ, Savior, and Son of God.

This view of Jesus is also supported by second century Christian documents like, the Didache, the Epistle to Diognetus, and the writings of Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Tetrullian, and Irenaeus.

That early Christians believed in the deity of Jesus is supported even by ancient non-Christian writers like Lucian and Pliny.

In fact, contrary to The Da Vinci Code which says Jesus was portrayed in early “pre-Constantine documents” as entirely human, even the “pre-Constantine” Gnostic gospels, etc. present Jesus as a divine being. It was not his divinity but his humanity that the Gnostics tended to deny.

The idea that Jesus thought of himself, and was thought of by others, as much more than Borg’s “Jewish mystic” is very clear from multiple independent sources, not only in the Bible but in non-biblical sources as well.

Salvation

According to Borg, “The Bible is not about the saving of individuals from heaven, but about a new social and personal reality in the midst of this life”. “Salvation is about…life in the presence of God, now and forever”. While acknowledging that “prolonged injustice has consequences,” Borg sees God as a God of love in contrast to the “earlier paradigm” which is, “a religion of threat, anxiety, and self-preservation”.

Borg is right that the new life is not just about the hereafter but begins as soon as we are saved. Borg is also right “that prolonged injustice has consequences” but he fails to acknowledge that all injustice may have consequences—eternal consequences apart from Christ.

Borg apparently wants to believe that it is only the really bad people who are in danger of such consequences. This, of course, misses the whole point of the Gospel message which is that all people fall under God’s condemnation apart from Christ.

Borg acknowledges that our new life with God begins with faith, but he criticizes the “earlier paradigm” for making faith entirely about mental agreement with certain facts. He insists that faith is not very much about believing facts at all, but about “beloving’ what God ‘beloves.” Borg says that faith is not a condition of salvation but is rather “about seeing what is already true—that God loves us already….”

Borg rightly criticizes those who make faith entirely about mental agreement with certain facts, but John Calvin, hardly part of the “emerging paradigm,” also criticized those who thought saving faith was mere mental assent to certain facts.

Borg, however, commits the opposite error by making faith almost entirely a matter of the heart and by denying that faith involves certain facts. Borg does this, no doubt, because, as his books make clear, he doesn’t believe these facts. For example, Borg does not believe in Jesus’ deity, atonement, or bodily resurrection.

It is possible, of course, to believe these things intellectually without being saved, but it is clear from First Corinthians 15 that faith that is not grounded in facts is useless. If Jesus is not who the Bible says he is, we might as well have faith in Santa Claus for all the good it will do!

Finally, Borg insists that the earlier paradigm’s “exclusivism, its rejection of other religions…is unacceptable”. He adamantly opposes the idea that no one comes to God except through Jesus. Borg believes that we have misunderstood passages such as John 14:6 which says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

According to Borg, “the way’ embodied in Jesus is the path of death and resurrection” which, he says, is an idea common to all religions. In context, however, John 14:6 is not discussing some abstract philosophy of “the way” as the path of metaphorical dying and raising. The passage asserts, rather, that Jesus himself is the way and that “no one comes to the Father but through me,” a phrase Borg conveniently avoids.

Borg says that Christians can worship Jesus without taking away from the value of other religions because “Jesus is for us Christians, the decisive revelation of what a life full of God looks like” (emphasis mine).

If this is true, however, then for Muslims, Muhammad must be the revelation of what a life full of God looks like. Muhammad was a warrior and ruler who raided caravans to steal their goods and who sold his female captives into slavery. He personally ordered literally hundreds of executions and sometimes took part in the killing himself.

Jesus, on the other hand, was not a warrior and resisted all efforts to make him king. He never tried to convert anyone by force and taught his followers to love even their enemies. The point is that Muhammad and Jesus seem to be going in two entirely opposite directions. Are both paths a revelation of what a life full of God looks like?

The problem is deeper than just the contrast between Muhammad and Jesus. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all affirm a God who is a “person-like being.” Hinduism, Buddhism, and Borg, on the other hand, affirm a god that is not “person-like.” Both views of God/god cannot be right. Contrary to Borg, blindly affirming that all religions are valid is simply absurd.

Conclusion

Borg’s “emerging paradigm” affirms a non-Jewish, non-Christian view of God. It denies that the Bible is a revelation from God. It denies that Jesus is the Son of God, or that he died for our sins and rose again.

Imagine someone who claimed to be Muslim but denied that Muhammad was a prophet or that the Qur’an was revealed by God, or that belief in Allah was necessary for salvation. Muslims would rightly protest that such teaching is not Islam.

Yet Borg and his in the “emerging paradigm” deny or redefine virtually every fundamental doctrine of Christianity and yet they continue to call themselves “Christian.” They have a right to believe what they want—they can call their religion “Borgism” if they like—but to attempt to persuade others that this “emerging paradigm” is “The Heart of Christianity” is both deceptive and dishonest.

What the Qur'an says about us

Are you Muslim? If not, this is what the Qur'an says about us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Did Jesus Exist?

Since Christmas is the time of year when numerous TV programs about Jesus--usually quite skeptical in nature--are aired, I thought I would re-post a critique I did on a video which argued that Jesus did not even exist.

The DVD, entitled The God who wasn’t there, was produced and narrated by some guy named Brian Flemming. Flemming attempted to make the case that the Jesus of the Gospels was a myth. The Jesus myth theory has been around since the days of Bruno Bauer (1809-1882) and has generally been dismissed as the nonsense it is. Since, however, the Jesus myth theory appears to be gaining popularity, and since The God who wasn’t there could be convincing to those who don’t know better, I thought Flemming’s arguments deserved a response. Flemming’s case can be summarized in seven points. Each point will be stated and answered below.

First, according to Flemming, the Gospel of Mark was the first Gospel written and the other three were derived from Mark.

Most scholars would argue that the Gospel of John was written independently of the other Gospels, but otherwise, most scholars would agree with Flemming on this point.

Second, Flemming points out that the Gospel of Mark records the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but according to Flemming, since Jesus couldn’t possibly have predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, the Gospels must have been written after AD 70. That means there is a 40 year gap between Jesus’ death in AD 33, and the Gospel of Mark in AD 70.

Flemming is right that most scholars think the Gospels were written between AD 70 and AD 100, and that these dates are largely based on the assumption that Jesus couldn’t possibly have predicted the fall of Jerusalem.

Contrary to Flemming, however, many critics today—even some of the more radical critics—are now starting to recognize that Jesus really did predict the fall of Jerusalem 40 years before it occurred! They have reluctantly come to this conclusion because the majority of New Testament scholars believe in a “Lost Gospel of Q” in which Jesus alludes to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple which occurred in AD 70.

What many critics don’t seem to realize, however, is that this undermines the primary reason for dating the Gospels after the fall of Jerusalem in the first place! There is actually much more evidence that Matthew, Mark and Luke were written before AD 70 than after. But if Matthew, Mark and Luke were written before AD 70, the case for the 40 year gap is destroyed along with the case for the mythical Jesus.

Even if there was a 40 year gap, however, that proves nothing. Ancient historians (and modern ones too) often write about events that occurred much longer than 40 years before their time, but scholars don’t automatically assume the events, therefore, never happened. For example, the vast majority of what we know about Alexander the Great was written about 400 years after he lived and is recorded in only one source! By contrast, what we know about Jesus comes from multiple sources written as early as 20 to 70 years after he lived.

Third, Flemming argues that all we know about this 40 year time gap comes from the letters of Paul, and that Paul did not think of Jesus as a real person who lived in the recent past. This is clear because Paul never mentions Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, John the Baptist, Jesus’ miracles, Pilate, Jerusalem, Jesus’ trials or anything Jesus ever said.

First, many scholars would disagree with the contention that Paul is our only source for this 40 year time gap. As mentioned above, some scholars believe that Matthew, Mark and Luke were written during this time. But aside from that, most scholars, including some of the most radical Jesus critics, believe that there was once a gospel about Jesus we now call Q that also would have been written during this 40 year period.

But the idea that Paul doesn’t know anything about the historical Jesus is simply wrong. Paul tells us that Jesus was a Jew, and that he had a brother named James who was still alive in Paul’s time (The existence of both Jesus and James is also confirmed by Josephus). Paul knows that Jesus had 12 disciples and he knows of some of them by name. He also knows that Peter was married. Paul knows that Jesus had a last supper with his disciples on the night of his death, that he was betrayed, and was executed by crucifixion. Paul also knows that Jesus’ apostles were centered in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death.

In other words, by pointing out the things in Jesus’ life that Paul doesn’t mention, Flemming concludes that Paul doesn’t know anything of a historical nature about Jesus’ life. Flemming’s conclusion is factually in error.

Fourth, Flemming argues that the only thing Paul knows about Jesus is that he died, rose, and ascended into heaven. Paul doesn’t place these events on earth but in the mythical realm just like the other savior gods of the time.

First, as seen above, the assertion that the only thing Paul knows about Jesus is that he died, rose, and ascended into heaven is factually in error.

Second, the theory that Jesus fits the pattern of ancient dying and rising savior gods is a view propagated by Sir James Frazer in his 1911 classic, The Golden Bough. Eddy and Boyd argue that since 1911 Frazer’s views have been thoroughly and almost universally discredited.

Third, the myths about Mithras, Osiris, Dionysus and others really don’t look anything like Jesus at all! The supposed parallels are arrived at by cherry-picking the stories for imagined similarities—and even then the imagined parallels are often quite a stretch. For example, Mithras was not born of a virgin, he was born out of solid rock (perhaps the rock was a virgin).

The “resurrection” of Osiris was not so much a resurrection as a reconstruction. His body was reassembled and rejuvenated after being dismembered. He never returned to this life, however, but remained in the underworld.

Dionysus was born when his mother was impregnated by Zeus who disguised himself as a lightening bolt (the old lightening bolt trick)! When Dionysus’ mother was burned up by Zeus, Zeus rescued his unborn son by sewing him into his (Zeus’s) thigh. Dionysus was then born out of the thigh of Zeus.

Augustus’ “virgin birth” occurred when his father’s wife was said to have slept overnight in a pagan temple during which time a snake crawled up inside of her and impregnated her! The idea that pious Jewish Christians would borrow from such bizarre pagan stories to fabricate a story about the birth of their Jewish Messiah, strikes even many of the critics as absurd.

Fourth, pagan myths would likely have been disgusting to a former Pharisee like Paul so the idea that Paul’s whole life changed dramatically and he started borrowing from non-Jewish or pagan myths to create some kind of mythical Jesus, and then was willing to suffer numerous beatings, imprisonment and even stoning for the myths he knew were fictional—is harder to believe than the message Paul preached!

Fifth, Flemming didn’t bother to tell his audience that much of the evidence for the supposed parallels comes from a hundred to three hundred years after the time of Jesus! If there are parallels at all it may be because pagan authors are borrowing from Christianity!

Finally, far from writing in the “mythical realm” Paul argues that if Jesus did not really rise from the dead, his whole ministry was in vain. That hardly sounds like someone who is basing his ministry on a myth.

Fifth, Flemming argues that since allegorical literature was extremely common back then, and since the story of Jesus fits the pattern of ancient mythical heroes, it is clear that the Gospels take Paul’s myth and make it appear historical, just like many stories on the internet which start out as fiction and are eventually believed as actual, historical events.

First, just because allegorical literature was common back then says nothing about the genre of the Gospels since biographies and histories were also common.

Second, Flemming lists 22 supposed characteristics of the “hero tradition” and argues that Jesus has 19 of the characteristics while Romulus and Hercules only have 17 and, Zeus only has 15. A closer look at these characteristics, however, will show that the whole thing is artificially contrived. When the actual similarities are counted, Jesus doesn’t even make the list (see the footnote).

But on the other hand, even if the Gospel writers had conformed their stories to some accepted “hero pattern” that would not necessarily mean the stories were unhistorical. For example,
some have shown that Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Napoleon also fit the ancient “hero pattern.” In fact, Abraham Lincoln fits the hero pattern better than Oedipus, who is at the top of the list!

Third, the historical reliability of the Gospels has been confirmed over and over again. Most recently, Eddy and Boyd (The Jesus Legend)apply to the Gospels “six broad diagnostic questions historians routinely ask of ancient documents in order to assess their historical reliability. They convincingly demonstrate that the Gospels pass every test.

Finally, Barbara and David Mikkelson (from Snopes.com) were interviewed in the DVD to show that fictional stories can become believed as actual history. That’s true, but no one dismisses Herodotus, Josephus, or Tacitus on that account. We should remember that few of those who spread internet rumors would be willing risk their life for their rumors. Everything we know about early Christians supports the fact that they were so convinced that what they believed about Jesus was true, they were willing to face beating, imprisonment, torture, and even death. Besides, as seen above, the broad historical reliability of the Gospels has been verified over and over again.

Sixth, since there were ancient Jews and Jewish Christians who thought Jesus had been killed a century earlier under Alexander Jannaeus or Herod, this diversity of opinion about Jesus supports the idea that Jesus of the Gospels was a myth based on earlier stories that circulated before the time Jesus was supposed to have existed.

First, the idea that early Christians had significant disagreements about when Jesus lived is simply not true. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, First Timothy (all first century AD), and even early church fathers like Ignatius (d. AD 98/117), Justin Martyr (AD 100-165), Tertullian, (AD 160-220) and Irenaeus (Fl 175-195) all agree that Jesus was executed during the reign of Pontius Pilate who ruled Judea from AD 26-36. That Jesus was executed during the reign of Pontius Pilate is also confirmed by non-Christian historians like Josephus and Tacitus.

On the DVD Price doesn’t say where he gets the idea that Jesus lived during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BC), but in his book, Deconstructing Jesus, he says that this fact is attested in both the Talmud and in the “Toledoth Jeschu.” Price doesn’t bother to mention that the Talmud and “Toledoth Jeschu” weren’t compiled until the fifth century AD or later.

So essentially, Price is throwing out the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, First Timothy, Ignatius, Josephus and Tacitus—all less than 100 years after Jesus death—in favor of two documents written 400 or more years after Jesus’ death! Some might say that something other than objective scholarship is going on here.

Conclusion

Not only does the Jesus myth theory fail miserably, the evidence for Jesus’ existence is so strong that it appears that those who promote it are engaging in something other than objective scholarship. In fact, I would put them in the same general category as those who deny the holocaust.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another Great Depression?

Are we headed for another Great Depression?

I am almost done reading Thomas Sowell's massive book (over 600 pages) on Basic Economics. It is outstanding! It should be required reading for every member of Congress.

In NRO today, Dr. Sowell has a warning about the Great Depression. It is a warning that our government under both Presidents Bush and Obama seem determined to ignore.

Censorship at IUPUI

This is the first I had heard of this story: A student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis was found guilty of racial harassment just for reading a book! Talk about political correctness gone amok!

Since the American Library Association likes to think of itself as the premiere anti-censorship defender of First Amendment rights, I was puzzled when a search of LISTA (Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts) produced no results.

A warning to pastors and churches

Although pastor Rick Warren has bent over backwards trying to disagree agreeably with gay rights advocates and has probably done more to help AIDS victims than any pastor in history, he is now regularly and viciously attacked as a homophobe and hate monger.

Even Barack Obama who is the most powerful gay rights advocate in history is being thrown under the bus because he made a choce that was not acceptable to the gay rights elites.

It is now abundantly clear (if it wasn't before) that all of the gay activists' talk of tolerance was a sham. It was only tolerance for their postion they wanted and now they are no longer satisfied with tolerance. They will tolerate nothing less than full acceptance and promotion of gay lifestyles. They will not tolerate opposing views.

Al Mohler recently posted an article on the controversy surrounding Rick Warren and the inauguration invocation, and issued a warning for pastors and churches:

Being cool means being considered mainstream, acceptable, and admirable. Believing that same-sex marriage is wrong is enough to turn "uncool" in an instant, at least in many circles.

I am not throwing Rick Warren to the wolves over this. He now finds himself in a whirlwind, and he will not be the last. Pastor after pastor and church after church will face a similar challenge in short order. No matter how cool you think you are or think that others think you are, the hour is coming when the issue of homosexuality -- taken alone -- will be the defining issue in coolness. If you accept the full normalization of homosexuality, you will be cool. If you do not, you are profoundly uncool, no matter how much good work you do nor how much love and compassion you seek to express.

Liberal Protestantism came to this conclusion long ago, and those churches desperately want to be considered cool by the elites. Having abandoned biblical authority, there is nothing to prevent them moving fast into coolness. The only barriers are outposts of conservative opposition, but they will not last long.

Many in the "emerging" and "Emergent church" movements also state their intention to transcend the divisive issues like abortion and homosexuality. Some of these represent the quintessence of cool in cultural identification. But for how long? Eventually, the issue of homosexuality will require a decision. At that point, those churches will find themselves facing a forced decision. Choose ye this day: Will it be the Bible or coolness?

Please read the entire article on Crosswalk

By the way, not all gay activists are so intolerant. See the post by Melissa Etheridge on the Huffington Post. (Hat tip: John W.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Atheist on Christian prosylization

Wow! A message from an atheist more convicting that most Christian sermons! (Hat tip: Don B.)

Qur'an suras 97-114

Robert Spencer's Commentary on the Qur'an, suras 97-114 is available on Jihad Watch.

Barack Obama and coal

Some environmental group has been running an ad on TV showing someone demonstrating "clean coal technology." He is standing out in an open desert. The implication being that the only clean coal technology is that which leaves coal in the ground. The ad ends frankly asserting that there is no such thing as clean coal technology.

Now the Coal industry has produced a counter ad. It is a video clip of President-elect Obama--the darling of the environmentalists--saying something like, "You're telling me that the nation that put a man on the moon can't create clean coal technology?!!!"

The add was ingenious, but it raises the question: Is this the same Barack Obama who also threatened to deliberately bankrupt the coal industry?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

CNN questions global warming

CNN questions global warming: Watch the video and read Ed Morrissey's insightful analysis.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jesus and homsexuality

Recently one of those who responded to my critique of the Newsweek article linked to an article by Eric Koepnick who argued that the Gospels actually support homosexual relationships.

The gospel story Koepnick used to prove this point is the story of Jesus healing the “pais” (child/boy/slave/servant) of a centurion, found in Matthew 8:5-13//Luke 7:1-10 and John 4:46-54. Koepnick tries to demonstrate that Jesus was actually healing the homosexual lover of this centurion.

What follows is a summary and critique of Koepnick’s article.

Summary

Koepnick argues that the gospel story as a whole is historically reliable because it is found in the “Gospel of Q” and in the “Sign’s Source,” both of which date before the fall of Jerusalem, possibly as early as AD 50.

While “The Gospel of Q” uses the Greek word pais (child/slave) in reference to the servant in the story, the Gospel of John uses the word huios (son) instead. Koepnick argues that John was a creative editor and this suggests that John may have deliberately changed the word pais (child/slave) as he found it in the Gospel of Q to huios (son) in order to remove any evidence of a sexual relationship between the centurion and his servant.

Since, in the same story, the writer of Luke uses the word doulos (slave) rather than pais, we can assume that the writer of Luke changed the word pais in his Q source to doulos (slave) in order to identify the pais as a slave.

It is clear, Koepnick says, that the pais (child/slave) was not the centurion’s child since Augustus legally banned soldiers from marrying, so the centurion would not have had children “unless he did it on the sly….”

Koepnick argues that since the word pais also implied affection and was used to refer to a younger “partner in a homosexual relationship”, the centurion probably used the word pais in reference to “his sexual relationship with the male slave.

According to Koepnick “Scholars overwhelminghly agree that the word pais was used in the Greek language as a synonym for eromenos—a Greek word meaning ‘the boy you love’ and specifically denoting a homosexual relationship.”

For example, in Plato’s writings, the pais is made “wise and virtuous” by the “more mature lover.” In Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, Agathon is called a pais in his relationship with Pausanias. In Thucydides’ Against Timarchos the pais, Timarchos, had a reputation of taking advantage of older men which whom he had relationships. The word pais is also used in a homosexual context in an official Roman document of the second century C.E.

That Roman soldiers were often homosexual is affirmed by Plutarch who wrote of a band of 300 Roman soldiers who were “cemented by friendship grounded upon love” who were willing to “rush into danger for the relief of one another” rather than “to be base in the sight of their beloved” or “lovers.”

Koepnick argues that it is, therefore, “possible to propose that the pais was a slave in the centurion’s household who, at some point, was chosen by the centurion as a lover in order to be later freed to fight beside him in the Roman army.” Jesus would have known that the centurion was not able to marry and therefore had no wife or children, and that pais was “synonymous with the words, male lover.”

Koepnick concludes that Jesus “probably healed the centurion’s pais” knowing full well that the two were having homosexual relations. Since he failed to comment on the relationship, positively or negatively, this “calls into doubt the assertion by modern Christian conservatives that homosexual acts are inherently sinful.” It shows that “Jesus did not disapprove of their bond.”

Critique

Koepnick’s arguments are so filled with errors it is hard to know where to begin.

First, in a tangential point not related to the main argument: I find it humorous that the Koepnick bases his entire argument regarding the historicity of the passage under discussion, not on the Gospels themselves, but on two hypothetical sources supposedly used by the Gospel writers (i.e. The “Gospel of Q” and the “Sign’s Gospel”).

Those unfamiliar with scholarly biblical studies should know that neither of these “documents” actually exist. They are just scholarly speculations about the imagined sources supposedly used by the Gospel writers (“Q” by Matthew and Luke; the “Signs Source” by John).

If these sources ever existed at all—and there are very reputable scholars who call both sources into question—we know nothing about them other than what we can infer from reading Matthew, Luke and John.

Hypothesizing about hypothetical editorial changes to hypothetical documents is just silly; regardless of how often theological liberals do it. Can you imagine the ridicule conservative Christians would receive if our arguments against homosexual behavior rested on our speculation about hypothetical changes to hypothetical (non-existent) documents?

Second, Koepnick assumes that John was editing the hypothetical “Gospel of Q,” but there is absolutely no evidence that John ever saw “The Gospel of Q” at all, if such a gospel ever existed. In fact, most scholars—even liberal scholars—believe that John was written entirely independent of Matthew, Luke or the “Gospel of Q.”

Koepnick’s theory of how John edited the “Gospel of Q” is, therefore, nothing but groundless wishful thinking on Koepnick’s part. Koepnick must engage in this wishful thinking, however, because if the boy was the centurion’s son (huios), as John says, then Koepnick’s entire argument fails.

Third, since we are speculating about the possible editing of hypothetical sources anyway, we must ask how can Koepnick possibly be so sure that John wasn’t just reporting what was in his hypothetical “Signs Source” rather than editing the hypothetical “Gospel of Q”? After all, most theologically liberal New Testament scholars would agree that John probably used a “Signs Source” but they would not agree that John ever saw the “Gospel of Q.”

In other words, if the “Gospel of Q” read “pais”—which can mean either slave or child, depending on the context—and if the “Signs source” independently called this pais (child) the centurion’s huios (son) that would provide evidence that the centurion’s pais was in fact his son which would invalidate Koepnick’s whole theory. Koepnick doesn’t mention this possibility.

Fourth, Koepnick assumes that since Augustus banned marriage for soldiers, the pais could not possibly be his son. Interestingly enough, Koepnick states that in order for a pericope (a passage in the gospels) to be considered historical, it must come from 30-50 C.E.; i.e. less than 20 years after Jesus lived. Koepnick seems unaware that this (very biased and ridiculous) criteria undermines his own argument since the evidence for Augustus’ prohibition against soldiers marrying come from much more than 20 years after the fact.

But assuming that Augustus’ prohibition was historical, even Koepnick mentions the possibility that the pais could have been conceived “on the sly.” If the child was conceived “on the sly” it would invalidate Koepnick’s whole theory.

There are other possibilities as well. For example, since there were no Roman legions in Galilee before AD 44 (Marshall, I.H., The Gospel of Luke, 279), it may be that the “centurion” was not a Roman soldier at all—and therefore not subject to Augustus’ restrictions—but was in fact a member of Herod Antipas’ army organized along Roman lines. Or, the centurion could have been married and had the child before he became a soldier. Any of these possibilities invalidate Koepnick’s entire thesis.

So in other words, out of at least five possibilities 1) Augustus’ prohibition comes from sources too late and must be judged unhistorical 2) the centurion had the child “on the sly” 3) the man was married and had his son before he became a centurion, 4) the centurion was a member of Herod Antipas’ army, not the Roman army or 5) the child is a slave who is unrelated to the centurion, Koepnick ignores the first four and selects the option that can be best twisted to fit his theory.

The reader should be aware that we are not in the realm of objective scholarship here.

On the other hand, Koepnick could have avoided all of his frivolous assumptions and convoluted arguments simply by adopting the view of many conservative scholars who hold that the story in Matthew/Luke is sufficiently different from that of John to warrant the view that Matthew//Luke and John record two similar but unrelated incidents. That would eliminate Koepnick’s need to try to find reasons to explain away John’s reference to huios (son). But although that would have solved one problem, Koepnick’s case would still fail because…

Fifth, Koepnick argued that “Scholars overwhelmingly agree that the word pais was used in the Greek language as a synonym for eromenos—a Greek word meaning ‘the boy you love.” It may be that pedophiles overwhelmingly agree that pais is a synonym for eromenos, but Koepnick’s allegation that “scholars overwhelmingly agree” is groundless, and his allegation that eromenos is a synonym for pais is factually untrue. It is like saying that “sexual abuse victim” is synonymous for the word child.

Such arguments amount to saying that because perverted people in the ancient world used children (pais) to fulfill their sexual perversion, the word pais can therefore be translated as homosexual lover or “the boy you love!” This would be like finding numerous news stories about perverts who have had sex with juveniles and assuming that the word juvenile, therefore, can also mean lover!

If ancient documents also recorded incidents of Roman soldiers having sex with sheep, would we then assume that the word “sheep” was synonymous with the word “lover?”(it should be noted in passing, that although eromenos is found in Wikipedia, it is not found in Liddell and Scott which is the “bible” of classical Greek lexicons).

Sixth, among the possible meanings for pais are “slave”, “servant” or “child” (male or female depending on the gender of the word used) but it does not mean homosexual lover—but even if “homosexual lover” were one of the possible meanings of pais (it is not), there is absolutely nothing in the context of any gospel that would even remotely hint that this story has anything whatsoever to do with sex or homosexuality!

In other words, even IF a possible meaning for pais was “homosexual lover”, trying to read “homosexual lover” into the context of this gospel story would be like finding stories about people hiding their treasure in “trunks” and transferring that meaning of "trunk" into an entirely different context about elephants in an attempt to prove that some people hide their treasure in elephant’s noses (trunks). Context is critical!

Seventh, even if we were to suspend all reality for a moment and suppose that the pais really was the centurion’s homosexual lover, it would be invalid to assume that Jesus’ healing of this servant, therefore, implied acceptance of that lifestyle. The fact is that the gospels contain stories about the healing of numerous people by Jesus—even Gentiles—in which the gospels never record whether or not Jesus challenged their lifestyle.

So even if the pais was a homosexual lover (he wasn’t!) the fact that the gospels do not record Jesus specifically challenging this lifestyle would not lead us to conclude that Jesus condoned it—especially in light of the fact that Jesus preached against sexual immorality (Mark 7:21; Matthew 15:19) as defined by Jesus’ own Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) which specifically condemned homosexual sex, calling it an abomination and saying that God would “vomit” out the nations who practice such behavior. Koepnick is simply trying to twist the Bible to support his own preconceived position.

If Koepnick followed his own arguments to their logical conclusion, however, I guess he would also have to conclude that Jesus was not only pro-homosexual, but pro-slavery and pro-pedophile as well!

This is an important point: Although Koepnick himself doesn’t go there, his arguments sound more like a defense of homosexual pedophilia than just homosexuality. Jesus said it would be better for someone to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than to cause a little one to sin (Luke 17:2; Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6). In Greek the phrase “cause to sin” is from skandalidzo, which can mean “that which gives offense or causes revulsion…” (BAG, 753). I think that would fit pedophilia pretty well.

Conclusion

The idea that Jesus was giving his approval for the homosexual (pedophile) relationship between this centurion and his child-servant is not only absurd and exegetically fallacious, it is thoroughly disgusting and sick.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Persecution in Turkey

Turkey, a secular Islamic country is a model of Islamic moderation. And yet even in Turkey, Muslims persecute Christians.

Academic abuse

The Young America Foundation has issued a report on Academia’s top ten abuses of 2008. Among the abuses cited are:

Yuba College in California ordered a student to stop distributing gospel booklets or face suspension.

A student at the College of Alameda in California was threatened with expulsion when she was caught praying for one of the professors.

The University of St. Thomas “censored the appearance of prominent pro-life speaker, Star Parker,” while allowing “a transgendered activist who believes God is a black lesbian.”

St. Catherine University blocked young conservatives from hosting Bay Buchanan, a popular conservative commentator “citing concerns about the school’s tax status. Those concerns, however, didn’t keep the college from hosting an anti-war radical or from promoting programs with liberal agendas.

For its Advanced Placement literature course, Deerfield High School required a book with “graphic sexual content” and dialog like “one character pleading with his sexual partner to “infect” and “make [him] bleed.”

Columbia University surveyed students about returning the Navy’s ROTC program to campus. “However, the University inexplicably closed the online poll at different times for different students and discarded more than 1,900 votes out of the 4,905 cast. One student voted 276 times. In the end, ROTC lost by 39 votes. Some people smell an anti-ROTC rat.

A professor at UC Riverside complained that having children dress up as Pilgrims and Indians was racist so the school now prohibits kids from wearing “their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.”

Many on the Left have become so open minded their brains have fallen out. Read the entire article at Young America Foundation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Worst Waste of the Year

Senator Tom Coburn (R, OK) has released his 2008 report on the Worst Waste of the year. It includes:

• $188,000 for Lobster Institute in Maine, home of the “LobsterCam”

• $1 million for bike paths on Louisiana levees while levees await basic repairs

• $2.4 million for a retractable shade canopy at a park in West Virginia

• $24.6 million for the National Park Service’s 100th year birthday in 2016 - 8 years early

• $3.2 million on a blimp the Pentagon does not want • $367,000 wasted by a Texas school board on items like an inflatable alligator and under-the-sea waterslide, among other things

• $5 million for a bridge to a zoo parking lot in St. Louis • $9,000 for a non-functioning airplane-shaped gas station in Tennessee • $300,000 for specialty potatoes for high-end restaurants...

Read the whole report here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fire at Sarah Palin's church

Sarah Palin's home church has sustained over a million dollars damage in a suspicious fire. The fire is being investigated as a crime (Fox).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Newsweek: "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage"

The cover story on the latest issue of Newsweek (December 15, 2008) is entitled “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage” by Lisa Miller. As demonstrated below, Ms. Miller doesn’t have a leg to stand on!

Miller begins by writing, “Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does.” She points out that Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Israel were all polygamists, and that Jesus and Paul were single and argues that no heterosexual married couple would use the Bible as a “how-to-script.”

Miller doesn’t mention that the Bible nowhere considers the celibacy of Jesus or Paul as the norm. For example, Peter and other apostles were married (1 Corinthians 9:5) as were the patriarchs, and prophets like Isaiah. The norm seems to be the command to be fruitful and multiply (nine times in Genesis alone, plus references in Leviticus, Jeremiah and Ezekiel).

Miller doesn’t mention that when David, Solomon and other kings of Israel took multiple wives, they were acting in direct violation of Deuteronomy 17:17 which says that they “shall not acquire many wives" lest their hearts turn away from God. In fact, Solomon was a prime example of one whose heart was turned away from the Lord precisely due to his violation of this command.

The Bible tells the story of Jewish/Christian history and includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Much of what is recorded in the Bible is provided as negative examples of what happens when people ignore God’s laws. By contrast, the ideal is provided in Genesis 2:24 which says that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife” (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7; Matthew 19:5 and Ephesians 5:31). None of these texts say wives (plural) or domestic partners.

According to Miller the argument against gay marriage goes like this: “The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition." Miller says there are two obvious responses. First, neither the Bible nor Jesus “explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman.” Second, “no sensible modern person wants marriage…to look like what the Bible describes.”

First, while the Bible doesn’t specifically define marriage as a covenant between members of the opposite sex, that definition is everywhere assumed and implied. By contrast, nowhere is same-sex marriage assumed or implied. On the contrary, both Old and New Testaments specifically condemn sexual relations between people of the same sex.

Second, once again, the Bible “describes” what happened, whether good, bad or ugly. Just because the Bible tells the story about kings who ignored God’s commandment against polygamy does not mean the Bible condones such disobedience.

And while it is true that most modern women don’t want anything to do with submitting to their husbands, I know of no one who would object to Paul’s teaching about how a husband should love his wife “as Christ loved the church and give himself for her,” or how a husband should love his wife as his own body” or as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Is it really true that “no sensible modern persons” wants a marriage like this?

Miller argues that contrary to “Biblical literalists”, “the Bible is a living document which “gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.” Miller argues that while family is fundamental in the Old Testament, “examples of what social conservatives would call ‘the traditional family’ are scarcely to be found.” She mockingly adds, “Ozzie and Harriet are nowhere in the New Testament either.” Besides, Miller reminds us, the phrase “gay marriage” does not appear in the Bible at all.

First, perhaps the phrase "gay marriage" doesn't appear in the Bible because such a thing never existed and had never been imagined!

Second, when Miller and others argue that the Bible is a “living document” what they really mean is that rather than trying to understand what the biblical authors were trying to communicate, gay activists want the freedom to re-interpret any given passage to fit their own personal or social preferences. The Bible is then no longer the basis for Christian faith and practice; it becomes just a set of carefully selected and misinterpreted proof-texts to justify whatever behavior society has deemed to be politically correct this year.

This was exactly what was going on when the Bible was used to justify the enslavement of Africans. Although the Old Testament (along with virtually every civilization in the world) allowed slavery for prisoners of war or for paying off excessive debt, for example, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible that would justify kidnapping innocent people from their homes and families simply because of the color of their skin or to satisfy other people’s greed! But this is precisely what happened when people try to force the Bible to support whatever values and behaviors happen to be currently accepted in society.

So, asks Miller, what is it that opponents of gay-marriage are so upset about? Her answer: Homosexuality, specifically sex between men since sex between women, according to the Anchor Bible Dictionary article on “Homosexual Practices” says that “nowhere in the bible do its authors refer to sex between women….”

Unfortunately for Miller, the Anchor Bible Dictionary does not even have an article on “Homosexual Practices.” In fact, it doesn’t even have an article on homosexuality! Wherever Miller got her information, that information is factually in error. In his letter to the Romans Paul writes saying, “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men…” (Romans 1:26-27).

Miller continues saying that the Book of Leviticus condemns homosexuality twice, calling it an abomination (KJV) “but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world….” Miller assures us that since “we no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions.”

Throwaway lines? That phrase may well illustrate the difference between those who take the Bible seriously, and those like Miller who want to pick and choose, and re-interpret biblical texts based on current social norms. Miller apparently thinks that whatever doesn’t fit society's modern views can conveniently be dismissed as a “throwaway line.”

While it is true that modern Christians “no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices” this is not because “our understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions.” It is because the New Testament specifically says that Jesus was the final sacrifice; the fulfillment to which the sacrificial system pointed (Hebrews 8-10). Similarly, we don’t keep the ceremonial laws because both Jesus and, according to the writer of Acts, Peter’s vision from God, abrogates these laws (Mark 7:19, Acts 10:1-33). We view some things in the Old Testament, therefore, as temporary or cultural and not binding on us today.

One of the passages in Leviticus that Miller refers to is Leviticus 18 which condemns all kinds of sexual practices including sex with one's parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, daughters-in-law, etc. The text calls these behaviors “depravity.” It then, adds that you shall not “lie with a male as with a woman” because this is an “abomination.”

The text goes on to say that these things are so abominable that it is for this reason that the land which the children of Israel are about to inhabit has “vomited out its inhabitants.” The text then solemnly warns the people to “do none of these abominations…lest the land vomit you out….”
The people are told that they must “Never practice any of these abominable customs…” (emphasis mine).

Now for those like Miller who think they are free to re-interpret the Bible in light of contemporary social norms, or who flippantly dismiss such texts as “throwaway passages,” these passages are easily dismissed. Presumably if society ever decides that it is OK to have sex with one’s parents, siblings, children, or animals, the rest of these texts would become “throwaway passages” as well.

But for those who take the Bible seriously, it is pretty hard to dismiss such passages as cultural or temporary, especially since these sins are viewed with such seriousness and since the commands against sexual immorality in general, and homosexuality in particular, are repeated numerous times in the New Testament. Apparently, while New Testament writers no longer felt the need to offer sacrifices or abide by all of the Old Testament restrictions, they thought these sexual prohibitions were still in effect.

As an aside, it is very important to note that both Leviticus 18 and 20 are talking about behavior--You shall not lie with a male as with a woman” (Lev 18:22) and “If a man lies with a male as with a woman” (Leviticus 20:13). The Bible knows nothing of what we today call “sexual orientation.”

If we define “homosexual” solely in terms of sexual-orientation rather than behavior, there is no condemnation of celibate homosexuals in the Bible. What we call sexual orientation is a matter of temptation. While those of us who are heterosexual tend to be tempted by members of the opposite sex, homosexuals are tempted by those of the same sex. But temptation alone is not sin.

This is a very important distinction. It means that arguments about whether homosexuality is genetic or learned are irrelevant. The issue is not how someone came to be attracted to someone of the same sex. The issue is behavior. In the Bible, sex with someone of the same sex is an abomination before God. Since marriage and sex pretty much go together, from a biblical perspective, same-sex marriage is out of the question for those who sincerely want to please the God of the Bible.

Miller concedes that “Paul was tough on homosexuality” but she cites “scholar Neil Elliot” as saying that “Paul was referring to “the depravity of the roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula” and was “not talking about what we call homosexuality at all.” Besides, she adds, “Paul argued more strenuously against divorce—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching.”

First, whether “at least half of the Christians in America” disregard the Bible’s teaching on divorce is really quite irrelevant to the argument. If half the Christians in America disregarded the Bible’s teaching on bestiality, that would not make it any less sinful.

Second, it is not clear what she means by "what we call homosexuality." Has Miller ever seen pictures of the perversion that takes place at the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco? Caligula and Nero would fit right in.

Third, regarding Elliot’s argument (at least as presented by Miller), even if Paul had Nero and Caligula in mind he is certainly not talking about just Nero and Caligula. The context makes it clear that Paul is talking about all those who “knew God but did not honor him,” and those who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18-21). This is clearly not just about Roman emperors!

Because people “did not see fit to acknowledge God” (Romans 1:28), Paul emphasizes (three times) that God gave them up to all kinds of sins including not only homosexual behavior, but also malice, envy murder, strife, maliciousness, slander, arrogance, ruthlessness, etc. To say that this passage is just condemning the perverted homosexual practices of Nero and Caligula is like saying that Paul’s condemnation of murder in this passage was just a condemnation of the excesses of Nero and Caligula!

Many years ago, when I was in college in San Francisco, my sociology professor invited a homosexual couple to the class to discuss their view of homosexuality. They acknowledged that Paul was against homosexuality but frankly admitted that they had some problems with Paul. I admire their honesty. At least they weren't trying to twist Paul's words to allow what he clearly considered to be sin.

Miller then argued that “Monogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century; husbands frequent enjoyment of mistresses and prostitutes became taboo by the beginning of the 20th.”

We could dispute Miller's assertion that “Monogamy became the norm in the Christian world in the sixth century” but that is really entirely irrelevant. Sexual immorality and sensuality are condemned repeatedly throughout the New Testament. Jesus himself condemns sexual immorality saying, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person (Mark 7:21-23).

It is really quite irrelevant, therefore, whether various people down through history who called themselves Christian went to mistresses and prostitutes. Their behavior is soundly condemned in the New Testament.

Miller goes on to argue that while “We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual…we can read it for universal truths as we struggle toward a more just future.” Miller's prime example was the story of David and Jonathan. Quoting David, “Your love for me was…More wonderful than that of a woman,” Miller concludes that “Here, the Bible praises enduring love between men. She adds, “What Jonathan and David did or did not do in the privacy is perhaps best left to history and our own imagination.”

So although homosexual behavior is flatly condemned in both Old and New Testaments, including Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1, First Corinthians 6:9, First Timothy 1:10, and condemnation is implied in Genesis 19:4-5, Judges 19:22 and Jude 7, all of this apparently doesn't qualify as one of Miller’s “universal truths.” She appeals instead to just one story in the Old Testament which doesn't say anything whatsoever about sex!

We are forced to conclude that the only things Miller would acknowledge as universal truths would be things in the Bible that meet the standards of modern American political correctness.

We need to re-emphasize again that while the Bible condemns sex between people of the same sex--it knows nothing of our modern discussions about “sexual orientation.” There is nothing wrong with two men or two women loving each other (as long as such "love" is understood non-sexually).

David and Jonathan are the perfect example. Although David said of Jonathan, “Your love for me was…more wonderful than that of a woman” there is no indication at all that this love was sexual. In fact, we would do well to remember that one of David's sins was his marriage to many wives (contrary to Deuteronomy 17:17) and that his biggest downfall was his sexual relationship with a woman! This hardly sounds homosexual.

Miller concludes saying that “More basic than theology, though, is human need.”This may be the crux of our disagreement. We believe that the Bible is the revelation of God’s will. As such, it supersedes human need. When Miller argues that human need is more basic than theology, she could just as logically argue that her need for relationship would justify adultery, or her need for power would justify corruption, or her need for material goods would justify theft. Christians who take the Bible as the revelation of God seek to place the Bible above our perceived needs.

In this entire article, however, Miller completely misses one of the most serious issues in the same-sex marriage debate. The issue is not really about whether Adam should be able to marry Steve. The issue is that once same sex marriage becomes accepted public policy, homosexuality will directly threaten freedom of religion and force people violate their religious convictions, or face prosecution.

This is already happening.

A Christian photographer was sued because he could not, in good conscience, photograph a gay marriage--even though there were many other photographers who would have been happy to have the business.

Christian psychologists have been sued for referring gay clients to other psychologists!Christians who sometimes rent their property for marriages were sued for not renting to a gay couple, even though it was private property and there are thousands of other locations in which to conduct a wedding.

A Catholic adoption agency in Massachusetts was forced to shut its doors rather than compromise its convictions on adoption to homosexual couples.

A private Christian school was sued for dismissing two openly homosexual students even though the prohibition against homosexual sex (and all other unbiblical sex as well) was clearly stated in the policy manual.

The original version of ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) would have forced Christian schools and colleges to hire teachers of science, history, psychology, etc. who openly practiced homosexuality! Even churches would have been forced to hire non-pastoral staff who openly practiced homosexuality.

We have already seen how homosexuality is being pushed on public school students against the wishes of parents. Indeed, a judge in Massachusetts said that since gay marriage is public policy in that state, the state had an obligation to promote homosexuality and that parents did not have a right to opt their children out!

Over 40 years ago one atheist didn't want her child exposed to prayer in the public school so all public schools all across America were forced to stop the practice, but homosexual activists are allowed to push homosexuality on all students regardless of parent's religious convictions?

So the issue is not nearly as much about whether Adam should be able to marry Steve as it is an issue of fundamental first amendment religious freedom and freedom of conscience!

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Muslims feel vulnerable"

Michael Savage, kind of the right wing version of Al Franken, has a book entitled, Liberalism is a mental disorder. Frankly, I don't care for Mr. Savage. I've never read his book but I used to think the title was a bit over the top.

However, after reading Mark Steyn's outstanding article, "Jews get killed, but Muslims feel vulnerable," about the Islamic terrorism in Mumbai, I'm beginning to think that liberalism really is a mental disorder after all.

If you only read one article this week, please read this one.

Unemployment

With over 553,000 layoffs in November, the unemployment rate jumped to a staggering 6.7 percent.

That's almost as bad as it got during Bill Clinton's presidency when the unemployment hit 7.1%!

The media don't usually mention that, however.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Qur'an suras 87-95

Robert Spencer's commentary on the Qur'an suras 87-95 is now available on Jihad Watch.

Qur'an suras 77-86

Robert Spencer's commentary on the Qur'an suras 77-86 is available on Jihad Watch.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Common Word

Some time ago several hundred prominent Muslims extended an “olive branch” to Christians with a document entitled, “A Common Word between us and you.” It is based on the common commands in Islam and Christianity to Love God with all your heart and to love one’s neighbor (interestingly enough Judaism also affirms these commands yet the “olive branch” was not extended to Jews).

Recliner Commentaries came out against this document saying “So, Christians, all you have to do in order to sign this “Common Word” is to deny one of the fundamentals of the Christian faith—the deity of Jesus and the Triune nature of God.”

In a time when misguided Christians are seeking common ground with Islam, a Coptic Priest has some demands of his own. Borrowing from this priest’s demands, I would suggest that if Muslims truly want more common ground with Christians, they should revise their common ground document to include the following three concessions:

First, remove the repeated references to God who has “no associate” and “no partner.” This is “Muslim-speak” for their denial of the Trinity. Instead, add a phrase about Jesus who is the word of God, which is what the Qur’an and Hadith’s teach.

Second, repudiate or reinterpret all verses in the Qur’an and Hadith which call for terrorism, murder and all forms of oppression including the Jizya.

Third, call for the abolition of the Islamic punishment for apostasy. In other words, call for the immediate cessation of all harassment, imprisonment, torture and murder of former Muslims who become Christians.

If Muslims will do this, I will concede that they are serious about seeking a common ground with Christians. Otherwise, Christians who sign this document are not only lending legitimacy to an evil, oppressive religion, but they may have committed idolatry as well.

As opposed to these compromising Christians, there is a Coptic Priest, Father Zakaria Botros, who loves Muslims, but hates Islam. He has just been named as World Magazine’s “Daniel of the Year.” You gotta love this guy!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Library budget cuts

Although one of my occupations is librarian, I would probably be viewed as something of a heretic in the library world.

I just received a bulk e-mail from a local library association warning of potential government budget cuts for libraries, reminding us what a great value libraries are, and begging us to "Please write to your Member of Congress, Senators, and President-elect Obama and ask them to keep libraries in mind during these trying economic times."

The e-mail went on to say that "In order to continue providing free Internet access and the other valuable services that patrons have come to rely on, libraries will need full funding through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)" at a cost of 171.5 million dollars.

While 171.5 million dollars is not a lot of money to most members of Congress, when you spend a hundred million here and a hundred million there, pretty soon you're talking about some real money! (to modify a phrase sometimes attributed to former Senator Everett Dirksen)

While I certainly think libraries are important, the federal government may be spending up to a trillion dollars in bailouts and my state alone just announced that we are something like five billion dollars in the red!

Our legislators will either need to significantly raise taxes in a time when more and more people are losing their jobs, and many who still have jobs are having trouble paying their mortgage, OR legislators will need to significantly cut budgets.

So if I was a state legislator and had to decide between cutting funding for libraries, for example, or cutting police, fire, snow removal, or county hospital services for those who can't afford medical insurance--ensuring that libraries have full funding would probably not be on the top of my priority list.

If I was a U.S. Congressman and had to decide between cutting $171.5 million in library grants or cutting 171.5 million from Homeland Security, FEMA or the FBI........, well, what would you do?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Nuclear Venezuela

Thank to our Russian "allies" we may soon need to contend with a nuclear Venezuela:
Under the accord, Russia would help Venezuela build a nuclear energy plant. Joint gas projects were also approved. Military co-operation is also high on the agenda of Mr Medvedev's talks with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

None of this would be alarming if Chavez were not a known sponsor of violent and radical movements across the hemisphere, from the FARC in Colombia to the worst elements (and a small minority of the overall parties) of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua
and the FMLN in El Salvador (Counterterrorism blog).
Anyone who thinks Hugo Chavez only wants nuclear power for peaceful purposes is deluding themselves. I just hope Barack Obama is more like John F. Kennedy than he is like Neville Chaimberlain.

Health Profile of Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services has just released a "Health Profile of Massachusetts Adults by Sexual Orientation Identity. Some of the results are below.

Straight Gay
21%..........25%.....Tense or worried more than 14 of the last 30 days
3%............. 4%.....Seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months
21%......... 31%.....Current smokers
21%......... 27%.....Binge drinking in the last 30 days
8% ...........17%.....Illicit drug use in the last 30 days
13%......... 26%.....Ever sexually assaulted
2%............. 3%.....Sexually assaulted in the last 12 months
18%......... 29%.....Ever physically assaulted or threatened by intimate partner
4%............. 8%.....Scared for safety or physically assaulted by intimate partner in last 12 months

Many more gay people have been sexually assaulted as compared to straights. Many more gay people are binge drinkers and illicit drug users than straights. And the violence between gay people and their intimate partners is much higher than among straights.

Unfortunately, my guess is that even to suggest that many in the gay community are in need of psychological help would be viewed as homophobic. That is tragic for the many gay people who need such help.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Republicans and the economic crisis

During the campaign I was always puzzled as to why the Republicans did not launch and all out massive assault against the Democrats for causing the economic crisis. After all, we had Democrats on tape denying there was any problem with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac! We had proof that Democrats blocked attempts to reign in Fannie and Freddie and we had Republicans on tape arguing for a crackdown on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It turns out that although some Republicans, warned about the economic crisis and tried to do something about it, others--including some in the Bush administration--may have been just a guilty as the Democrats! I suspect that is why Republicans were not as hard on the Democrats as they might have been.

Barack Obama Day

According to Fox news: "A small central Alabama county whose mainly black residents gave Barack Obama more than 70 percent of the vote on Election Day has created an annual holiday in honor of the president-elect." (hat tip: Professor Ed).

Washington is expecting up to four million people to witness the coronation of his majesty. What's next? The Obammassiah's face on Mt. Rushmore or maybe a temple dedicated to "The One"?

He hasn't even done anything yet. Isn't a Barack Obama holiday a bit premature?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Left, bigotry and freedom

I have yet to read something by Thomas Sowell that I didn't like. This short article is no exception.

Will President-elect Obama compromise?

Barack Obama is talking like he is interested "reaching across the aisle" and in hearing all viewpoints. If President-elect Obama is truly serious about this, I would suggest three compromises that would go a long way in easing concerns.

First, insist that any pro-gay legislation he signs must have a "behavior exemption" for all religious organizations. In other words, ensure that all religious schools, colleges, charities, missions, churches, synagogues or mosques retain the right to fire, or not to hire, anyone who will not follow their codes of conduct. This is simply a matter of freedom of religion.

Second, come part way on the abortion issue by 1) pushing for legislation to outlaw all abortions after the sex of the baby can be determined, except when the mother's life is in danger and 2) do not do anything to interfere in a parent's fundamental right to be notified if their daughter is seeking an abortion.

Third, insist that any hate crimes legislation he signs have a strong exemption for speech that that does not call for violence. In other words, if some hate-monger wacko decides to mug a gay person, we need to make sure that--unlike some countries--we don't start fining or jailing pastors just because that wacko heard a sermon condemning homosexual behavior.

If Barack Obama is not willing to make these compromises, I must conclude that his talk about reaching across the aisle is just politically expedient hot air.