Archive | Culture

R. Albert Mohler on Contraception in Marriage

R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has posted the second of two articles on married couples who refuse to have children. You ought to take a look at both of them.

This most recent article is titled “Deliberate Childlessness Revisited,” and the first is titled “Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion With a New Face.”

Mohler admits that he touched a nerve with the first article—which is no surprise given that he maintains that “deliberate childlessness” is a “moral rebellion” against God.

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Interview with Bono in CT

For you rabid U2 fans, I thought you might be interested in an interview with Bono appearing on the Christianity Today website. The interview appears under the title “Bono: Grace over Karma.” Among other things, Bono is able to articulate a fairly clear profession of faith in Christ.

“I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity . . . I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled… . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.”

I don’t know much about Bono’s religious commitments or how his definition of terms may vary from that of the typical North American Evangelical. But at first blush, this isn’t too shabby.

The interviewer (who is a skeptic, to say the least) goes on to ask: “Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?” Bono responds:

“No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: ‘I’m the Messiah.’ I’m saying: ‘I am God incarnate.’ . . . So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase . . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched . . .”

Here, Bono sounds as if he’s been reading C. S. Lewis’ “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” trilemma. Whatever the case, I have to give Bono credit for giving such a thoughtful answer.

Notwithstanding his apparent misunderstanding of the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, the entire interview was a pleasant surprise.

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Peter Leithart on Study of Evangelicals

Peter Leithart comments on a recent study of Evangelicals conducted by Berkeley sociologist Manuel Castells. Leithart’s wit is classic:

“[The study found that] ‘doctrinal evangelicals’ are ‘less educated, poorer, more influential among housewives, more often residents of the South, significantly more religious, and 100 percent of them consider the Bible to be inerrant.’ Ignore the shockingly patronizing comment about credulous housewives, and ignore the fact that, actually, we don’t know anything of the kind about the educational levels or economic status of evangelicals. That 100 percent figure is what stands out in high comic relief. I’m no sociologist, but it seems to me that if you select a group defined by their commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, and then survey them about their commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, you are likely (let us say, 100 percent likely) to find that a high proportion of your sample is committed to the inerrancy of Scripture.”

Touché, Dr. Leithart!

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Joel Osteen Apologizes for Larry King Interview

I am so very thankful to learn that Joel Osteen has apologized for the remarks that he made in his recent interview with Larry King. I wrote about the interview last week and was very disappointed with Osteen’s failure to present a clear and unambiguous declaration of the Gospel.

But he has retracted his statements in the interview and has apologized for giving the impression that there is any other way to be saved other than through Jesus Christ. You can read his apology on his website (click here to read it). Osteen writes, “I hope that you accept my deepest apology and see it in your heart to extend to me grace and forgiveness.”

I will offer Al Mohler’s response to this apology as my own: “the only proper response is to extend the very forgiveness for which he asks—and with equal humility. Other concerns can wait for another day.”

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Disappointed with Osteen

One of Larry King’s recent interviews has been very disappointing. In this case, the interviewer is not the one disappointing me, but the interviewee, Rev. Joel Osteen. I think it is unfortunate that Osteen, having voiced his agreement with the prosperity-gospel, is still put forward as a spokesman for evangelicalism. Moreover, Osteen makes remarks that I don’t know how to interpret except as a flat out rejection of the exclusivity of the Gospel message.

The following is from Larry King’s interview with Joel Osteen. I hope that Osteen just misspoke and will retract some of this. The end is especially troubling.

OSTEEN: My message, I wanted to reach the mainstream. We’ve reached the church audience. So I just try to, what I do is just try to teach practical principles. I may not bring the scripture in until the end of my sermon and i might feel bad about that. Here’s the thought. I talked yesterday about living to give. That’s what a life should be about. I brought in at the end about some of the scriptures that talk about
that. But same principal in the book.
KING: Is it hard to lead a Christian life?
OSTEEN: I don’t think it’s that hard. To me it’s fun. We have joy and happiness. Our family — I don’t feel like that at all. I’m not trying to follow a set of rules and stuff. I’m just living my life.
KING: But you have rules, don’t you?
OSTEEN: We do have rules. But the main rule to me is to honor God with your life. To life a life of integrity. Not be selfish. You know, help others. But that’s really the essence of the Christian faith.
KING: That we live in deeds?
OSTEEN: I don’t know. What do you mean by that?
KING: Because we’ve had ministers on who said, your record don’t count. You either believe in Christ or you don’t. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don’t no matter what you’ve done in your life, you ain’t.
OSTEEN: Yeah, I don’t know. There’s probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if you’re a believer in God, you’re going to have some good works. I think it’s a cop-out to say I’m a Christian but I don’t ever do anything…
KING: What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t accept Christ at all?
OSTEEN: You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know…
KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They’re wrong, aren’t hey?
OSTEEN: Well, I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong. I believe here’s what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.

There are many problems in this exchange, and most of the readers of this blog will spot them without my commenting upon them point by point. Yet there is one item that is particularly troubling. When Larry King asks about the destiny of sincere Muslims, Osteen will not come out and say that Jesus is the only way of Salvation. I do not understand why Osteen couldn’t just quote the Bible (maybe John 14:6 or Acts 4:12)? If he can’t bring himself to say it in his own words, why can’t he just quote the Bible and leave it at that?

My fear is that unbelievers hearing this interview probably did not glean the truth that every person who has ever lived faces judgment because of their sin and that faith alone in the crucified and risen Christ is man’s only hope of salvation. This is the heart of the Gospel, and it was not at all clear in Osteen’s interview. I don’t think that this man believes that there is more than one way of salvation, but the interview seems to imply that people of other faiths might be okay after all.

So I am disappointed and hoping for a retraction or perhaps some clarification. I hope one or both comes soon.

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Evangelicals from Mars?


Members of the Korean American Presbyterian Church of Queens. Koreans are among those swelling the ranks of evangelical Christians. – James Estrin/The New York Times

An interesting story in today’s New York Times talks about the population of evangelicals living in New York City. So how do New Yorkers, by and large, feel about evangelicals in there midst?

“Still, the prevailing culture of this city is still unsure of what to make of evangelical Christians, most churchgoers interviewed agreed. They can be treated with contempt and other times curiosity. Mickey H. Sanchez, 26, who works for a city councilman and attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church, said he finds that people are often confused when they discover that he’s an evangelical. ‘That you’re in New York as an evangelical, it has to be processed by them,’ he said” (source).

I guess meeting a Martian would be the only thing stranger than meeting an evangelical in New York. Still, the article discusses the burgeoning evangelical population in the city. This population is presumably going to populate the upcoming Billy Graham crusade. This is unfortunate. I think it would be better if the evangelistic crusade could actually reach some non-evangelicals. Hopefully, we haven’t come to the point where seeing a Martian at the crusade would be the only thing stranger than seeing a non-evangelical there.

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Stomping Your Baby To Death: Just or Unjust?

There are at least 30 states “that recognize the unlawful killing of an unborn child as homicide in at least some circumstances.” The laws that forbid such killing have come to be known as “Fetal Homicide Laws.” There is a situation brewing now in Lufkin, Texas that might call some of these laws into question from a constitutional perspective.

A 19-year-old young man in Lufkin, Texas was just sentenced to life in prison for ending his girlfriend’s pregnancy (source). The man was accused of stepping on his girlfriend’s stomach and causing her to miscarry. The hitch here is that he did this deed with the apparent consent of his girlfriend who wanted to end the pregnancy (source). Could he not argue on appeal that his girlfriend has the constitutional right to choose to end her pregnancy (à la Roe v. Wade), and he was just helping to carry out her wishes?

The case brings into sharp relief an inconsistency in our laws—an inconsistency that illustrates the immorality of abortion. John Piper has commented to this effect on the fetal homicide law in Minnesota:

“There is a fetal homicide law in Minnesota. According to the Minneapolis Tribune it ‘MAKES IT MURDER TO KILL AN EMBRYO OR FETUS INTENTIONALLY, EXCEPT IN CASES OF ABORTION.’ Now what makes the difference here? Why is it murder to take the life of an embryo in one case and not murder in the case of abortion? Now watch this carefully, because it reveals the stunning implications of the pro-choice position. The difference lies in the choice of the mother. If the mother chooses that her fetus live, it is murder to kill it. If she chooses for her fetus not to live, it is not murder to kill it. In other words in our laws we have now made room for some killing to be justified not on the basis of the crimes of the one killed, but solely on the basis of another person’s will or choice. If I choose for the embryo to be dead, it is legal to kill it. If I choose for the embryo to live, it is illegal to kill it. The effective criterion of what is legal or illegal, in this ultimate issue of life and death, is simply this: the will of the strong. There is a name for this. We call it anarchy. It is the essence of rebellion against objective truth and against God” (“Challenging Church and Culture with Truth”).

Pro-choice forces are aware of this tension, and that is why they are generally opposed to fetal homicide laws. Pro-choicers argue that these laws grant an unborn child legal status distinct from the pregnant mother, and this is a notion that they cannot reconcile with their own pro-abortion ideology. Therefore, they “prefer to criminalize an assault on a pregnant woman and recognize her as the only victim” (“Fetal Homicide Laws–What You Need To Know”).

It remains to be seen whether the 19-year-old Texas teen will have any success on appeal. But one thing is certain. The Texas state law is just and reflects the intrinsic value and personhood of the unborn. There is, therefore, nothing wrong with the Texas Fetal Homicide Law. I wish I could say the same for our ailing culture. Believe it or not, there are actually those who would want it to be legal for a father to stomp the life out of his unborn children. God help us.

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“Devoid of Content”


Stanley Fish, dean emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Stanley Fish has contributed an opinion editorial in today’s New York Times titled “Devoid of Content.” As a professor who teaches Greek and hermeneutics to undergraduate students and who has graded many papers, I have observed the same thing that that Fish has. Too many students are “utterly unable to write a clear and coherent English sentence . . . Students can’t write clean English sentences because they are not being taught what sentences are.” Though I am in substantial disagreement with Fish over hermeneutical theory (he is a reader-response critic), his analysis of the literacy crisis and the remedy in his pedagogy are brilliant. For the few language buffs and teachers who read this blog, I recommend that you read “Devoid of Content.”

Source: Stanley Fish, “Devoid of Content,” The New York Times, May 31, 2005.

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