The Plame Game

Partisan hacks on the left would love to see Karl Rove, the “architect” of President Bush’s 2004 electoral triumph, take the fall for outing Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative. The investigation into who leaked what and when to which reporter has already landed The New York Time’s Judith Miller in jail for not giving up her source.

Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper also would have been jailed had not Karl Rove given him permission to name him as his source. Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff reports today on the e-mails that reveal the conversations that took place between Rove and Cooper. Isikoff’s conclusion is this: “Nothing in the Cooper e-mail suggests that Rove used Plame’s name or knew she was a covert operative” (source).

Is the witch hunt over yet? Far from it. Rove is too juicy a target, and it is likely that we’ll hear the left carping about his role in the leak no matter what the investigation turns up. I don’t know where the investigation will end, but I think it’s interesting that so many left-leaning pundits do.

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Church Discipline and Purging the Church Roles

Hat tip to Justin Taylor for bringing our attention to Tim Challies’ summary of Jim Ellif’s article: Southern Baptists: An Unregenerate Denomination. Challies’ summary and Ellif’s article deal with the widely known fact that the membership roles of Southern Baptist churches are woefully inflated. Many Southern Baptists have simply grown accustomed to the fact that only about 37% of the names listed on their church’s role actually shows up regularly for worship.

This statistic reveals how far Baptists have drifted from their tradition as Baptists. Historically, Baptists have been a people who adhere to a regenerate church membership. That is, we believe that the only people who are allowed to be members of the church are those who profess and practice faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Eliff’s statistic shows that about 63% of Southern Baptist church members do not in fact practice their faith by attending regular worship services.

Earlier this week, I listened to an interview with Paige Patterson in which he talked about how a pastor can get a church to practice church discipline when that church has never done so before. This can be an extremely difficult move for a pastor, but Patterson suggested that, after preaching about the meaning of membership, a pastor could begin by pursuing non-attending members. If the non-attending members either cannot be found or do not want to return to the fold, then they should be removed from the church membership roles. This is Patterson’s advice, and I agree that it is a good place to start.

There is much more to be said on this, and I refer the interested reader to the 9Marks website for resources on and teaching about church discipline within a Baptist context.

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Conservatives Rally Against Gonzales


Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at his swearing-in ceremony at the Justice Department in February. -Doug Mills/The New York Times

The New York Times and the Washington Post report this morning that conservatives are rallying against the possible appointment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. This is good news, and no doubt the president will get the message.

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Crunch Time


Retiring Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor

If you thought the 2004 presidential campaign was a difficult, bitter, acrimonious, blood-earnest fight to finish, you have not seen anything yet. The Bush-Kerry battle royal was a battle royal because of their sharp ideological differences with respect to the culture war. In this war, the most prized territory to occupy is the Supreme Court, and now that territory is up for grabs.

Now that Sandra Day O’Connor has announced her resignation, we are about to witness a fight that will make the 2004 presidential campaign look like ring-around-the-rosy. As Tom Goldstein said today after O’Connor’s announcement, “Now the gloves are entirely off. In political Washington there is no more important question to the left or the right [than the composition of the Supreme Court]” (source).

For President Bush, this is crunch time. Millions of Evangelicals came out to vote for President Bush last November because of his promise to appoint “strict constructionists” to the court. This means, of course, that he has promised only to appoint judges along the lines of Scalia and Thomas, not Ginsburg and Souter. If President Bush is to make good on his election promises, then he has to put all his “political capital” on the line to see a hermeneutical conservative appointed to the bench.

This means that rumors of Alberto Gonzales being a potential appointee better be just that—rumors. Alberto Gonzales opposed a parental notification law when he was on the Texas Supreme Court and is obviously not the kind of justice that evangelicals had in mind when they came out to the polls to vote for Bush. If Gonzales becomes Bush’s nominee, then evangelicals need to go shopping for another party. After all, why should we support any candidate or party that will not deliver when it’s crunch time?

More on this later. Believe me, much more on this later.

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Peggy Noonan Strikes Again

Peggy Noonan offers a biting critique of the hubris of Washington politicians in her weekly column in the Wall Street Journal. The title pretty much says it all: “Conceit of Government: Why are our politicians so full of themselves?” One of the great things about this essay is that she is an equal opportunity criticizer—that is, she directs her censure at both sides of the aisle. What she writes is harsh, but I think it is sorely needed. There seem to be less and less statesmen in Washington and more and more men who like to state their own virtue.

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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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