Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wreck the Malls with Bouts of Folly

Wreck the malls with bouts of folly
Fa la la la la la la la la!
There's no need for melancholy
Fa la la la la la la la la!



Don we now padded apparel
Fa la la la la la la la la!
Strolling into Yuletide peril
Fa la la la la la la la la!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Bizarre "Altarcation"

Yet another reason why we Reformed think altar calls are a bad idea:
    Victory Christian Center Pastor Attacked During Services

    TULSA - One of Tulsa's best-known ministers was attacked Sunday while giving the altar call. NewsChannel 8's Mark Bradshaw spoke with Billy Joe Daugherty of Victory Christian Center, who was almost knocked out in church. ...

    ... "I had been preaching on praise and Thanksgiving in every situation," he says. "And this guy walked forward. I thought he was coming to receive the Lord, but he had another plan."

    He sure did. As the music played, without warning, the man punched Daugherty in the face. And, before he could land a knockout blow, he was yanked away.
You can see the video here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Principles of Education For Christian Parents

Briefly, I’m looking to toss out some principles that should guide Christian parents as we think about educating our children. With three young sons, I’ve been thinking about the issue and would welcome any comments (darrelldow@hotmail.com).

1) All of life is ethical.

Day by day, we make choices—individually as well as parts of groups. All human behavior can be appraised by moral values. Each of our actions gives expression to an unspoken moral code of right and wrong. In short, all of life is ethical.

While discoursing on the issue of Christian Liberty, the Apostle Paul closes his remarks by saying, "whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31). If, as Paul says, even in natural functions such as eating and drinking we must honor God, the implication is that honor is demanded in every sphere of life. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:23). In short, there is no ethical neutrality.

2) The Scripture must be our yardstick

Paganism invariably places ultimate ethical authority in the polis, effectively making the state a divine entity. On the other hand, the medieval church fostered two sources of ethics—the divine revelation of Scripture, and the realm of human wisdom, or the laws of nature. The reformers stood in opposition to both paganism and medieval ethical dualism and proclaimed sola scriptura and tota scriptura—that only Scripture and all of Scripture is not merely a guide for faith and practice, but the yardstick for every sphere of human action.

3) According to God’s self-attesting revelation in Scripture, wisdom begins with theistic presuppositions.

The Bible states very clearly that it is the fear of God that is the starting point of all wisdom, and that His precepts and law are to serve as our guide: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding" (Ps. 111:10; see also Job 27:28, Prov. 1:7, Prov. 9:10, Prov. 15:33).

4) Education is inescapably religious.

Doug Wilson hits the nail on the head when he writes: "Education is a completely religious endeavor. It is impossible to impart knowledge to students without building on religious presuppositions. Education is built on the foundation of the instructor's worldview (and the worldview of those who developed the curriculum). It is a myth that education can be non-religious -- that is, that education can go on in a vacuum which deliberately chooses to exclude the basic questions about life. It is not possible to separate religious values from education. This is because all the fundamental questions of education require religious answers. Learning to read and write is simply the process of acquiring tools to enable us to ask and answer such questions."

Writing similarly, R. L. Dabney showed that it is impossible to teach ANYTHING without reference to some worldview: "The instructor has to teach history, cosmogony, psychology, ethics, the laws of nations. How can he do it without saying anything favorable or unfavorable about the beliefs of evangelical Christians, Catholics, Socinians, Deists, pantheists, materialists or fetish worshippers, who all claim equal rights under American institutions? His teaching will indeed be the play of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet omitted…Since all truths converge towards God, he who is not to name God, must have all his teachings fragmentary; he can only construct a truncated figure. In history, ethics, philosophy, jurisprudence, religious facts and propositions are absolutely inseparable."

5) The purpose of Christian education is to demonstrate the glory of Christ.

Ultimately, we desire that our children become Christians and that the Holy Spirit uses our efforts toward that end. At the same time, we do not see that ALONE as the goal of “Christian” education, for “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy" (Col. 1:15-18).

Education must be Chistocentric, for in the falling rain and the rotation of the earth we see the power and supremacy of God. In the beauty of a Shakespearean sonnet or a Bach concerto we glimpse God’s glory. In the narrative of history we take note of the merciful providence of God. In mathematics we see the order of God. In government we glimpse the justice of God. So our duty as parents is to ensure that our children are not taken captive "through hollow and deceptive philosophy," but that they learn to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (Col. 2:8, I Cor. 10:5).

6) As parents, we are responsible for what our kids learn.

I recall Doug Wilson once saying, and I’m paraphrasing, that "We are responsible for what our children learn, whether we teach it to them or not." I recall reading through Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 and being struck by the fact that I am responsible for what my children are taught. That by no means implies that I must teach them everything. However, should I choose to delegate certain things to the church or school, I am still ultimately responsible.

So all of life, including education, has an inescapably religious and ethical component. For the Christian, divine revelation is our authoritative source, and from Scripture we learn that education must be theocentric, with the glory of God being the ultimate objective. Moreover, as parents it is our obligation to ensure that our children obtain the sort of education I’ve been describing. Therefore, education that is either statist (advancing the interests of the state) or ecclesiocentric (advancing the cause of the church) is problematic. Education must ultimately be under the authority of parents, acting as God’s trustees on behalf of their children.

Having said that, I think parents can come to very different conclusions about the best way to educate their kids. While I think it is time for the church to begin discussing an exit strategy from the public schools, it is also necessary that dogmatism not guide the conversation. As Dr. Mohler has written, any such strategy must "acknowledge that Southern Baptist churches, families, and parents do not yet see the same realities, the same threats, and the same challenges in every context."

As I noted above, I have three children. The oldest started kindergarten last fall. He is currently enrolled in a Christian private school, but I’m not certain by any means that the environment there is best suited for our families needs. As the son of the schoolteacher, much of my antipathy for public education was learned at home. The remainder of my distaste stems from my own experience being sent to one of those reeducation camps. However, I realize that not all parents have the same scruples as I, and must refrain from issuing blanket proclamations.

One other item in conclusion. The time has come for churches to equip parents, support families, and offer alternatives—including subsidies where necessary. We must avoid the siren song of vouchers, which would ultimately ensnare private and religious schools in the tentacles of the state, and we must covenant together in search of new and inventive options.

This Probably Isn't the Purgatory the Catholic Church Had in Mind

If you haven't gotten around to it yet, check out Marc Heinrich's blog Purgatorio. He describes it as "a panoply of evangelical eccentricities, un-orthodox oddities and christian cultural curiosities," but in my opinion, that's a bit of an understatement.

So, if you're looking for some thought-provoking items or if you just need a laugh, drop by Purgatorio, "where a picture can be worth a thousand words...or may just speak for itself."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Historical Survey of Calvinism

Phil Johnson, a pastor at Grace Community Church, gives a brief yet concise history of Calvinism. Click here to download the MP3.

And be sure to check out Phil's blog, PyroManiac.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Flags in Church

Timothy D. Terrell of the Center for Biblical Law and Economics, in his essay Nationalism in the Sanctuary, explains the problem with displaying the American and Christian flags in church sanctuaries. Definitely worth reading.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Education of Our Children Should Not Be Left to the State

(EverVigilant.net editorial for 11/10/2005)

Parents of elementary school children in California were upset that their kids were the targets of a sex survey conducted by the Palmdale School District. The survey, distributed in 2002, focused on how often prepubescent school kids thought about sex and touched themselves—you know, just the kind of things educators need to know to in order to effectively teach reading, writing and math skills.

The parents filed a lawsuit, claiming that the survey "violated parents' substantive due process and privacy rights." Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Fields v. Palmdale School District, dismissed the suit, saying:
    We agree, and hold that there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it. We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students. Finally, we hold that the defendants' actions were rationally related to a legitimate state purpose.
The court's ruling certainly seems like a violation of the rights and privileges of parents. But is it really? First of all, the court's ruling does not create law. The Palmdale School Board can still be pressured to end such ridiculous practices. Secondly, the parents who are complaining have already shown that they do not hold the education of their children in high regard.

I know this sounds harsh, but while I sympathize for the children, it's difficult to feel sorry for the parents. After all, they were the ones who turned custody of their children over to the government school system for six or seven hours a day, five days a week. Were they really all that surprised when the schools tried to undermine their parental authority?

By placing your child in the care of a government-run indoctrination center, you are saying that you trust the government to raise your child, essentially giving up your due process and privacy rights. You are admitting that the government is able to give your child something you cannot provide. When you consider how poorly the government manages everything else, why would any reasonable person think things would be different when it comes to education?

Note that the Ninth Circuit believes the school district's actions "were rationally related to a legitimate state purpose." In other words, those in control of public education have but one concern: the welfare of the state. Seeing to it that your child receives a quality education can only conflict with that.

There really isn't any way to sugar-coat this, so I'll just come right out and say it: If you willingly submit your child to the trappings of the government school system, then you have no right to complain about what they are taught. It would be like sending your kid off to play in oncoming traffic, expressing shock and outrage and blaming someone else when he was struck by a car. Sure, you can try to be involved by going to parent-teacher conferences, attending PTA meetings or getting elected to the school board, but when you get right down to it, you are in control of the education of your child.

My wife and I are in the process of adopting a little girl from China. This will be our first child, and even though it will be about a year before we travel to China to get her, we are preparing our home for her arrival. One of our main concerns is her future education. We are still weighing options, but one thing we know for certain is that she will never see the inside of a government school classroom. Why would we rescue her from a lifetime of socialist, atheist indoctrination in one country just so she can have the same experience on the other side of the world? Believe me; if that was our goal, it would be cheaper, less stressful and much easier just to leave her where she is.

For Christian parents, education is a tremendous responsibility. Believers have a duty to ensure that their children received a God-centered education. Scripture says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7a). Why settle for anything less?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Promise-Driven Life

Michael S. Horton has written an excellent article on a vital subject:
    [W]e are "wired" for law: tell me what to do and I'll get it done. That is not just the American spirit, but it is human nature. God's law is inborn, in our conscience, part of our moral makeup. The average person on the street will tell you that the role of churches and other religious institutions is to provide moral instruction—practical suggestions for successful living for the spirit, just as Suze Orman and Jake are there to help us out with our banking and bodies. ...

    ... Even as Christians, the law (in its third use) can direct us, but it cannot drive us, except to either despair or self-righteousness. Christians are not purpose-driven, but promise-driven. Purposes are all about law. ...

    ... We have a lot of purposes, a lot of goals—some of them noble. Desperate to save ourselves and our kids from everything but the wrath of God, we fail to realize that, however watered down, these are all nothing but law rather than promise. Eventually, we will become burned out on good advice. What we need is good news.
Unfortunately, the message of men like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen seems to have broader appeal. It's less offensive, and people readily respond to things that are more tangible.

O ye of little faith...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Not Yet Canonized, Darwin Has a Special Place in the Catholic Church

No surprise here:
    Evolution in the Bible, Says Vatican

    The Vatican has issued a stout defence of Charles Darwin, voicing strong criticism of Christian fundamentalists who reject his theory of evolution and interpret the biblical account of creation literally.

    Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the Genesis description of how God created the universe and Darwin's theory of evolution were "perfectly compatible" if the Bible were read correctly.

    His statement was a clear attack on creationist campaigners in the U.S., who see evolution and the Genesis account as mutually exclusive.

    "The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," he said at a Vatican press conference. He said the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator".

    This idea was part of theology, Cardinal Poupard emphasised, while the precise details of how creation and the development of the species came about belonged to a different realm#&151;science. Cardinal Poupard said that it was important for Catholic believers to know how science saw things so as to "understand things better."

    His statements were interpreted in Italy as a rejection of the "intelligent design" view, which says the universe is so complex that some higher being must have designed every detail.
As a Calvinist, it really isn't a stretch for me to believe that the sovereign Creator of the universe had a particular plan and design in mind when He spoke everything into existence. But then again, I never had any formal theological training.

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