January 31, 2010

Abortion Against the Handiwork of God

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."  Psalm 139:13-14

Over 80% of abortions performed in the United States use a procedure called dilation and evacuation.  In this procedure, the doctor uses a clamp to dismember the baby while still inside the mother's womb.  The doctor then proceeds to remove the body parts one-by-one until the entire child has been removed from the mother.  Here is a link to a detailed and graphic description of the dilation and evacuation procedure by a former abortion doctor. 

Christians must understand that the dismemberment of a human baby inside the mother's womb is a matter rebellion against the God of life.  The scriptures teach that God himself knits the child together in the womb of the mother.  The physician who crushes the bones of the unborn is undoing the work of God's own hand.  Those little legs and arms are attached to a little torso that contains a little rib cage protecting a pair of little lungs and a tiny beating heart which sends blood to the baby's head containing the baby's brain, and this is the work of God.  Those who would advocate for the destruction of this little life declare that God does not know what he is doing and that his handiwork is disposable medical waste. 

May he have mercy upon us and restore justice to our land.

Murder for Hire

Many people may not know that Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of abortions in the United States, is a for-profit organization.  They sell their wares of death to thousands of women every day to turn a profit for themselves.  You can find the data in this Annual Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008.  On page 18, they report over one billion dollars in revenue.  This number includes nearly 350 million dollars in government grants and contracts.  Government grants made up 34% of Planned Parenthood's revenue for that year.  You can see, on the same page, that their excess revenue over expenses (profit, that is) totals 85 million dollars.  So, the folks over at Planned Parenthood filled their pockets with 85 million dollars from the murder of unborn children.  Basically, they have the job of legal hitmen, murderers for hire who are protected and partially funded by the federal government. 

January 27, 2010

More Than Dates & Dead People: Recovering a Christian View of History by Mansfield

Many a high school student left history class wondering why they were made to study all those dates and dead people.  With the present book, Stephen Mansfield argues that there is more to history than they usually let on in most classes on the subject.  "History," Mansfield argues, "isn't automatically boring.  It's the way we look at it that makes it such agony" (4).  In response to those horrific presentations of history, he advances a particularly Christian approach to history which brings it to life to help us understand where we've been, where we are, and where we are going. 

The book opens with a critique of the way history is generally taught in public schools.  First, with regard to presentation, Mansfield is critical of the cold and lifeless lists and outlines that characterize so many lectures on history.  Second, with regard to a philosophy of history, Mansfield deconstructs the evolutionary perspective which has been adopted by most public schools and affects the way history is presented.  In short, history from an evolutionary perspective is meaningless.  If everything is an accident, then there is no meaning in it.  Why would anyone want to study something that is meaningless?  This section of the book is particularly interesting and provides a very basic groundwork for much more work that could be done on the implications of philosophies of history (see here and here). 

Instead of an evolutionary approach to history, which yields meaninglessness and boring nonsense, Mansfield argues for a Christian approach to history in which history is seen as the outworking of God's plans and purposes.  In this approach, history has meaning because it is created and directed by God.  History has meaning because it is the outworking of God's redemptive plan.  History has meaning because it is racing toward a divine goal which defines everything that leads up to that goal. 

Mansfield lays out four pillars for a Christian view of history: (1) God rules history, (2) God orchestrates history according to how he wants it to end, (3) history gets its meaning from eternity, and (4) history is a battleground between two spiritual kingdoms - God's kingdom and the evil empire of Satan (22).  When Christians study history, we ought to be asking these questions around these pillars.  What is God doing in this historical event?  How does the spiritual struggle between good and evil fit into this event?  What does this event mean in the great drama of God's unfolding history?  Questions like these will bring history to life and cause us to see that history is the place where God is at work...and that is always interesting.

The first half of the book rounds off with a section providing tools for doing history.  Mansfield suggests that students of history looking into a period of the past study that period's religion, culture, law, education, and art.  Each of these areas provides special insight into what is of the greatest concern to the people the student studies. 

The last half of the book is comprised of five historical sketches and some bibliographic material for getting started on the journey of reading history like a Christian.  The sketches are intended to demonstrate in brief how a Christian view of history works when applied to specific historical persons, events, or periods.  The bibliographical information is helpful in providing initial outlets for further study. 

The book is brief, only 126 pages.  It is seems to be written with middle school students in mind.  It is not a challenging or intimidating read, though it remains very interesting and very important.  The author writes well and with humor.  I happily recommend this book to all, but Christian teachers and students of history will benefit from it particularly.  It would serve as a fine text for a middle or high school level course.

January 24, 2010

A Christian Vision of History and the Lordship of Christ in Education

I’ve been reading and thinking lately on what it means to have a Christian view of history. What is history and why should we study it as Christians? Is it really that important or can we just be glad that all those dark times are in the past? To understand the importance of the issue we need to consider how the implications of two opposing views play out. We will then see that how we answer these questions profoundly affects the way we approach education.

The first view is the one which has been adopted in popular society – an evolutionary vision of history. In this vision, history is all progress. Humanity is the result of the advance from an accidental explosion to the formation of planets and galaxies, from the first cellish critter oozing out of the primordial goop to the resulting mutli-celled creatures accidents and then from monkeys to men. Two implications of this view are worth noting. First, from an evolutionary perspective, things are supposed to be progressing up the evolutionary ladder. This, of course, means that the past has nothing to teach us. All of history can only be thought of as earlier and less advanced. To consider the ideas of our predecessors would be to consider the ideas of those further back on the evolutionary chain than we. It would be like studying the ideas of monkeys. Second, from an evolutionary perspective history is a matter of chance, an accident. And if it is an accident, what sense is there in searching for meaning in it? Randomness has no meaning. So, an evolutionary philosophy of history leaves us with a meaningless past the study of which would be a regression of ideas, civilization, and nature.

The second view of history is the Christian one. From a Christian perspective, history is not merely the stage on which God’s plans and purposes unfold, history is itself the unfolding of God’s plans and purposes. In contrast to the evolutionary vision, history is not an accident; it is no matter of chance. Rather, it is the playing out of God’s plan for God’s creation, not least the redemption of that creation. This leads to at least two implications as well. First, if God is the author of history, while there is progress toward a goal, it does not mean that we have nothing to learn from our forbears. That which went before is not necessarily inferior or less evolved. Those in the past have something to teach us about the outworking of God’s plans and purposes through time. We ought to study them to learn from them all we can about God’s intention for his world and how we might be a constructive part of that intention. Second, history is not a matter of chance and, therefore, has meaning. We can ask questions of meaning about historical matters because the matters are part of the outworking of God’s purposes in creation. He is doing something. Events are not random. God is at work. We study history because we are interested in what he has been up to.

These observations and implications lead us to some further observations about the way public education is done in the United States. The evolutionary vision of history is the one that has been basically adopted in public schools. There may be some strongholds for creationism in some place, but by and large the evolutionary perspective is the position generally taught. This, though, leads the curriculum to contradict itself. We want the students to think history is important. Otherwise, we would not make them study it through grade school and into college. Why spend so much time on something so meaningless? You don’t make students study a subject for years if you don’t want them to think it important. The problem arises when they leave history class and cross the hall to science where the teacher tells them that all history is an accident that is the result of a big explosion a long time ago. How can history be important if it is an accident? This is merely one aspect of the disjointedness in current educational situations.

The solution is to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ over both history and science. The student is required to study history because history is the unfolding of God’s drama of redemption. The student is required to study science because God made the world, and it is, therefore, worthy of study to discern how the good and kind Creator intended for all of it to work. The point here is that an education which claims to be neutral with regard to the Lordship of Jesus Christ commits itself to contradiction and absurdity. The subjects that make up an education can only be consistently taught when Christ is professed as Lord of every subject.

January 17, 2010

A Balanced Doctrine of Salvation

I think its fair to say that evangelicals tend emphasize the cross of Christ to the neglect of his resurrection.  More hymns are written about the cross.  More sermons are preached on the cross.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not criticizing a cross-centered and cross-focused ministry.  But I do wonder if we have not lost a balance to which the New Testament holds firmly, a balance between the importance of both cross and resurrection for the full work of salvation. 

This balance shows up clearly in the opening verses of 1 Peter.  Peter affirms in one breath that the people of God are sprinkled with the blood of Christ (1:2) and given new birth through the resurrection of Christ from the dead (1:3).  For Peter, a holistic and fully developed doctrine of salvation maintains that we are forgiven through the atoning and substitutionary death of Christ on the cross and that we are given new life through Christ's resurrection.  Death without resurrection is not good news.  And neither can you have resurrection unless first you die.  Both are necessary to a fully Christian and biblical understanding of salvation. 

I wonder if our emphasis on the cross to the neglect of new resurrection life is not behind a tendency in some quarters of American Christianity to focus on salvation as forgiveness while neglecting an understanding of salvation as transformation into a new life.  Its not a far stretch of the imagination to correlate this matter with an emphasis on justification to the neglect of sanctification which also characterizes some corners of American Christianity.  Again, let me say that I'm not arguing for a de-emphasis on the cross.  I am arguing for a balanced emphasis on both cross and resurrection.  The cross and resurrection of Christ is not an either/or issue; it is always both/and. 

So, let us, with Peter, maintain a fully Christian and biblically balanced understanding of this great salvation.  We have been cleansed by the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross.  We have been forgiven our transgressions and granted new birth into the new creation by virtue of union with our crucified and resurrected Lord.  We now look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

January 12, 2010

The Christian as Teacher and Student


"The Christian teacher has to be taught before he can teach.  And the Christian teacher has to recognize an ongoing process of being taught.  Especially in a field like history, the teacher has to be a person of many books and much reading.  I generally think a person has to read ten books on a particular subject before he can intelligently follow a conversation among the experts.  I don't mean ten books on history in a broad sense; what I mean is that you need to read ten books on the American War for Independence, or the Protestant Reformation, or the Crusades before you can follow the conversation on those particular topics.  By the time you have read fifty to a hundred books on a particular area, you can begin to really understand the subject.  These numbers are arbitrary, but this truth is certain:  Never assume that having read a book on a subject makes you an expert in that area.  After reading one book you know something, or a lot of somethings.  After ten books, you begin to realize how much don't know.  After a hundred books, you might know what it is you don't know" (139-140).

January 11, 2010

Independence and the Christian Worldview

It has become popular, as of late, to publicly criticize Christianity as that which poisons everything.  This claim has been made repeatedly by the well-known atheist and public intellectual Christopher Hitchens.  The claim is of course silly and foolish, particularly when considered in light of Hitchens recent gaining of United States citizenship.  It is a generally Christian worldview that led the founders of the United States to declare their independence from Great Britain.  It was because they believed that all people had certain unalienable rights endowed by their Creator that they resisted the tyranny of the British crown.  I am not claiming that the founders were all good and orthodox Christians.  I am claiming that they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution out of a worldview that was heavily and, perhaps, primarily informed by the Bible and the Protestant Reformation. 

In contrast, Hitler advanced his genocidal agenda on the basis of Darwinian evolutionary theory.  He saw himself as cleansing the human race of an evolutionary pimple.  He was a champion of survival of the fittest.  The rejection of a Creator and the adoption of a worldview in which people are mere accidents of chance is necessarily followed by a disregard for the sanctity and sacredness of human life. 

So, which worldview poisons everything?  The one in which all persons are affirmed as divinely endowed with the right to freedom and life or the one in which the man with the biggest guns always wins?  The ideal of freedom for all people exists only because Christianity has so strongly influenced the culture of the West.  If secular Darwinian evolutionary dogmatism reigns, we should all be gravely concerned about the danger to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Mr. Hitchens should take note that the United States, of which he has thought enough to take citizenship therein, was founded out of the very worldview which he so vehemently despises.  The United States would not have been, if not for the Christian idea that all people are made in the image of the Almighty Creator God.

January 4, 2010

It is a curious thing...

...that people wonder why so many children are drugged for acting like monkeys after having been taught that they descended from apes.  If they were taught that they were created in the image of the God who is in his essence holy love, perhaps they might act accordingly.