Musings of a Recovering Lutheran: March 2010
O LORD, God of my salvation,
         I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
         Incline Your ear to my cry. 

Psalm 88:1-2 (NKJV)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Timeline

An interesting summary of the events that have led to the ELCA's current meltdown.

One of the most frustrating parts of the entire debacle was the insistence by the ELCA's leadership that the Word of God be put up for a vote. This happened in 2004, and much to the leadership's surprise 57% of the ELCA membership voted to uphold Biblical authority. Only 22% were in favor of overturning the Bible.

In 2009 the ELCA's leadership did it again. Only this time they simply rammed it through a series of steps where the deck was stacked in their favor. Unlike 2004, the membership of the ELCA had no voice - the leadership perhaps fearing yet another defeat.

There is something unseemly about the ELCA's leadership calling for discussion and participation from everyone, and then shutting down those lines of communication and engaging in back-room political log-rolling to get what they want.

The irony of this deal is that the ELCA membership will soon dwindle to the point they can get the remaining membership to go along with whatever political scheme they propose without a lot of fuss. The Bride of Christ will have been torn apart in the process, but that is not as important as "speaking truth to power".

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday 2010

Today marks the start of Holy Week - the ultimate expression of love.

"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love," writes the Apostle John in 1 John 4:8 (NKJV). The promise that was made on Christmas comes true this week.

Although God is love, God is also holy and just. For that reason God cannot tolerate sin and still be holy and just. But humanity - every person throughout history - is sinful. Therefore, humanity cannot be reconciled to a loving God by their own efforts. A hopeless situation, if ever there was one.

The solution? In the name of love, God will voluntarily lay aside His power and become a Man. He will experience hunger, fatigue, rejection, betrayal, pain, and eventually death. By doing so He will take the punishment that we deserve and suffer in our places.

The weight of my own sin is unbearable if I dwell upon it too much. To add the weight of the sin of someone else to my own is something I cannot even comprehend, let alone bear. And to take the weight of the sins of every single person who has lived or will ever live - I cannot even begin to fathom the depth of the powerful love that motivated this.

By taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself, God remains both a loving God as well as a holy and just God. God did not try to evade the punishment, or give Himself special consideration. He took it all - my sin, your sin, the sin of everyone you know and everyone you don't know - and set us free.

On Good Friday we will remember that day of love. God did not ignore our sins in the name of Tolerance on that day so long ago. He did not vote them out of existence in the name of Majority Rule. He did not redefine sins in the light of Modern Scientific Understanding. He did not compromise to hear the applause of men and women or win the favor of governments. He took His Cross, was punished, and died.

To be continued.....

Witnesses to the Faith: Kabal24

Kabul24: The Story of a Taliban Kidnapping and Unwavering Faith in the Face of True Terror.

Christians never know if they will be called upon to defend the faith in the way these did.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Martyrs: Nigeria

A second wave of attacks in Nigeria has claimed another thirteen lives.

The (relative) tolerance for Christianity in the United States is certainly not a worldwide phenomenon, and even that appears to be coming to an end. But we are not yet at the stage Nigeria seems to be entering.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marytrs: World Vision in Pakistan

Six Christian workers for World Vision in Pakistan have been murdered. Eight others were hospitalized.

Please pray for all aid workers in Pakistan and in other dangerous places.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nigeria

John Hinderaker at Power Line recently had a post titled, "Why Don't Christians Care?" He was referring to the recent slaughter of 500 Christians in Jos, Nigeria.

Since Hinderaker is a Lutheran and I am an ex-Lutheran, I went to the ELCA's website to see what the leadership had to say about the massacre. Here is what I found:



It is possible that this search was flawed, and the the information I was looking for is elsewhere. However, I have yet to run across it. If the leadership of the ELCA - ostensible a Christian denomination - has any official expression of concern over the slaughter of their brothers and sisters in Christ, it is very well concealed.

Puzzling over the apparent lack of concern, Hinderaker had this to say:

Maybe "mainstream" Christianity is dead, except as an appendage of secular liberal opinion. Maybe, as the world's largest religion, Christianity has become so diffused that New World Christians don't much relate to their co-religionists in Africa and Asia.


Perhaps. But I think that much more is going on here. The ELCA is not merely post-Christian, it is in the process of transforming itself into a far-Left political party that pursues a purely secular political agenda. While I do not think that we will ever see a "Lutheran Party" that nominates and runs candidates for elective office (I could be wrong), I do believe that eventually we will see the ELCA using the tax-exempt status that churches enjoy to pursue political goals and ends that would otherwise require them to follow campaign finance laws.

One of the more common phrases that my wife and I heard during our time as ELCA missionaries was "speaking truth to power". But never once did we hear it used outside of a purely political context. Opposing the Iraq War, capital punishment and the Bush tax cuts was "speaking truth to power". Supporting immigration reform and increased social welfare and public education spending was "speaking truth to power". And so on. Ironically, many of these same individuals were scandalized every time Jerry Falwell or James Dobson or some other non-liberal Christian opened his/her mouth.

As I wrote previously, the ELCA acts and feels like an ecclesiastical version of MoveOn.org - complete with crackpot conspiracy theorists (I lost count of the number of 9/11 Truthers I met in the ELCA) and prejudice (Southern Baptists were probably the favorite target). Given the Left's growing hostility towards traditional Christianity, and the fact that the ELCA eschews preaching the Christian Gospel in favor of "speaking truth to power", is it any wonder that the deaths of so many Christians fails to arouse any outrage?

UPDATE 3/12/10: Here is a screen shot of the ELCA's news releases:




Among the stories listed, there is one about peace building in Senegal, another one about several Minnesota bishops releasing a pastoral letter to the Minnesota state legistature asking for ... something, a report by ELCA lobbyists in Washington on the 2011 Federal budget, and a response to Lutheran CORE. Still nothing about Nigeria.

UPDATE 3/13/10: I can find nothing on the Word Alone website about the killings. Same for LCMC website and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod website. I don't expect Lutherans to be marching in the streets waving the blood shirt, but this is alarming.

Perhaps this issue bothers me because my wife is African. For me Africa is more than a place with beautiful parks, wild animals, and starving children in need of Western help. It is home - a place where I have friends and family.

The secular media coverage of Africa tends to be shallow and frequently misleading. Nevertheless, they reported on this slaughter. I with that someone in the Lutheran community would at least mention the deaths of over 500 Nigerian Christians.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

More on Faith & Science

An interesting article concerning evolution and homeschooling was published by Associated Press. The article deals with the availability of homeschooling materials for biology courses. Having been critical of the media in the past, honest compels me to write this new post.

What surprised me was the general tone of the article. Normally, the news media reports on the evolution versus creation debate with a mixture of fear-mongering (Here Come the Ignorant Reactionary Homophobic Right-Wing Christianist Theocrats! may as well be the the universal title for such articles), condescension, and (sometime) an unmistakable dash of pure religious bigotry. This article, while not completely free of these sentiments, actually managed to present the other side without stereotype.

The part that was most interesting to me - astounding, to be honest - was the fact that the high school students and their parents were not portrayed as Bible thumpin' hillbillies. In fact, they were actually given credit for their intellectual prowess - something I do not recall AP doing before. The author(s) avoided the usual homeschooling-is-an-abomination meme and tried to be fair.

Disclosure: I am a mathematics instructor at a local community college, and have mixed feelings about homeschooling. If done right, homeschooling can be a blessing by allowing students to flee failing public schools and get the intellectual stimulation they need. But if it is done poorly, these kids will never catch up. In other words, it is not a guarantee of anything.

UPDATE 3/7/10: My local paper had an edited version of the same article. The original article had a rebuttal to the view expressed by the evolutionist professor that a Christian-based home school curriculum can cause children to avoid science. The edited version dropped the rebuttal, and the result was much more slanted.

Naturally, in a free society a newspaper can print what it wants. But there really wasn't any need to doctor the original story to make it appear that the author wrote something other than what he originally put out.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Response to Pastor David Baer

In response to Pastor Baer's article at Lutheran CORE, I wrote the following (the words in italic are Pastor Baer's):

What does it mean that the ELCA expects its pastors to oppose all forms of harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to support legislation to protect civil rights. Is same-sex marriage a civil right as some advocates claim? Does this require pastors to take a particular political position on the topic?

That would be awkward for the ELCA (to say the least), particularly given the public assurances that diversity is welcome. "Be Tolerant - Or Else" is probably not the message the ELCA wants to send - right now, anyway.

Far more likely is this scenario. My former church just completed a long process of calling a new pastor. The synod sent a list of approved candidates, and the church interviewed the people on the list.

The calling process for pastors would be an excellent way for the ELCA to enforce its political ideology. Pastors who did not share the denomination's views on homosexuality might find it hard to get an interview, let alone a calling. Congregations would have to search for traditional candidates themselves, which they may not have the resources to do. Over time pastors and congregations with "intolerant" views on homosexuality could be weeded out through attrition and discouragement and replaced with more compliant ones.

Remember always that leftist secular politics is the ELCA's primary mission. Both the inclination and opportunity to use political litmus tests to produce ideological uniformity will only grow over time as more and more non-liberals like myself leave the ELCA.

Faith & Science

One of the most fascinating aspects of living in the 21st century is watching the growing animosity between science and Christianity.

By "science" I mean the use (or misuse) of science by individuals when attacking religious beliefs they do not agree with.

In recent months we have watch the unfolding of "Climategate". To recap: much of the scientific evidence underpinning Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) came under fire when it was revealed that some of the leading climate scientists behind the theory had been falsifying data to make the planet seem warmer that it actually is. Worse still - there were active attempts by many of these same individuals to silence critics by preventing them from publishing in scientific journals.

AGW, we have been told, is "settled science", and that even raising questions about it makes one some sort of ignorant barbarian. Although NASA scientist James Hansen and scientists at University of East Anglia have been leading proponents, the loudest voices supporting the "settled science" claim have arguably been Hollywood stars and journalists the media, whose scientific credentials are meager at best.

The debate about evolution is eerily similar to the AGW debate. Like AGW, evolution is considered "settled science". Like AGW, evolution has its most vocal (and unprincipled) support outside the scientific community, particularly in the media and Hollywood. Just as AGW skeptics are portrayed by the media as tools of the oil industry, evolution skeptics are labeled as Christianist theocrats determined to cover the world in a second Dark Age. And like AGW, there is no room for skepticism in the evolution debate.

In both the AGW and evolution debates, there are scientists of good will and integrity on both sides. And - this must be pointed out - the ill behavior of a James Hansen or a Richard Dawkins does not disprove either AGW or evolution.

My background is in engineering and mathematics, and I am a skeptic of both AGW and evolution. A scientific theory is supposed to be experimentally verifiable or directly observable, and evolution is a theory spectacularly lacking in this regard. To accept evolution one must believe that life arose from purely natural causes, although no one can yet demonstrate how this might have happened in a scientific experiment, much less seen evidence for it in Nature. These simple life forms then changed over time (evolved) into more and more complex organisms - again, without any way to observe or experimentally verify whether this has happened or not.

Evolutionists point to the fossil record that they say shows more and more complex organisms coming into existence over time as one organism changed into another, but this is conjecture. How do they know (for example) that fish crawled out of an ocean millions of years ago, and these fish somehow became land-dwelling animals? As evolutionists will admit, fossils suggesting one species changing into another are rare, and none are without controversy. For this reason evolution has to be considered a "safe" theory since it is forever beyond proof or disproof by experimentation or direct observation. I have to ask: is this really science?

When pressed, many non-scientist (and some scientists) who subscribe to the theory of evolution claim that scientists are motivated by a dispassionate search for truth, while Christians are motivated by less intellectual goals (or worse). In short: naturalistic science is true while religion is false.

The cold, hard truth is this: science can become a "religion" (meaning as system of metaphysical beliefs). Naturalistic science starts with the assumption that everything in the Universe can be explained without resorting to the supernatural - a metaphysical argument, not a scientific one. And the suggestion that science is engaged in a dispassionate search for the truth misses the point - science may be a lofty ideal, but is also a discipline practiced by all too human scientists. Scientists, as recent events in the Climategate fiasco has shown, can be just as biased, reactionary, bigoted, close-minded and dishonest as non-scientists.