Thursday, June 30, 2011

Should kids be allowed to buy violent video games?

In a 7-2 decision which followed no well-established ideological lines, the Supreme Court this week upheld lower courts in striking down the California law barring the sale of violent video games to minors. As always, the questions here come in two broad categories. First, was this law a good one? Second, was this law a Constitutional one? Since I do not play any of the modern video games, I am a bit out of my depth here, and so I’ll be looking for expert commentary from those of you more familiar with the games at issue in this case.

Resources:

Read the opinion

Justices reject video game ban for children
(NYT)
Supreme Court strikes video game ban
(Fox News)
Supremes have ruled, now games have a duty
(NYT)
It’s perverse, but it’s also pretend
(NYT)

CC--Christianese 24d: Glory/Glorify (part 4 of 5)

--As we have noticed, we glorify God when we proclaim His deeds and when we embody His transformative power in our own lives.
--But this raises a rather devious possibility. Wouldn’t we do well to glorify God if we perhaps could exaggerate or even lie about good things He has done and if we could on our own power live lives even more exemplary than whatever He has empowered us to live?
--See, it’s all fine and well that God has done some good things, but maybe we should claim more than that as a way of making Him look even better? And it seems that God at least permits if not actively causes some bad things that don’t seem to glorify Him all that well, so shouldn’t we perhaps hide or pass over those? Especially the Bible, with all sorts of difficult things, invites us maybe to ignore or avoid such embarrassments.
--And if this is true of the things we tell others about God or His Book, isn’t it just as true in the way we live our lives? I mean it sounds nice to let God’s Spirit transform my heart and behavior, but who has time for that? In the meanwhile, people are looking at me and seeing that I don’t live up to my own standards. So perhaps I should step in and make up the difference by my own effort. And what about my residual sins and flaws? Shouldn’t I cover those over so that no one will see what a splotchy job God is doing to tidy me up? Wouldn’t that glorify God better?
--The same for my marriage. The same for my church. The same for my children. The same for my health and wealth and ideas and everything else. Don’t I best serve God by seeming to be the perfect advertisement? That’s very appealing to the lost, right?
--Well, obviously, there are three big problems with this all-too-common way of thinking. And I’ll explain about them tomorrow.

Workplace dress codes


Are we really this ungrateful for the opportunity to earn a living with the capital someone else has invested in us?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wacky Wednesday--God is a narcissist

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

--He constantly demands worship.

--He is constantly bragging of His accomplishments and proclaiming His own greatness.

--Nothing you do is ever good enough for Him, but everything He does is supposed to be perfect.

--He is deathly terrified of competition from anyone else for your affections, something He dares to call a virtue of jealousy.

--He even tells us that our whole purpose in existing (and indeed all of existence!) is to glorify Him and make Him look good.

--He wants you to always be pondering your own sinfulness

--Everything that goes wrong is claimed as your own fault

--You are supposed to love Him unquestioningly even when everything He does seems harmful and counterproductive

--You aren’t supposed to question Him or His choices

--Wants us to obey Him without question in every last detail.

Resources
Echo and Narcissus

Narcissism
(Wikipedia)

CC--Christianese 24c: Glory/Glorify (part 3 of 4)

--Glorify is a simple word which simply means to bring credit or honor (glory) to someone who deserves it, to make them look good, so to speak.
--Naturally, there are two main ways to glorify someone: First, by pointing to and proclaiming what is already truly great about them. Second, by doing good things yourself and then letting people know that you only did it because of that other person.
--So, you might have a mentor and then either you could describe his greatness and accomplishments to others or you could show that he imparted greatness to you in your own accomplishments.
--Since our purpose in life is to Glorify God, we do this by both telling people what is amazing and true of Him and by showing them how He has transformed us by the things we do in His service as His people.
--On the one hand, God is “out there” in the things He has done and is doing in history and today. When we share these things with people, we bring glory (honor, credit, reputation, esteem) to God.
--But if the greatest single thing God ever did was the Gospel, and the proof of this is what it does in us as God comes to indwell us, then our own lives become a living example of the glory of God as the Holy Spirit lives us and brings His own light to shine forth through our lives to others.
--If we say we love God, and we show such a life, we glorify Him, fulfilling our purpose in existing. If we fail to do this yet claim to be His, we sinfully bring disrepute and dishonor (or deglorify Him, so to speak) to other people, much as if we refuse to give Him credit for things He has done.
--Our duty, then is to continually tell the truth about God and to show that it is true in us by letting God act through us Himself.
--That’s what it means to glorify God.

The Looming Tower


I’m reading “The Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright, and today I’m sharing some of the insights gained from this fantastically informative book on the history of Islamic terrorism, Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Should Christians circumcise their sons?


As you have probably heard, the city of San Francisco has put a proposition on their November ballots that would ban infant circumcision in the city. This would surely be struck down by the courts as being unconstitutional, given the longstanding religious practice of many groups. But it does present an interesting opportunity to ask the question of whether Christians should be circumcising their infant boys. Does circumcision contribute to salvation in any way? Are Christians obligated to practice it to be fully pleasing to God? Jesus was circumcised, after all, wasn’t He? We’ll talk about it.

Bible References: Genesis 1710-14, Exodus 4:24-26, Deut 10:12-22, Jer 4:4, 1 Sam 17:26, 1 Sam 18:24-28, Acts 11:17, Acts 15:1-31, Acts 16:1-5, 1 Cor 7:17-20, Gal 2:1-5, Gal 5:1-11, Gal 6:11-16, Eph 2:11, Col 2:9-13, Phil 3:1-3

Circumcision (Wikipedia)
Female genital cutting (Wikipeia)
Should Christians practice circumcision? (Got Questions)
Should a Christian be circumcised? (Hebrew 4 Christians)
Circumcision and the Christian parent (No Harm)

CC--Christianese 24b: Glory/Glorify (part 2 of 4)

--As I explained yesterday, the Glory of God isn’t merely all His various perfect attributes or excellences, it is the very significance or weight of God.
--And whenever one encounters His Glory as it really is, it produces far more than a mere impulse to worship that which is so much better than you are. It has a demolishing effect, reducing your own opinion of yourself so dramatically that you feel worthless and insignificant in His presence. When you meet your favorite athlete, you are in awe of his superiority. When you meet God, you are devastated.
--This sudden existential catastrophe comes from having vastly underestimated God’s Glory and from having simultaneously vastly overestimated your own. Even though we all know God is more than we are of everything, we still all suffer from the erroneous tendency to put Him and us on the same scale or into the same category even to be compared to each other.
--It’s as if you had the ability to blow up a firecracker, and so you find yourself about to enter the presence of God thinking that He has the ability to blow up a stick of dynamite or even a bundle of sticks. So you anticipate standing back a few hundred feet just to be safe, only to discover that God’s Glory is on the order of a 100 megaton nuclear explosion, the sort of thing for which 200 feet makes no difference at all.
--And being so unprepared for this level of distinction, you are completely ruined by it.
--That’s why whenever God’s Glory appears to people, whether in the Temple at Jerusalem or on Mount Sinai or on the Mount of Transfiguration, it is a crushing, overwhelming, terrifying, unraveling sort of experience.
--And even when other things are brought into this proximity, if they survive, they then become even so transformed by carrying just the residual effects of this encounter that the ordinary person can’t even tell the difference (like with Moses needing to wear a veil after Sinai or with John the author of Revelation wrongly thinking that “glorified” Christians are really God Himself), again like something that’s been irradiated by a nuclear explosion becomes a source of dangerous radiation.
--Glory, then is the aesthetic beauty, rational, moral, and relational perfection, historical reputation, and existential and metaphysical significance of God all combined together.

Drop-side cribs illegal to sell as of today.


New safety standards on drop-side cribs (Consumer Affairs)

Parents debate drop-side cribs after recalls (MSNBC)

CPSC issues warning on cribs (CPSC)

Is the drop-side crib ban a legal taking? (Overlawyered)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ethics: Does Blood Kinship Matter?

Just as we were ending a show recently, someone called to ask a question about the relationship between natural or biological parenting and adoption. The brunt of the question was whether there is anything “more real” about blood relationships than about those made voluntarily and legally. Knowing that we were out of time, I avoided the question because the implications are significant and because it warrants a much more extended treatment. So tonight on the show, I thought we could talk through the question and try to figure out whether parent/child relationships are entirely a matter of what we do (meaning that adoptive and biological are the same, depending for their status on behavior) or if there is also some component of natural or blood connection (meaning that there is some fundamental difference between adoptive and biological parents based on essence or ontology).

CC--Christianese 24a: Glory/Glorify (part 1 of 4)

--The word glory has a pretty simple meaning, glory is the characteristic of being excellent or outstanding in some quality. We might say that the sunset was glorious or that the recital was glorious or that the glory for the victory went to some key agent in the activity.
--Naturally, since God is the perfect Being, He is uniquely excellent in every way possible. Thus, the glory of God is simply His perfection or wonderfulness as shown through His character and actions.
--But to say it this way understates the importance of the concept.
--We know from the Bible that when people came into proximity or contact with God’s Glory, they were always affected by it tremendously. And the primary way they responded was with a sense of not only their own badness or worthlessness (being very much not excellent, one might say), but also of their own insignificance.
--They weren’t just full of admiration for some high-performing individual they finally got to meet in person. They were undone, even ruined by the encounter.
--You see, one way of talking about Glory is as the catch-all for goodness. But God isn’t merely a very good being, He is Being itself. And so, His very essence or nature is significance itself, what modern authors (following C.S. Lewis) refer to as having weight or gravity (a word which nicely captures both seriousness and weight. God matters more than anything else, to such a degree that God is “mattering” itself. Nothing matters apart from Him (both in the sense of existing as matter and in having significance).
--Thus, the Glory of God is the sense that if we are like planets or small particles in space, He is not merely the Sun but the grandest and most impressive sun possible.

Responding to NBC’s “Under God” omission.

NBC Apologizes for pledge gaffe (Wash Post)

Christian groups demand explanation from NBC (CP)

NBC tribute cuts “Under God” from pledge (ACLJ)

ACLJ and thousands send protest letter to NBC (ACLJ)

Manhattan Declaration accepts the apology (MD)

Catholic Register chastises MD (NCR)

Manhattan Declaration response (MD)

Friday, June 24, 2011

CC--Christianese 23c: Blasphemy (part 3 of 3)

--Do phrases like “Oh my God!” and “Oh God!” constitute blasphemy?
--Before we can answer that, let’s start with something easier. Is it blasphemous to even utter the name of God?
--For some people, Jews in particular, blasphemy would include even using the name of God (Yahweh or Jehovah) out loud, possibly even using the substitute term “God” itself. And this is why you’ll notice in some Jewish literature the construction “G-d” or some oblique referent like “Ha-Shem” which means “The Name.”
--The reason for this is that humans can almost never be pure enough to say God’s name without dishonoring and profaning it. So, rather than taking that risk, they simply don’t say it at all.
--For Christians, however, merely uttering God or any of God’s names or titles (Elohim, Yahweh, Jesus, Adonai, etc.) isn’t considered blasphemous precisely because He permits us as His children to say His names.
--But if one utters the names disrespectfully or irreverently, that is handling God’s name improperly or vainly. And the most common form of this is cursing which uses God’s Name to express dissatisfaction as a swear.
--The reason this particular form of cursing is blasphemy is easily seen by the fact that one could express the same content with any of a number of alternate and truly profane terms relating to bodily functions. Thus, the blasphemy comes from equating God’s Name with such vulgarities by substitution.
--But is “Oh, my God!” in this category? Well, it depends on who is saying it and how they do so.
--If a Christian says this as an appeal to God in a moment of great significance, it’s honoring God. If a non-believer says it as a form of semi-sarcastic tsk-tsk, such trivializing is at least semi-blasphemous. In other words, the expression in itself isn’t blasphemous so much as the tone of voice, the context, and the question of whether it serves to bring honor and weight to God’s name or the opposite. Also, precisely because Christians have a more familiar and informal relationship with God as His children, we are generally more liberal about references to Him, at least when made by our fellow family members.

Obama blames technology for unemployment

President Obama’s profound but tragically common misunderstanding of the relationship between technology, jobs, and prosperity.

Obama vs the ATMs, why technology doesn’t destroy jobs (WSJ)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Current Events

Arabs and Democracy (Journal of Democracy)
Literacy rates in Arab States (UNESCO)
Senegal, Islam, Democracy, Sexy (European blog)
Defend Muslims, defend America (NYT)
Rand and Rubio (NYT)
FCC restricts its own power (WSJ)
Obama vs ATMs, why technology doesn’t destroy jobs (WSJ)
Global warming and global governance (Forbes)
Yasmin, Yaz blamed for two teen deaths (AP)
Obama accelerates withdrawl timeline (NYT)
Timeline: major events in Afghanistan war (NYT)
Troop levels in Afghanistan/Iraq graph (NYT)

CC--Christianese 23b: Blasphemy (part 2 of 3)

--As we discussed yesterday, blasphemy is any use of language to dishonor or defame God. And the reason it’s so awful is in part because God is so deserving of honor and respect and in part because language is such a unique and precious divine gift give to express this glory. Hence using that gift to attack the Giver is a supreme perversion.
--Thus, the most serious forms of blasphemy would involve willful and deliberate verbal defamations of God.
--For example, someone who denounces God or reviles Him would be engaging in blasphemy. This might entail saying God is not good or that He does not exist, or that he is not Almighty or something of this sort.
--But someone who claims God has done something terrible or who denies the glorious things He has done would also be engaged in blasphemy. And since the single greatest thing God has done in human history is the Gospel, that means that denying the Gospel or its goodness or that God did it out of love for us by denying the Resurrection or the Deity of Christ, etc. would all be forms of blasphemy.
--Equally, many of the things said by the Westboro Cult are blasphemous precisely because they bring disrepute upon God falsely attributing to Him evil things. When people who claim to be acting in God’s Name or on His behalf say what is contrary to His Nature, they blaspheme Him by sullying His reputation.
--In short, anything which lies about God or makes Him sound less worthy than He is would be blasphemy. Detracting from or denying His due weight, reputation, acclaim, or praise.
--And this raises the question of whether phrases like “Oh, my God!” constitute blasphemy. I’ll answer that tomorrow.

Clara Luper (May 3, 1923 – June 8, 2011)


Clara Luper, schoolteacher, civil rights activist, and leader of the first nationally recognized anti-segregation sit-in in Oklahoma City 1958, recently died June 8. In 1972 she ran unsuccessfully for election to the United States Senate. When asked by the press if she, a black woman, could represent white people, she responded: “Of course, I can represent white people, black people, red people, yellow people, brown people, and polka dot people. You see, I have lived long enough to know that people are people.”

An interview with Clara Luper
Wikipedia page on Clara Luper


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wacky Wednesday--Laziness Is A Virtue

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

--Laziness isn’t a character condition it’s the discernment that something isn’t important.
--Far from being boring, idleness offers a creative time for dreams, thoughts and conversations that is to be relished and fostered.
--Through leisure, the mind is free to wander and invent. My best ideas have come from times of relaxation and reflection. You can’t rush good philosophy.
--Our fast paced life prevents us from hearing God, who moves at a much slower pace.
--Work interferes with family time, to the acknowledged detriment of many families.
--Over-productive people are insufferably active, demanding, and unhappy. They can’t rest in the peace of God, and they don’t know how to be still and are personally insecure about their worth and identity unless producing
--We work so that we can have better things that we can’t enjoy because we’re supposed to be working so that we can have better things that we can’t enjoy because we’re supposed to be working so that we can have better things that we can’t enjoy because…
--If it doesn’t generate income, our American culture treats it as irrelevant. This means that art, poetry, dance, beholding nature, and loads of other very healthy things for your soul get lost in the competition for income.
--We have put such a premium on work as meaningful that loads of women leave their true calling as mothers to go find fulfillment in the market economy.
--Think of the first question we always want to know about someone: what does he DO? As in, is he productive or is he a bum? And think of how odd it would be for someone to say, “I do nothing of that sort.” Oh, you mean you’re unemployed? No, I’m not seeking a job. I don’t play that game.
--There was no toil in Eden. It was after the fall that man was cursed to work. Shouldn’t we be redeemed from the curse?
--In heaven, we won’t do work. Heaven will look a lot more like lounging at the beach than it will look like working at the mill.
--Be still and know that I am God presupposes that you can stand being still.
--God will provide, the lilies don’t toil or turn, you can’t add one cubit to your stature, God knows your needs. Matthew 6:24-34
--Consider the case study of Martha and Mary!
--It’s extremely odd to say on the one hand that you can’t earn heaven but to then turn around and say it’s a grave moral sin to not be working and productive!
--“Labor-saving” technology by definition means “laziness-enabling” technology.

Resources:
Laziness Quotes
Bible Verses About Laziness at InTouch.org
In Defense Of Laziness by Hal Cranmer at Mises.org
In Praise Of Idleness by Bertrand Russell
Quitting The Paint Factory: On The Virtues Of Idleness by Mark Slouka
Idling: Why It's Important Not To Be Busy All The Time by Mortimer J. Adler
The Ideas Of Work And Leisure (5 parts, click on link at end to continue) by Mortimer J. Adler
How To Be Idle book by Tom Hodgkinson
An Interview With Tom Hodgkinson (Katie Renz, MotherJones.com)
American Idle: It Takes Hard Work To Master (Craig Wilson, USA Today)
Selling The Work Ethic book by Sharon Beder
Protestant Work Ethic defined at Wikipedia
History Of The Work Ethic by Roger B. Hill
The Myth Of Laziness book (about underachieving students) by Mel Levine

CC--Christianese 23a: Blasphemy (part 1 of 2)

--Blasphemy is one of those words that a lot of people use (perhaps most often in jest with a stern tone of voice mocking someone who might use it seriously), but still have trouble defining with any degree of precision.
--In general, blasphemy is dishonoring God with language, thereby denying Him His justly deserved reputation as God the Perfect Being. Blasphemy is anti-God slander when spoken or anti-God libel when printed.
--Since God not only is the giver of language but even the embodiment of language (“The Word was with God and the Word was God,” John 1), such a violation of language is particularly acute. Moreover, since one of the key unique attributes God shares with man is the capacity for language, turning this common glory mechanism into a form of debasement is a true perversion. We should be bringing honor and prestige and weight to God with His gift of language, and not the opposite.
--And that’s the point of the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Precisely because God is the greatest Good in the universe, and our language is a fundamental way in which we express this to Him and about Him to others, misuse of language in this way is contrary to the very purpose of our lives and all of Creation.
--That’s why blasphemy is such a serious crime.
--And understanding the seriousness of blasphemy, we have to be very careful that we don’t trivialize it in the way we define it, for instance by saying that minor inadvertent profanities are full-fledged examples of it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Theological Tuesday: What troubles you the most about Christianity?


People who do not accept Christianity are of course usually quite ready to give you their reasons for rejecting the faith. However, many of the reasons they give for either never becoming Christian or for leaving Christianity are things which we Christians also experience. So, tonight, I though it might be useful simply to talk about the things that bother us or trouble us or even embarrass us about our own faith. I think you’ll find that we all have these thoughts. And I think you’ll also find that we stick around in spite of having them, not because we don’t have them.

CC--Christianese 22d: Sola Scriptura (part 4 of 4)

--The doctrine of Protestantism that the Bible is the only and ultimate source of authority for all Christians is the main thing which divide Catholics and Protestants. Other issues come from this one and are also major, but this is the original or main one.
--We know that Sola Scriptura already does divide Catholics and Protestants, but we still have the question of which things rise to this level? At what point do we divide?
--The Immaculate Conception of Mary is not taught by the Bible. Is that worth dividing over? Mandatory celibacy for priests is not taught in the Bible. What about that? Justification by faith alone is taught by the Bible. Should we disunite over this?
--We obviously can’t divide over everything, but when does something rise to the level of being worth dividing over, and who gets to decide?
--The real question being raised by the objection to Sola Scriptura is whether anybody at all can just pick up the Bible and get things right or whether there should be some caution about this radical individualism of doctrine. And that’s a really good question to consider. But doing so doesn’t lead to the other extreme of believing there must be one and only one official Christian church whose teachings are binding on all followers of Christ without any way to dispute them.
--Since even Catholics are usually willing to admit that the Catholic Church itself has benefitted tremendously from the challenges Protestantism has raised about its practices and dogmas, it would seem that some of these sources of fracture have been useful even to Catholicism.
--Still, it should be observed that one of the admirable qualities of the Catholic Church has been its historic ability to maintain doctrinal unity while still tolerating quite a variety of groups within its walls.
--So, although Protestants embrace the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, we also recognize that whenever fallible humans read the Bible, especially ones who do not have extensive training in how to read such a complex text or much experience in Christian life, they are sometimes going to come to different or even mistaken conclusions. And if this is the danger of Protestantism, it is merely the counterpart to the danger of Catholicism in which there are no robust protections against the adoption of errors or extra-Biblical doctrines. And the reason is simple. Even the Catholic Magisterium is composed of fallible humans as well.
--Just as having a single Bible doesn’t guarantee perfection of unity in the church, neither does having a single Bible and a single interpretative authority. We’re all humans, and that’s going to always be a problem.

Justice Kennedy affirms federalism


Writing for a unanimous Supreme Court in Bond v. United States, June 16, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote:

“Federalism is more than an exercise in setting the boundary between different institutions of government for their own integrity. . . . Federalism also protects the liberty of all persons within a State by ensuring that laws enacted in excess of delegated governmental power cannot direct or control their actions. . . . By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power. When government acts in excess of its lawful powers, that liberty is at stake. . . . The limitations that federalism entails are not therefore a matter of rights belonging only to the States. States are not the sole intended beneficiaries of federalism. . . . An individual has a direct interest in objecting to laws that upset the constitutional balance between the National Government and the States when the enforcement of those laws causes injury that is concrete, particular, and redressable. Fidelity to principles of federalism is not for the States alone to vindicate.”

Great stuff there! And from an unanimous Court, no less!

See, when the designers of the Constitution formed our framework, they didn’t just have in mind the need to protect the States against the Federal Government, but also that the entire relationship of the States to the Federal Government would be crafted in such a way as to ultimately protect the individuals, us. And one of the ways we are protected is by the States each having a high degree of freedom to craft the conditions within their own domain so that there may be variety and competition between them for our presence. That way, if I like what New Mexico is doing and dislike what Arizona is doing, I can move to New Mexico. But the more the Federal Government sets policy for everyone in the U.S., this individual State liberty is reduced and the options available for us citizens are thereby eliminated. That’s just one way in which keeping the Federal Government within its Constitutional bounds protects us as individuals.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ethics: Arizona’s Abortion Consent Act

In 2009, the Arizona Legislature passed the Arizona Abortion Consent Act and Governor Brewer signed it into law. It has four primary effects:

1. Non-physicians may not perform surgical abortions
2. Women seeking abortion must receive information about alternatives and health risks at least 24 hours prior to the procedure.
3. Health care workers who object to abortion on conscience must be protected
4. Minors seeking abortion must provide notarized parental consent to receive one.

Planned Parenthood immediately filed a lawsuit against it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, and an injunction against it was put into place. Since then, the case has been argued, most recently last week in the AZ Court of Appeals. Tonight on the show, I’ll have Cathy Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy on the air to talk about the bill and the legal developments as well as other issues CAP is working with recently. Your questions and comments are, as always, highly encouraged.

Resources:

Planned Parenthood v Horne resource page (ADF)
Arizona Abortion Consent Act resource page
(CAP)
Arizona Abortion Consent Act
(HB 2564)
Executive summary of AACA
(CAP)
Doctors’ letter in support of AACA (ADF)
Planned Parenthood files lawsuit vs AACA (PP AZ)
PP’s response to CAP editorial (PP AZ)
Bills threaten abortion care (PP AZ)
PP playing games again, CAP responds (CAP)

CC--Christianese 22c: Sola Scriptura (part 3 of ?)

--On Friday, I raised the objection against the doctrine of Sola Scriptura that the rampant doctrinal disunity among Protestants seems to argue against our shared belief that the Bible and only the Bible is sufficient to guide us into the kind of harmonious community Christians are supposed to create.
--So, does Protestant disunity discount the doctrine of Sola Scriptura?
--First of all, I think it’s entirely fair to admit that the fractured nature of Protestantism is lamentable and embarrassing for Protestants. The question is whether abandoning Sola Scriptura would solve it, and I don’t think so.
--Second of all, we should be more clear about how “rampant” the disunity really is. Although there is certainly lots of disagreement among Protestants, agreement about the basic tenets of Christianity (justification by faith, the Trinity, e.g.) is actually pretty good, particularly among those who actually profess Sola Scriptura. Liberal Christians may disagree wildly with conservatives, but most liberals do not hold to this doctrine, which conservatives think is precisely their problem.
--Moreover, it’s also fair to notice that although Catholicism as an official entity holds a very clear doctrinal position on almost everything, the constituents of the Catholic Church very often do not share or live these views.
--Thus, Catholic unity and Protestant disunity can both easily be overstated.
--But then, even though disunity is indeed a serious problem, the question is what price unity justifies? If the Bible is the very Word of God, but the Catholic Church (or any other Christian authority) is wrong about it, what should be done? Should unity trump error? It would seem like the answer to that would depend entirely on the significance of the error and not at all on whether the Bible is the final authority on the question itself.

2+3+4PM Keeping kids safe from playground burns


Since the weather is finally starting to catch up to us here in Phoenix, I thought it was particularly useful to remind all you parents about the danger of playground equipment that’s been in the sun. Now, obviously, anything that’s metal (such as railings or slides) is going to be quite dangerous, but even the high-density plastic stuff can reach temperatures as high as 130-150 with continuous sun exposure. Combined with the higher sensitivity of younger children’s skin, this can cause first and even second-degere burns. In fact, I’ve seen some pretty awful pictures of even a third-degree burn to a kids’ feet. So a kid might be crying and you won’t even realize it unless you’ve thought about this ahead of time, and it’s the youngest kids who don’t know enough even to get off the surface and so stay there being burned by it.

The general recommendation whenever you go to a playground (or even your back yard) is to check to see whether you can hold your hand on the surface while counting slowly to 5 without it becoming painful. Although shaded play areas are common in Phoenix, even structures in the shade can sometimes become too hot, so just pay attention. Obviously, the earlier in the day or later in the afternoon when the sun isn’t as direct are a little better. Mostly it’s just a matter of common sense and becoming aware of a possible danger you might not have considered, just like hot sand with bare feet. But one thing to keep in mind is that this story is actually from Virginia, not even written with the Valley’s unique heat issues in mind, and if they’re worried about this stuff….

Friday, June 17, 2011

CC--Christianese 22b: Sola Scriptura (part 2 of ?)

--Sola Scriptura once again is one of the core doctrines of the Reformation which says that the Bible and only the Bible is to be the Christian’s authoritative guide for salvation and life.
--So why doesn’t everyone agree with it?
--Well, there a few main reasons.
--The first reason is somewhat obvious. Although many millions of people endorse the doctrine and take it very seriously, these same sincere Bible devotees nevertheless find themselves not all in agreement with each other about a terribly wide variety of issues.
--The Bible, it seems, is not clear enough (all on its own) to produce the kind of harmonious agreement which looks necessary for a single universal church to have. The multitude of doctrinal statements by Christians who all believe themselves to be taking the Bible as the inerrant Word of God and the even greater multitude of positions on much lesser issues besides the basics of salvation are indeed a problem to be taken seriously.
--Protestants simply don’t all agree with each other, even though they all claim to be taking the Bible as their only source of authority.
--The Catholic Church, by contrast, says that its own doctrinal unity comes from the fact that the Bible needs to be interpreted properly and that this is to be done by the leadership of the one true church.
--Quite contrary to what one would expect from a clear and authoritative single source of doctrinal guidance, devotion to the Bible and only the Bible seems to have produced exactly the kind of splintered disunity that the doctrine was meant to avoid. When there is no central authority protecting or guarding the doctrine against heresy and incompetence, with the power to excommunicate heretics and schismatics, well you get heresy and schism aplenty.
--So, how should Protestants respond to this objection? I’ll explain that on Monday.

2+3+4PM NC becomes third state to defund Planned Parenthood

In what can only be described as a great victory for the pro-life movement, North Carolina has now become the third state (after Indiana and Kansas) to vote to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood. In this case, the legislature actually overrode a veto by the Governor to pass a budget which did not include the $434,000 which would otherwise have flowed to them through state family planning programs.

Even though by law the federal funds are not allowed to be used to perform abortions, the obvious effect of subsidizing one part of the organization with government money is that donations and other revenues can then be diverted to the abortion portion of the facility. Also, just as obviously, it’s a relatively difficult thing to say that money can even be so cleanly distinguished as that. Is a staff physician’s salary paid out of one set of funds when he merely counsels women on ordinary health issues and then paid by a separate check from a different set of funds when he is counseling on abortion or performing one? Is the heating bill distinct? But I digress. The part of this that people don’t ordinarily think about is that abortion isn’t the only controversial aspect of what Planned Parenthood does. Many Americans (more Catholic than not, but at least some Evangelicals, myself included) think that contraception itself is a morally noxious practice that should not be funded with taxpayer money.

But the infuriated reaction to these moves is what I have found so fascinating. See, the argument goes like th is: “Planned Parenthood provides many forms of health services to women, especially poor women. And if you cut off their funding because of just one of their activities, you are harming the women who come to them for other reasons.” This seems like a lucid argument until you simply invert the principle. “If you care so deeply about providing all these other services, then why not simply stop providing abortions so that you can retain the government support? It’s your own irrational commitment to performing these horrible operations that is really keeping you from the funding. So, instead of griping that the taxpayers are no longer being forced to subsidize the most notorious purveyor of a product they despise, perhaps you could simply stop purveying it and show your own commitment to women’s health issues.”

Imagine, for instance, that the local library started stocking X-rated DVDs and truly pornographic magazines and, in response, the relevant overseeing government entity decided to cut off their funding. Who would be the radicals in such a case: the elected officials who didn’t think that pornography (a legal product) should be subsidized by taxpayers or the librarians who seemed outraged at the end result of having their libraries defunded?