Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reading Renewal-Augustine

Reading Renewal
The Swan Is Not Silent

“And we need to rediscover Augustine's peculiar slant - a very Biblical slant - on grace as the free gift of sovereign joy in God that frees us from the bondage of sin. We need to rethink our Reformed soteriology so that every limb and every branch in the tree is coursing with the sap of Augustinian delight. We need to make plain that total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to beauty and deadness to joy; and unconditional election means that the completeness of our joy in Jesus was planned for us before we ever existed; and that limited atonement is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of the covenant; and irresistible grace is the commitment and power of God's love to make sure we don't hold on to suicidal pleasures, but will set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights; and that the perseverance of the saints is the almighty work of God to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of pleasures at God's right hand forever.”


Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Day of Mourning for America

Today, June 25, should be a day of mourning for America.

Today is the 47th anniversary of the US Supreme Court case of Engel vs. Vitale.

Many people do not know what that means, and still more do not understand the significance of it. I have come to believe that this case, and thus this day, marks the beginning of the end of America as a dominant force for good, and, even as a nation. This court case was one of two that basically expelled Christ from our schools and effectively forbade the current and following generations from acknowledging Him for who He really is. In this decision, the highest court in the land, those who would set what is allowable and what is not allowable in our society, effectively ruled that Christ had no place in what we teach our young. We, as a people, as Christians, as Americans, did not stand up to be counted when it counted. We, effectively, did nothing. Good men doing nothing is all it takes for evil to triumph; and so it has.

Today, our schools are in ruins, our children believing that God is not only irrelevant, but hateful. What once was considered sinful is now accepted and what once was Biblical is now hate speech. We teach comprehensive sexuality to children barely able to read and not yet old enough to keep track of their lunch money. We have actually banned the Pledge of Allegiance in some places because it dares to recognize God. We have Winterfest and Spring Break because Christmas and Easter offend people. . .

Today marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Post-Christian Era in America. Our President has declared that we are no longer a Christian nation. Sadly, it is one of the few things he has said that I believe.

[Thanks to our friend, Dr. Scott W. Norman, for these insights. You can hear more from Dr. Norman at ACWI's education conference on Nov. 21, The Role of Christian Educators in an Emerging Post-Christian America.]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A few random notes on art & aesthetics

Random note # 1 comes from our friend, Darrow Miller, of Disciple Nations Alliance:

That God is the first and perfect artist is attested by the beauty of creation.
The fact that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”
establishes the metaphysical foundation for all of the arts (painting, writing,
composition, sculpting, dance, etc.) and for human creativity. Beauty
enriches our lives and brings a sense of wonder to the human soul.

. . . the biblical worldview sees the universe as ultimately beautiful and
elevates the heart, the mind, and the human spirit. When people recognize
beauty, they experience joy, pleasure, and perfect delight pleasure; they exalt
the creator of the beauty. They are encouraged to mimic the First Artist by
creating beautiful music, poetry, dance and rhythm, cloth, paintings and

Random note # 2:
I spoke today with the leadership of the Phoenix chapter of the International Arts Movement (IAM), Chad and Nate.

Although IAM is not explicitly a Christian organization, all the leadership (both locally and at headquarters in NYC) profess a clear faith in Jesus Christ. [For any who have been a part of The Truth Project, you might recall the Japanese artist in Tour #11, Makoto Fujimura. . He's the founder of IAM.]

IAM's mission: "IAM gathers artists and creative catalysts to wrestle with the deep questions of art, faith and humanity in order to inspire the creative community to engage the culture that is and create the world that ought to be."

Art, Faith, and Humanity. . .to engage the culture. . . sounds like something we in the church should be doing, eh?

I look forward to seeing how ACWI and IAM might partner in the future.

Random note # 3
Just discovered this organization; looks intriguing: - By/For encourages artists to create sacred worship art by the church, for the church. As they say, "Patronage of the arts is an ancient idea, and By/For thinks it can be a modern one too. Churches can support artists in their communities and reclaim their historic role as patrons of the arts."

There's definitely a place for Christian artists to interact beyond the Christian subculture, but at the same time, the church needs better art, too (don't get me started on my rant!)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Myth of Innocence

I was really tempted to write about how Karma has no place in the Christian's worldview. You read correctly, I am saying that appealing to Karma in any serious sense is inconsistent with the Christian worldview. Instead I decided to continue with the "Ten Questions All Theist Should Answer." We are now on question three. I once again ask that those still under their parents get permission before watching the video due to the negative stance the video has toward the faith. Here is the link

Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people in the Bible?

He doesn't. If you have not heard the debate between Paul Manata and Dan Barker I highly recommend you listen to it (Google it and you can find it for free on mp3). During the cross examination portion of the debate Paul asks Dan (I am paraphrasing from memory) "Dan, according to the Christian worldview are people innocent or are they sinners?" to which Mr. Barker responded (still paraphrasing from memory) "according to the Christian view, they are sinners." The Christian worldview is well equipped for this question because Christians understand that the Bible teaches that all people are breakers of God's law. Therefore, God does not command the death of innocent people, God commands the death of rebels in his kingdom. Once again, it is the atheistic worldview that is inconsistent because it cannot give an account for why the deaths of these people (under any circumstance) should be offensive. If I find out that the woman I am going to marry has slept with another man, why should I not kill her to make absolutely sure that his gene pool does not spread more than mine? If Dan Barker can arbitrarily assert that not doing harm (as stated in his debates with Manata, Wilson, and White) is what constitutes morality, then why cannot I arbitrarily choose killing women who sleep with someone before they get married as being the basis for morality? Who is to be the judge between us, and on what grounds? Any grounds the atheist gives outside of a creator is by nature subjective. As creator, God has the right to command obedience from all of his creatures. The reason this is a reoccurring theme in my answer to this you tube video is that it is a reoccurring weakness in each of the video's questions. The atheist cannot consistently use morality as an argument because he has no objective basis for morality. The atheist cannot use logic consistently because he maintains that man's thinking is the result of physical electrical reactions. Why should the Christian's physical electrical reactions be inferior to the atheist's physical electrical reactions? How does pure physical electrical reaction give us truth in the first place? The atheist's worldview is doomed to futility because without the existence of God there is no morality and there is no reason to believe that our minds operate logically.
The atheist has no grounds for calling what God commands evil, still lets think about these Bible passages. The atheist cannot say that God is commanding the death of innocent people because everyone who would have been put to death in these categories i.e. disobedient teens, people who work on Saturday (Sabbath), homosexuals, and sexually promiscuous women, are all law breakers. Therefore, the atheist can only say that he disagrees with the laws, and I think that the creator has a little more credibility in law making than the creature. However, I digress. It might be helpful to consider that these laws were given under a theocracy (a government directly ruled by God), and this theocracy was established among God's chosen people who were to in part be a shadow of the perfection that would come in Christ and his kingdom (the final establishment of the kingdom still to come). Today, Christians do not (or at least should not) expect to live in a theocracy until Christ returns. So no Biblicaly oriented Christian should argue that these Old Testament theocratic laws should be the law of the land today (although it is still a moral wrong for children to disobey, women to be sexually promiscuous, or to actively live a homosexual lifestyle). However, all of those things were violations against God's law for His people at that time. Why should the creator not command death where he sees fit for violation of His laws? There are some other things that I would like to mention about these passages. First of all, if one reads the Deut 21:18-21 passage carefully he will see that the parents could not just decide willy nilly that their child needed to die. The case needed to be presented before the elders of the city. Furthermore, all the men of the city were to participate. Deuteronomy is not talking about the little kid who mouthed off to his parents or did not help the father in the field and needed to be corrected by his parents. Deuteronomy is talking about youth who regularly participated in grievous sins against the parents and the community. As far as killing homosexuals and women who have sex before marriage, imagine all of the STDs that have come as a result of sexual immorality. Can anyone reading this imagine a world without AIDS? yet could AIDS have arisen if there was never a violation of God's sexual laws? Sexual impurity is a serious crime against God and against mankind. I think one of the reasons this kind of attack against Christianity is becoming more popular is that to many Christians do not seriously contemplate God's law and His Holiness. I think that in large part that it is Christians who have been content with surface level understandings of the Bible that would not challenge the mind of a knat who have opened the door for these kinds of attacks. Come men and women of Christ, let us not neglect a robust Biblical worldview.
This is a Great Hymn

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!What more can He say than to you He hath said—To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go, The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;The flame shall not harm thee; I only design Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose, I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Eye of the Beholder? Not Really.

One of the greatest things I have come to embrace and appreciate about my upbringing was the emphasis on the world of the arts. My mother would arrange field trips to the symphony, ballet, theater, and art gallery openings. I remember walking through these great places with my little jaw on the ground as I would be in awe of the creativity and beauty that was around me. However, when it came to seeing what was considered modern art, my jaw would continue to be on the ground but it would be out of frustration and not awe. It seems like these two different jaw dropping experiences seem to be people's reaction to art created these days, either people love the skill and out of the box approach the artist took, or indignation is present because of their prejudices of what art is to look like.

Yes - love or hate. . . perhaps indicative of the ever-present question: "Is beauty REALLY in the eye of the beholder?" After all, Paul tells us in Philippians to think on things that are "honest, pure, LOVELY" etc. So what are we supposed to think about?

God Himself recognizes beauty; at the creation, He identified His handiwork as "good." Most people claim that they see something in nature as beautiful, whether a sunset, or the Grand Canyon, or the surf crashing against the rocks. They are expressing some of what God also expressed.

If beauty is a Biblical concept, then how do we recognize it? What does its opposite look like? And since beauty is Biblical, isn't it reasonable to say that non-beauty (ugliness) is unbiblical - or perhaps even anti-biblical?

And so, all that to say that there ARE standards of beauty; some modern art is beautiful and some - well, some is just plain ugly. . . (and some probably doesn't even qualify as art). Some art is Biblical (even if it doesn't portray a Bible scene); some is thoroughly anti-Biblical in the ideas, messages, and thoughts it presents.

The trick is digging deeper to find out just WHAT those standards are. And then think on those things. One clue that helps me: does a specific piece of art draw me to the Great Creator/Artist? Does it encourage me to think on Him in some way - even if it's just to say "That's a beautiful painting; thank you, Lord."

Back to either loving or hating modern art. . . Many issues are involved, including education in the arts. Too many of us never have really been properly educated about art (modern or otherwise), with all its subtleties. And with continuing budget cuts to the arts programs in the schools, I don't expect the situation to get much better anytime soon. (I'll list some recommended resources in a separate blog.)

Many who hate it probably do so from the viewpoint of "I know what I like." We should all have opinions and preferences. But just because you don't like a certain artist, or style, or era doesn't mean that it's bad art or "just not art at all." You're entitled to your opinion - but try to keep an open mind about artistic ability - even if a certain piece isn't your personal preference.

Many who love it probably do so without discernment, without believing that there ARE objective standards of good & bad, beauty & ugliness, just like there are objective standards of right & wrong. Too many believe the lie that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We live in a subjective world, where everyone's opinion is equally right - even if its wrong.

More on art, beauty, and aesthetics in a later post.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

We Live By Prayer

Dave and Karen Eubanks (Free Burma Rangers) serve the Lord with a ministry to the multi-ethnic minorities in the mountains of Burma (The country of Myanmar). The peoples that receive their ministry are of the most persecuted in the world, have under gone civil war since 1949 and contain many Christians. The tyrannical government regime burns out the villages and murders these ethnic Burmese. Dave and Karen provide help by entering the areas under attack giving emergency medical care, shelter, food, clothing and love.

This morning as I listened to Dave and Karen and their girls, I was impressed by two statement concerning prayer.

1. “We live by prayer.”

2. (Paraphrased) the people to whom we give ministry, when they pray, do not pray to live. When they pray their prayer is, “Jesus, what do you want me to do today?” Dave remarked that his prayer direction is the same.

I find these two views of prayer awesome. They are profound and I will give them a great deal of thought.

(Matthew 6:9-13 WNT) "In this manner therefore pray: 'Our Father who art in Heaven, may Thy name be kept holy; let Thy kingdom come; let Thy will be done, as in Heaven so on earth; give us to-day our bread for the day; and forgive us our shortcomings, as we also have forgiven those who have failed in their duty towards us; and bring us not into temptation, but rescue us from the Evil one.'


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Who do we mourn?

By Dinah Monahan

George Tiller is dead. Who do we mourn? How do we mourn? For those who are Pro-Life, how can we mourn the life of a man who made his livelihood from killing third trimester babies – over 60,000 of them in his career? Who mourns the babies he killed? He specialized in the most gruesome form of abortion where the baby is partially born, flailing and kicking, and then killed. No anesthesia…no mercy. These are the facts. The tragic circumstances of his death do not change the horrific circumstances of his life.

But, does this mean Pro-Lifers see his murder as justifiable? Soon after it happened we were being vilified; painted with a broad brush coloring all of us guilty! The truth is, to say his murder is justifiable is to deny everything Pro-Life stands for. As Christians (and most Pro-Lifers are Christians which is WHY we are Pro-Life) we believe that anyone can be forgiven and restored to God. To take justice in our own hands and execute another human being is not our right. In the Bible, that right is only given to the state. In fact, scripturally, our command is to “love our enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you.”

A few years ago I heard Dr. Tony Levatino speak about how he performed abortions in his practice. He told of one woman who consistently prayed for him and reached out to him, not justifying his actions or denying his sin, but with an overarching concern for his soul. Years later, after the tragic death of his precious daughter, Dr. Levatino’s heart thawed. He “saw” for the first time that his grief over his own child’s death was a mockery of the children he had aborted for whom no one grieved. He now speaks all over the country on behalf of the unborn. He is forgiven and restored to his Creator. Many of you know the story of John Newton, the author of the beloved song, Amazing Grace. He was the captain of a slave ship, where thousands perished and those who survived wished they had not. He too, like Dr. Levatino, was once blind but then he came to see. What if someone had killed Dr. Levatino or John Newton before they came to know Christ’s forgiveness? It simply is not our right. If we really believe that ALL life is sacred…that includes abortionists and slave ship owners.

These aren’t just words for me. Years ago, my actions probably saved more than one abortionist’s life. I had received a call and then letters from a man who was talking about bombing abortion clinics. I decided I could not risk ignoring his threats assuming he was just a “nut”. I called the FBI and they came for the letters. The next week, they arrested the man, who had a garage full of explosives and written plans to carry out his threats the next day. He is still in jail. Ironically, the abortionists he targeted for death have no idea that they are alive today because a Pro-Lifer believed that ALL life is sacred – even theirs!

The blaming will go on and the damage to the Pro-Life cause because of this murder remains to be seen. But, when the rhetoric settles down, it doesn’t change truth…abortion kills innocent, unborn babies. And Pro-Lifers are the only voice those babies will ever have! We won’t be silenced.

ACWI thanks Dinah Monahan for the use of her article.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dinah Monahan is founder and Executive Director of Women's Choice Pregnancy Clinic and Hope House Maternity Home in Show Low, Arizona. For an informational packet on "Earn While You Learn," call Heritage House '76 at 1-800-858-3040 or e-mail your request to Dinah can be contacted at