Saturday, January 31, 2015

A little ditty

...Probably sorta silly, but maybe not really

December 5, 2014

For what I've done as Momma's son,
Some think I'll have a crown shined bright,
With polished gems and brilliant stars
Designed to fit my head just right.
But what I've done as Adam's son,
Will tarnish well the best-made crown;
And this I'll face, but for God's grace
I'd take the elevator "Down".

Preacher's reputation and other quotes

The posting of quotes does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources.

"The preacher who is concerned with gaining a reputation, rising in his profession, is always in bondage." -- Vance Havner

"When potty-mouth preachers, hoochie-coochie 'worship' teams, and coffee lounges are what it takes, churches have a problem." -- Max (last name unknown)

"The command to hold is the command to hold, even if everyone else lets go." -- Allen Michael Rea

"A horrible pastor loves the imaginary people who don’t go to his church more than the real people who are already there." -- Andy Flowers

"Expect lost people to act like lost people; however, churches and Christians should not follow along with them." -- Allen Michael Rea

"If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me." -- W. H. Auden

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." -- Charles Dickens

"They're sharing a drink they call loneliness, But it's better than drinking alone." -- Billy Joel

"Jesus extended kindness without exclusions, conditions, or asterisks." -- Jonathan Merritt

"The point is not to speak to the culture. The point is to change it." -- William Willimon

Man is "a poor, sinful, crawling reptile, a wretch defiled, morning, noon, and night, with everything foul and filthy, who has broken the law of God a million times, and cannot keep it a single moment!" -- J. C. Philpot

Friday, January 30, 2015

Baptism is commanded, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* 7 Reasons to Teach Our Children Church History -- "...the benefits of teaching them something about the key figures and movements from the rich heritage of the church are myriad."
* Baptism Is Commanded -- "Baptism is not merely a doctrine; it is a command."
* Baptizing the Dora Generation: Why Preschooler Faith Is So Controversial -- "For the...Southern Baptist Convention...the only consistently growing group in baptisms is age five and under."
* Can you discriminate without meaning to? The US Supreme Court will decide -- "At issue: A prominent legal strategy called “disparate impact” that’s used to prove discrimination even in the absence of intent."
* Gender divide in religious belief, survey suggests -- "Of the British men surveyed, 54% said they were atheists or agnostics compared with only 34% of women."
* Making Christianity Weird Again -- "...even in Christian colleges, undergraduates come almost entirely ignorant of the Christian faith."
* Setting the Record Straight -- "Christian publishing is long overdue for reformation."
* Shun the Atheist Boyfriend -- "In a new Pew survey, nearly half of respondents said they would be unhappy if a member of their immediate family married an atheist..."
* Southern Baptist leaders call for integrated churches -- "But some would also like to see concrete efforts to integrate the Southern Baptist Convention, especially at the level of leadership."
* Why I am a baptist (with a small 'b') -- "The local church in which I serve as pastor practices the baptism of believers, so we might be considered 'Baptists'. But we also receive as members believers who have been baptized as infants."

Religious liberty and the redefinition of marriage

If civil marriage is redefined, believing what virtually every human society once believed about marriage -- that it is a male-female union -- will be seen increasingly as a malicious prejudice, to be driven to the margins of culture."
From What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, p. 9

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cake Wars, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* 'Abercrombie' and Title VII's Broad Definition of Religion -- "...Samantha Elauf...was denied a job at an Abercrombie and Fitch store because she wore a black headscarf, or hijab, to her job interview. Abercrombie argued...that they were never given actual notice that she was wearing the hijab for religious reasons."
* Cake Wars: Bakery Under Investigation After Refusing To Make An Anti-Gay Cake -- "The question raised by these cases is whether anti-discrimination laws are driving too deeply into free speech rights."
* Former fire chief files EEOC complaint against city (of Atlanta) -- "Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney Jonathan Crumly filed an EEOC complaint on behalf of Chief Cochran yesterday based on the City's clear religious discrimination against the Chief."
* Mims Distributing Company to Pay $50,000 to Settle EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuit -- "...Christopher Alston is a practicing Rastafarian...he cannot cut his hair...Alston applied for a job as a delivery driver with Mims...the company informed Alston that he would have to cut his hair if he wanted the position."
* Muslim woman suing Dearborn Heights Police Department for religious discrimination -- "According to the report, Malak Kazan had to remove her hijab after she was arrested for a warrant following a traffic stop in November 2014."
* N.C. Dunkin' Donuts bakery sued for religious discrimination -- "A Dunkin' Donuts franchise here will go to federal court to answer charges that it refused to hire an Asheville man who could not work on Saturday because of his religious beliefs."
* Salvation Army Settles Lawsuit on Religious Discrimination -- "The Salvation Army on Tuesday settled a decade-old lawsuit that charged it with engaging in religious discrimination by requiring its government-funded social service employees to reveal their beliefs and to agree to act in accordance with the Christian gospel."
* 7 Examples of Discrimination Against Christians in America -- "The majority of Americans are Christians, but we're not treated with respect by the culture, the schools, or by our politicians."

Denying a funeral site; denying dignity?

Tuesday on The Week, Jonathan Merritt goes on the offensive against churches that will not open their facilities to homosexual funerals, telling us Why some Christians deny gay people funerals — and why they must stop. This comes on the heels of the abrupt cancellation of a "gay funeral" in Lakewood, Colorado. Apparently this is a huge problem. Merritt knows of at least two cases!

In his opinion piece about extending services to those who have lived a homosexual lifestyle, to strenthen his case Merritt frames this within the broader question of "Should Christian churches extend not only dignity and compassion to deceased people who didn't believe or live according to devout Christians' standards?"

Merritt's answer is "Yes" for the following reasons:

  • in the Bible there are "no standards for who can participate in such rites. The scriptures contain no prohibition against hosting funerals for those who did not live according to certain standards." 
  • "if churches refuse to host funerals for those they believe were 'sinful', then churches will not be hosting any funerals at all."
  • "the centrality of compassion to the Christian faith." "Jesus extended kindness without exclusions, conditions, or asterisks."
  • And, the "What would Jesus do?" Merritt asks us, "Really, think about it. Can you honestly imagine the indiscriminately merciful Jesus telling a weeping family of a deceased LGBT person to scram? Of course you can't." 

To which I reply a "Yes" with clarifications:
  • First, since there are, according to the Bible, no standards for who can participate in funeral rites, who will set the standard? Will it be Merritt? Whoever wants to have a funeral in any church house? The church who owns the house? Though it may be that the "scriptures contain no prohibition against hosting funerals for those who did not live according to certain standards," our church and many others do not operate on an "it's not prohibited" basis. We are not prohibited from baptizing converts in chocolate milk, but we're not about to do so.
  • Second, since there are "no standards," perhaps we should not just ask whether to host funerals for those who were 'sinful', but ask whether we should be hosting any funerals at all?? In our community it is a relatively modern thing to host a funeral at the church house. They used to have services at the grave side (for the "churched" and "non-churched" alike).
  • Third, does "the centrality of compassion to the Christian faith" mean we must host funerals at the church house in order to be compassionate? We should "Mourn with those who mourn," but does that command consist of hosting a funeral at a church house? If so, I dare say there is no New Testament example of mourning with those who mourn. And if a church or pastor has shown no "compassion" before death, a trumped up case of it at death is just a different version of hypocrisy, is it not?
  • Finally the ambiguous "What would Jesus do?" is trotted out when one hopes to bend what Jesus would do to fit his or her own opinions. Would the "indiscriminately merciful Jesus" drive money changers out of the temple with a whip? Surely not, in Merritt's mind (But surely, according to the Bible; cf. John 2:15). And though Merritt tells us that we can't imagine Jesus telling a weeping family of a deceased LGBT person to scram, we don't have to imagine that something similar happened. Cf. Mark 5:35-43. When Jesus went to the ruler of the synagogue's house after his daughter died, He actually DID tell a bunch of the mourners "to scram".  

In the end, Jonathan Merritt concludes correctly that "pastors [and I'd say churches, too] have the right to refuse services to whomever they wish." He further correctly concludes that "constitutional protections do not exempt churches from public criticism." Though he thinks "the criticism of hypocrisy is well deserved" I am not swift to jump on his bandwagon. In fact I believe that those who flaunt a particular church's ethics and morality with their lives are hypocritical to want that church to sanction their lives in death. If they did not want to be associated with it in life, why do they want to be associated with it in death? Regardless, a church must operate on its own beliefs regarding what it thinks is hypocrisy or not. Jonathan Merritt doesn't get to decide. He only gets to complain.

I do not say that a church cannot or should not allow in their facilities the funeral of a person who has lived as a homosexual. I only say that it is up to the church and pastor to decide what they believe is appropriate -- and be left to stand before God who can see in their hearts. If you're not a member of that church, go mind your business elsewhere. Those who rush out the "judge not that ye be not judged" text are quite swift to judge the hearts of those they want to see as hypocrites!

To digress just a little, think on the New Life Ministries case of excluding the funeral of Vanessa Collier because of the pictures in her life story. Now those who approve of same sex marriage certainly wouldn't see anything wrong with the two partners kissing, but you can correctly figure that a conservative Christian church is likely to do so. To change it a bit, what if the pictures were telling the life story of a deceased who was an "exotic dancer"? Would you expect a church to allow pictures of a nude or semi-nude dance around a pole? It was intimately part of his or her life, so why not? Most of us can understand that objection, but this isn't the same thing, you say. No, it is not. But it can accurately reflect how a church and/or pastor might feel as strongly about one as the other.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

10 Lies and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* 4 Ways to Become a Horrible Pastor -- "My guess is you aren’t reading this article to learn how to be more horrible as a pastor, but to make sure that you aren’t on the list."
* 10 Lies You Must Affirm In Order to Look at Porn -- " Christians consistently believe that all mankind was made in God’s image to reflect His own glory back to Him?"
* Baptists’ message to NewSpring: You’re not one of us -- "The South Carolina Baptist Convention has told Perry Noble and NewSpring that they must correct serious errors in their church before they can once again associate with the Convention."
* Dave Miller Calls Critics of SBC Leaders “Social Media Terrorists” -- "...Miller at SBC Voices has decided to go all-in in yet another lecture regarding criticism of SBC leaders."
* Detained Marine veteran now released, per judge’s order -- "A Hopewell circuit court judge has ordered that a Marine veteran detained over anti-government Facebook posts be released from a psychiatric hospital." The Rutherford Institute is now suing the government over his arrest.
* Family mourns loss of Coppingers killed in Houston County wreck -- "Jonathan and Jessica Coppinger met in college at Stephen F. Austin."
* Farshid Honored -- "Soccer coach for 32 years"
* French arrests raise question: Is free speech for all? -- "French law bans promoting racial or religious hatred, as well as inciting or defending terrorism or crimes against humanity...Blasphemy, in contrast, is not illegal in France, so Charlie Hebdo's mockery of religion is regarded differently."
* Louisiana pastors form new Baptist association -- "A former leader at Louisiana College and a group of pastors are organizing a new Baptist association...Tim Johnson founded the nonprofit Southern Baptist Association of Louisiana."
* Meet the Reeds - the 80 Year-Old Couple You'd Never Imagine Would Be at the Supreme Court -- "couple...has to drive out each Saturday night at 9pm to put up their small signs, then rush out after their church service on Sunday to take them back down – or face criminal fines, and possibly even jail time for violating the strict sign code."
* The Days of Amos -- "Amaziah is still with us in the pulpit, Pollyannas who wear rose-colored glasses, paint the clouds with sunshine, and preach peace when there is no peace."
* Trial over Houston's equal rights ordinance could be lengthy -- "...a jury will be tasked with parsing thousands of pages of signatures during a trial that ay last as long as two months."

Not your father’s church, by Tozer

I saw one church advertise that they were “Not your father’s church.” They promoted it as though they were proud of that expression. What I want to know is, if they are “Not your father’s church,” whose church are they?

It is my humble opinion that when a person loses sight of the origins of the Church, it no longer is the Church. Therefore, the question is, what is it?

Have we come to a stage in this generation that the so-called church is promoting everything and anything that will add to its numbers? The bottom line, as they say, is success; and success has everything to do with numbers. Whatever brings the numbers in must be all right.

This is far from the church fathers who gave their lives to establish the church of Jesus Christ.

The problem, as I see it, is that we have lost the vision the fathers had of what we refer to as the New Testament church.

By A. W. Tozer, in Voice of a Prophet: Who Speaks for God?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Worrying, and other quotes

"Be careful for nothing." -- God through Paul, an apostle (Phil. 4:6).

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources.

"Worrying is as definitely forbidden as theft. This needs to be carefully pondered and definitely realized by us, so that we do not excuse it as an innocent 'infirmity'." -- Arthur W. Pink

"Pastors, God didn't move you to the front of the class because you are the brightest and best. He has so positioned you so He and the church can keep a closer eye on you." -- Unknown

"The best author will be the one who is ashamed to become a writer." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

"What is trendy and popular today is often tomorrow's junk." -- Kirby Hill

"If we are properly engaged about the plain duties of the Gospel, we will not be tempted to perplex ourselves with the subtleties of controversial divinity." -- Richard Fuller

"Reason, refine, cavil as we may, one thing is certain, we feel that we are free agents." -- Richard Fuller

"To love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed toward a love to our country and to mankind." -- Edmund Burke

"Limiting religious beliefs to the confinements of heart, home and house of worship is tyranny masquerading as tolerance." -- R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Kelly Shackelford

"If people really want to keep this country free, they’re going to have to support everybody’s speech, not just those they agree with." -- John Whitehead

"We must be careful today not to equate religious activity with genuine revival." -- W. Wayne VanHorn

"Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us." -- A. W. Tozer

Should a baker have to put "anti-gay" slogans on a cake?

* Denver baker sued for refusing to write anti-gay slogans on cake -- "When Bill Jack arrived at the Azucar bakery in Denver in March 2014 and ordered two Bible-shaped cakes, Marjorie Silva said she was happy to oblige. But when she saw the messages that Mr. Jack wanted written on the cake, she quickly decided not to go through with it."

Bill Jack, one of the founders of Worldview Academy,1 has set out to prove a point. There is a degree to which I agree with his point. He has, nevertheless, taken the wrong route to prove it.

According to the linked article, the actions of Bill Jack are basically these:
  • He ordered two Bible-shaped cakes from the Azucar bakery in Denver, Colorado
  • He wanted the following on the cakes
    • the phrase “God hates gays”
    • “anti-gay” passages from the Bible.
    • two men holding hands with an “X” crossing them out.
According to Marjorie Silva, she offered to make blank Bible-shaped cakes, and let Jack draw the messages himself.2

Jack is citing the bakery for religious discrimination, and has "filed a complaint with the Civil Rights division of the Department of Regulatory Agencies." The agency is investigating Azucar bakery for religious discrimination. According to the Yahoo News article, "A decision on the case will not be made for several months."

Worldwide Academy stated on their website on January 22 that they support the right of bakers "to not undertake work which would violate their core beliefs." They also distance themselves from Jack, noting these were "actions taken by Bill Jack as a private citizen." I agree. A bakery, whether Azucar Bakery or Masterpiece Cakeshop, should not be forced to decorate a cake in a way that violates their conscience.

Bill Jack's point is evidently to create another wrong that highlights that the Civil Rights Commission decision re Masterpiece Cakeshop was not right.

Anyway you ice it, two wrongs don't make a right!!

1. According to their website, Worldview Academy is a "non-denominational organization dedicated to helping Christians think and live in accord with a Biblical worldview."
2. Reports of the details of how the incident occurred come from the baker's point of view. The complainant has acknowledge that he filed a complaint, and only further states "I will wait for the director to release his findings before making further comments."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Uneasy Bedfellows and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* 5 Simple Ways to Teach Your Children Theology -- "You don’t need to feel like you’re trying out the latest parenting fad or complicated system."
* 10 Lessons from the Early Church Fathers for Today -- "They were ordinary people who were faithful to God’s call."
* Are You Aware of the Avalanche of Gay Programming Assaulting Your Home? -- "The indoctrination and propaganda coming from those advocating a gay lifestyle in our country, classrooms and culture are increasing."
* Atlanta is burning: A new and ominous threat to religious liberty -- "The facts in the case are now clear: Reed fired Cochran for what the mayor called “bad judgment” in writing a book in which Cochran asserted the sinfulness of homosexuality, and then sharing a copy of the book with three city employees."
* Franklin Graham, Muslims, “Secret Church”, Easy-Believeism -- "When asked about his vociferous and public opposition to Islam, Graham responded with a short, token condemnation of Islam.  He spent the majority of his face-time making the following gospel presentation..."
* Huge cache of confederate weapons seized by Gen. Sherman may have been found in S.C. river -- "They confiscated cannonballs, rammers, sabers and bayonet scabbards. And, on their way out of town, they dumped whatever they couldn’t carry into the Congaree River."
* If you support Charlie Hebdo, you should support rights of gay-conversion therapists -- "The way to win a fight -- a cause -- is to argue your points persuasively so as to prove your opposition wrong."
* ISIS execute 13 football fans by firing squad for watching Iraq play Jordan on TV in Islamist-controlled Mosul -- "The teenagers were rounded up and publicly executed by a firing squad using machine guns..."
* 'Moral cowardice,' Moore says of GOP dropping abortion vote -- "On the eve of the annual March for Life, House GOP leaders abandoned their plan to vote Thursday (Jan. 22) on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36."
* Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel -- "This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy."
* Uneasy Bedfellows?: Natural Law and Protestant Theology -- "For many Protestants today, and more especially those in the Reformed tradition, natural law poses two problems, both of which have anthropological roots."
* U.S. top court rules for Muslim inmate over prison beard ban -- "The justices, on a 9-0 vote...rejected the state's reasoning that the policy was needed for security reasons to prevent inmates from concealing contraband."

Open Letter, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven

Posted with permission from J. D. Hall at PulpitAndPen.Org.

“An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”
Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.
I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.
In Christ,Alex Malarkey.

* Is peddling malarkey and making money more important than the truth?
* Heaven Tourism

Heaven Tourism

What is "heaven tourism"? The term was coined by blogger Tim Challies to stand for a genre of books "that claim the author has journeyed to heaven" (or, as he says in one place, "I died and went to heaven books"). Another blogger, Phil Johnson, dubbed it the “Burpo-Malarkey doctrine”.

A quick search at Amazon yields a bevy of these "heaven tourism" books. The oldest I noticed was the Bantam paperback Embraced by the Light by Betty J. Eadie and Curtis Taylor (1994). The "modern" evangelical trend may have been jumpstarted by Southern Baptist minister Don Piper with his 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life in 2004. There is even at least one "hell tourism" book -- 23 Minutes In Hell: One Man's Story About What He Saw, Heard, and Felt in that Place of Torment by Bill Wiese in 2006. The "quick search list" of other "heaven tourism" books available from Amazon include:

  • My Descent Into Death: A Second Chance at Life by Howard Storm (2005)
  • My Time In Heaven by Richard Sigmund (2009)
  • Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo (2010)
  • Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash...A Lone Survivor...A Journey to Heaven--and Back by Dale Black (2010)
  • Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander (2012)
  • To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story by Mary C. Neal (2012)
  • My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life by Marvin J. Besteman and Lorilee Craker (2012)
  • Waking Up in Heaven: A True Story of Brokenness, Heaven, and Life Again by Crystal McVea and Alex Tresniowski (2013)

Several of these books are self-published, but others are from notable Christian publishers such as Bethany House, Revell, Thomas Nelson and Tyndale House (as well as one from Simon & Schuster). “Heaven tourism” is lucrative business. Now the most notable of these books is The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond This World by Kevin Malarkey in July 2010 (supposedly telling the story of his son, Alex). Its notability turns on the repudiation of the heaven tourism and subsequent book – the story retracted by the very boy who supposedly went to and came back from heaven, Alex Malarkey. There is currently no evidence that the father, sole copyright owner, and the party contracted with Tyndale -- Kevin Malarkey -- has "repudiated" the book; but the publisher has withdrawn it from publication. The book copyrighted by Kevin is supposedly Alex's experience, and clearly Alex's to repudiate.

Alex's repudiation of the book goes back to at least August 2011, barely over a year after the book was published. On a Facebook fan page for the book Alex commented, “1 of the most deceptive books ever.” (The comment was subsequently removed by the owner of the fan page.) Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times writes, "Alex Malarkey and his mother, Beth, have been trying to get his book withdrawn for two years, despite his father's resistance." There is credible and visible online evidence that the concerns about this book have been actively made for about three years. Yet the publisher and some Christian booksellers (such as Southern Baptist's LifeWay) act as if they have just heard about it.*

E-mails prove correspondence between Alex's mother and Tyndale as early as April 2012 -- over 2-1/2 years before Tyndale decided to take the book out of publication. No doubt part of the problem was the fact that the contracting party, Kevin Malarkey, had not repudiated the book. Jan Long Harris, a publisher with Tyndale House, wrote to Beth Malarkey in 2012: "Also, I’m sure you can understand that we can’t break a contract with an author just because someone else – even if the someone else is the author’s spouse – makes accusations about him." Having issues with breaking the contract, however, is not the same as NOT KNOWING about the problems with the book.

In light of the breaking news last week, Tyndale House spokesman Todd Starowitz stated, "It is because of this new information that we are taking the book out of print. For the past couple of years we have known that Beth Malarkey, Kevin's wife and Alex's mother, was unhappy with the book and believed it contained inaccuracies." The "new information" cannot be the fact that Alex had repudiated his trip to heaven. They already had that information. The new news must have been that the retraction had become big news!

LifeWay has chosen the same approach. They issued a statement January 15th. Director of Communications Martin King stated, “LifeWay was informed this week that Alex Malarkey has retracted his testimony about visiting heaven as told in the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Therefore, we are returning to the publisher the few copies we have in our stores.” It is not clear what changed for LifeWay. They already had information that "Alex Malarkey has retracted his testimony about visiting heaven" and Alex did not directly contact them with this information. That leaves them looking like they have egg on their faces -- that what changed was that this book had suddenly become big big news! Baptist Press, the news arm of the SBC, has remained silent as a mouse.

The revelation is presently bad news for Tyndale, booksellers such as LifeWay, and the "heaven tourism" business in general. Whether it continues to be so remains to be seen. Tim Challies says, “I am hoping that this allows the genre to die out.” That is probably too much to hope for!

More links on this topic
* After recantation, LifeWay withdraws ‘The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven’ -- "LifeWay Christian Resources issued a statement Jan. 15 in response to an inquiry from Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton."
* Don Piper Did Not Go To Heaven -- "I haven’t read a single book in the heaven-and-back genre, but it does chap my hide every Sunday when I see them atop the NY Times Bestseller lists."
* Heaven Tourism -- "I’ll grant that the cost of this type of journey is rather steep (you’ve got to die, though only for just a few minutes), but it’s a sound investment when you factor in the sales figures."
* Southern Baptist Convention resolves that heaven tourism books & movies are antithetical to scripture -- "...the messengers to the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention has addressed the issue through a resolution which states these accounts cannot be corroborated, are self contradictory and are antithetical to Scripture."
* The boy who didn't come back from heaven: inside a bestseller's 'deception' -- "No true evangelical ought to be tempted to give such tales any credence whatsoever, no matter how popular they become."
* The boy who didn’t go to heaven — and how ‘heaven tourism’ conquered the publishing world -- "Heaven is a swell place to visit, the books’ authors say."

* The book is still available from Amazon, and no doubt will be until copies run out. That is a shame, but I am not aware that Amazon claims to conform their business practice to Christian ethical standards. It would be interesting to know which Christian booksellers will not remove it from their shelves and their lists! It is as frustrating as the Christian Aggie fans who could overlook the antics of Johnny Manziel, and as unbelievable as Tom Brady not knowing the footballs he was throwing were under-inflated.

Update: At the time I wrote this, Baptist Press had not reported on it. By the time the scheduled post posted, they had. Yet they were late to the game -- for example, the independent Baptist News reported on it on the January 16th, but Baptist Press did not get to it until the 23rd. Further, they reported that LifeWay had removed the books but did not question the 2-year or so window in which they had known about the controversy and did nothing. In very interesting contrast to Tyndale and LifeWay, Ambassador Speakers Bureau removed Kevin Malarkey from their roster of speakers nearly three years ago, because they "believed Beth was telling us the truth."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Lord's congregation

The majority of references in the English Bible to the Lord's congregation used the word "church". In addition to this, there are at least 7 figures of speech given to help us further understand its meaning and function.

The Lord's congregation is:
1. A church, a lawful assembly (ekklesia) Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 12:28
2. A body, a living organism (soma) Romans 12:5; Colossians 1:18
3. A flock, a group of followers (poimnion) Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2
4. A house, a kindred family (oikos) 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6
5. A building, a designed structure (oikodome) 1 Corinthians 3:9; Ephesians 2:21 
6. A temple, a devoted place (naos) 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21
7. A bride/wife/married woman, a covenanted relationship (numphe/gune) Ephesians 5:23-24 
8. A husbandry, a cultivated field (georgion) 1 Corinthians 3:9

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Which way he went?

Among the tombs I strolled one day,
To read what the epitaphs would say.
As leisurely I walked around
On one this bold advice I found:

"Remember this as you pass by 
"As you are now, so once was I.
"As I am now, soon you shall be,
"So you prepare to follow me."

I thought and thought and gave a sigh,
Then on the ground scrawled my reply:
"To follow you, I'm not content--
"Until I know which way you went!"

(A little poem cobbled around an old epitaph and its "response")

Friday, January 23, 2015

SH Revival, and other music links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* Acoustic levitation: how sound can get physical -- "Scientists prove it is possible to levitate and move objects in mid air using only sound."
* Book Review: The Story of the Trapp Family Singers -- "This is the true story that 'inspired' my favorite musical, The Sound of Music...There are definitely some big differences between the book and the movie..."
* Fasola Modality -- "Linked here are two sets of indices, including mode, range and meter, of The 1991 edition Sacred Harp and seven 19th Century Shape-Note Hymnals."
* I Don’t Have a Hammer, But I Have a Mennonite Hymnal -- "...I heard the congregation sing 'You are Salt for the Earth' (HWB 226). Immediately upon hearing the verse, I thought, “Wow, this congregation can sing!” But when the congregation got to the refrain and sang its harmony, something in the world shifted. Something in me shifted, and the world seemed illumined."
* Online Minutes of Singings using The Sacred Harp, Revised Cooper Edition -- " the Minutes Template and after filling it in, return it to us as an attachment to your email."
* Piano stores closing as fewer children taking up instrument -- "When Jim Foster opened his piano store 30 years ago, he had 10 competitors selling just pianos."
* Sacred Harp Revival -- "Sacred Harp is a rough-hewn, full-throated devotional music. It’s horizontal in its practice, which is deeply democratic and participatory, with an emphasis on decibels instead of polish, and vertical in its sound, which is characterized by dense pentatonic harmonies."
* William J. Reynolds, renowned professor and hymnologist -- This was written on the occasion of his passing, but I thought some might be interested in the information it contains on Dr. Reynolds.

Annual March for Life on National Mall

Yesterday the annual March for Life assembled in Washington, DC. While it may not have garnered a large amount of news courage, "Tens of thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators crowded on to the National Mall for an annual march coinciding with a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion." On this day the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to forbid the use of federal funds for abortion coverage.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rather right than consistent, and other quotes

The posting of quotes does not constitute agreement with the quotes or their sources.

"I would rather be right, than consistent." -- J. M. Harlan

"I'd rather regret the things I've done than the things I haven't." -- copied (attributed to various persons on the internet, including Lucille Ball)

"In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is colorblind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens." -- J. M. Harlan

"Surely the principles of Christianity lead to action as well as meditation." -- William Wilberforce

"It must be conceded by those who admit the authority of Scripture, that from the decision of the word of God there can be no appeal." -- William Wilberforce

"The great heresy of the church today is that we think we’re in the entertainment business." -- Mike Livingstone

"I wonder what is must be to go up into the pulpit, and read somebody else’s sermon to the congregation. We read in the Bible of one thing that was borrowed, and the head of that came off; and I am afraid that the same thing often happens with borrowed sermons – the heads come off." -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"A doctrine in regression quickly becomes an item of convenience." -- Chris Johnson

Culture of cheating

* On scale of 1-10, it's 11 for Patriots in deflate-gate mess -- "This isn't a coincidence."

It's official. The New England Patriots were caught cheating. Again. Eleven of twelve footballs that the Patriots furnished for themselves at the AFC Championship game were under-inflated. Eleven of twelve footballs violated the rules of the game. Tom Brady -- who handled these footballs on nearly every offensive play -- originally called the charges ridiculous. Rob Gronkowski made a joke of it. And the coach's penchant for cheating has earned him the nickname "Belicheat".

Are the Patriots so different from other teams? I don't think so. I think they are simply a part of a larger culture of cheating. Not just in football. Not just in professional sports. But there is a culture of cheating in football. Former players and fans wave it off. Just let them play. What does it hurt? Everyone does it. From the youth "little league" to the High School that skirts the UIL rules to the illegal recruiting in college, the whole of its background prepares the way for a culture of cheating. It is "win at all costs" and "the end justifies the means." 

Christian coaches and players (if there are such) need to lead the way in cleaning it up. Fans should insist on it. Sadly, can we even begin to hope to limp toward such a goal?

I heard a commenter on the radio say that 4 times as many people will watch the Super Bowl as watched the President's State of the Union address on Tuesday night. We love our football. The Super Bowl reigns. We are enraptured with the culture of cheating, from cradle to the grave. These things ought not be.

Last fall the Copper Basin Youth Football League was expelled (for the season) from the Smokey Mountain Youth League for altering player's birth certificates (to allow older kids to play on younger teams).
In the fall of 2013, a Louisiana High School used another school's username and password to obtain that rival's game plan.
The NCAA is currently investigating 20 colleges for academic misconduct regarding athletes.
Picture of General Shills Cheaties breakfast cereal with Coach Belicheat on the box.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Supreme Court & same-sex marriage, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* Boy Says He Didn't Go To Heaven; Publisher Says It Will Pull Book -- "The young man at the center of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven', Alex Malarkey, said this week that the story was all made up...I did not die. I did not go to Heaven."
* Building a True Church -- “A 'True Church' is one that takes seriously the mandates for the Church given by Scripture.”
* Emails Suggest Lifeway President Knew of Heaven Scam, Chose Not to Act -- "Why did Lifeway not listen to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2014, who repudiated these books and passed a resolution accordingly?"
* Gay marriage: Supreme Court sets stage for historic ruling -- "Setting the stage for a potentially historic ruling, the Supreme Court announced Friday it will decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry everywhere in America under the Constitution."
* ISIS developing means to ‘blow up’ a US city -- "The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sunni militants are working on the capability to wipe out a city inside the United States."
* Mormon who runs website for faith questions faces discipline -- "John Dehlin of Logan said a regional church leader informed him Wednesday night that a disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25"
* Newlywed Dies of Sepsis After Getting Flu -- "Katie a flu shot to comply with hospital policy and had no underlying medical conditions, but she caught the flu and developed a serious complication from it: sepsis. She died on Jan. 2."
* Professor: Supreme Court Shouldn't Protect Speech I Don't Like -- "Simply put, would-be-censors are scared that they will not be able to exclude speech that they do not like from the marketplace of ideas."
* The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: Why This Matters for the Church -- "The Supreme Court may or may not do their job. We must make sure, no matter what, that we do ours."
* What We Talk About When We Talk About Race in Pop Culture -- "I had to move all the way to New York City before I realized how not-okay it was that most black people in my small North Carolina hometown lived in a sector everyone called Black Bottom."

No more prayers

The Sunday January 18 Daily Sentinel reports there will be No more prayers at meetings of the Nacogdoches City Council.1 The report seemed almost unreal. Apparently yielding to a secularist's inquiry to offer prayers at the council meeting, the mayor decided there would be no prayers at all. Up until this point it was the tradition of the city council for one of its members to open with prayer.

The Sentinel reports that Mayor Roger Van Horn stated, "I knew that if we ever got challenged, there would be no argument. And we were challenged, finally."

The challenge came from Daniel Ross of nearby Jacksonville, Texas -- who had picked a fight with Cherokee County in 2014 over a nativity scene on the grounds of the county courthouse.2 Since Ross believed all the Nacogdoches city council members are "of the same faith" (i.e. Christian), he feels that it is "important that citizens be exposed to all faiths."

It is not clear why Ross is interested in the prayer traditions of the Nacogdoches City Council, or whether he has challenged the tradition of his own city. Perhaps such incidents help get his name out in the public domain as one who performs secular ceremonies (according to his web site HERE). Perhaps he is a crusader for the way of humanists. Perhaps some Nacogdoches resident requested his help. I'm not sure why he made it his business.

It is not clear why Van Horn and the city council yielded so meekly. Perhaps they didn't want to fight. Perhaps they didn't want the administrative headache. The city attorney, according to the Sentinel, advised the council that they could either offer opportunities to pray to people of other faiths or not have prayer. This is quite strange in light of the very recent Supreme Court ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway, May 2014. In it, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “To hold that invocations must be non-sectarian would force the legislatures sponsoring prayers and the courts deciding these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech.” It does not fall on a legislative body to make sure all types of prayers are represented in their invocations.

Like Daniel Ross, I don't live in the city of Nacogdoches and their decision is not my business -- beyond interest in such incidents and the direction of "church-state" issues in our society. But I did find the decision of the city to quite unusual indeed!

1. You have to have a Daily Sentinel subscription/account to read the full article.
2. As best I could determine his efforts resulted in a protest on the courthouse lawn of about a dozen people, but not in the removal of the nativity scene (it was there as late as the Saturday before Christmas).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"I'm offended" and other quotes

The posting of quotes does not constitute agreement with the quotes.

"We get offended faster and more efficiently than anyone...We conjure up more fabricated outrages and controversies in a month than past civilizations could have mustered in a thousand years." -- Matt Walsh

"The Bible isn’t a choose your own adventure book where everyone can just make up their own meaning." -- Benjamin L. Corey

"Who can speak of eternity without a solecism, or think thereof without an ecstasy? Time we may comprehend: ’tis but five days older than ourselves." -- Sir Thomas Browne

"Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag." -- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"Our praise of God should not look like a spectator sport." -- Bob Browning

"A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy." -- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"Submit is not a 4-letter word." -- copied

"It does not narrow the heavenly inheritance that there are so many to enjoy it." -- J. C. Philpot

"Sonscreen prevents sinburn." -- Church marquee

"If you believe God lied to you, then you have believed a lie." -- copied

Newsweek and the Bible again

On the 3rd I wrote about the Kurt Eichenwald piece that appeared in Newsweek. It has been sifted and sorted, poked and prodded -- from the right and left -- until there is little left of it that will hold water. Despite that fact, Newsweek has stubbornly said, "We stand by our story." In fairness, they have published online A Response to Newsweek on the Bible by Michael Brown. Brown  has served as an adjunct professor at several theological seminaries and hosts The Line of Fire radio talk show.

It is worthwhile to notice that Newsweek reported that many "expressed anger" over their article. No matter how hot the anger and deep the frustration, neither the author nor anyone at Newsweek was punished for writing and publishing the derogatory piece.

Justin Taylor wrote that Eichenwald's "piece reads like someone trying to describe the landscape of North America after a first-time visit to just one city."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Free Speech, the Pope and Salman Rushdie

* Pope on Charlie Hebdo: There are limits to free expression
"If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."
"There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others," he said. "They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit."
* Salman Rushdie, threatened over book, defends free speech
"He said some believe speech should be free, but it shouldn't upset anyone or go too far.
"Both John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela use the same three-word phrase which in my mind says it all, which is, 'Freedom is Indivisible,'" he said. "You can't slice it up, otherwise it ceases to be freedom. You can dislike Charlie Hedbo. ... But the fact that you dislike them has nothing to do with their right to speak."
* Cameron rebuts Pope on speech offensive to religion
"I think in a free society, there is a right to cause offense about someone's religion. I'm a Christian. If someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive but in a free society I don't have a right to wreak my vengeance upon them."

Duke University

In the past I have argued against using pressure and bullying to get others to either agree or to conform with a certain course of action (e.g. HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE).

I have seen this some variations of this tactic used against Christians recently, but it isn't always against Christians. Sadly, Christians also know how to do a little "arm-twisting" of their own. Enter Duke University and Franklin Graham.

Duke University in Durham, North Carolina recently accepted a plan to have a Muslim call to prayer come from the Duke Chapel bell tower. Some of the members of the Duke Muslim Students Association would chant the call from the bell tower each Friday at 1 p.m., starting on January 16th. The chant, which includes the words “Allahu Akbar” would be amplified across the campus to announce the call to prayer. There was a great backlash against this plan.

I think this was ill-advised, especially starting barely a week after terrorists in France forced their way into the offices of the periodical  Charlie Hebdo, shouting "Allahu Akbar" while killing 12 people. But I think the method used by Franklin Graham to kill the plan was also ill-advised, and crossed over the line from convincing free speech to bullying in submission. What was Graham's plan? Hit them where it hurts. He urged Duke alumni and other supporters to pull their funding and withhold their donations.* According to its web site, Duke is a private university that "maintains a historic affiliation with the United Methodist Church." As a private university, this kind of pressure is much more significant than for a public university. The university cited a "credible and serious security threat" as their primary reason for nixing they call to prayer from the bell tower. I have no further information on that, but it is likely that Graham's threat played a significant role. Muslim students will still pray as they have, but without the amplified call to prayer from the bell tower.

This private university had the right to agree to such a plan. Alumni and concerned citizens had the right to oppose it. How much better had they convinced them of the error of their ways with reasoned arguments than to push them to pursue a certain course? Have we decided that doesn't work, or whatever works is "reasonable"? When Christians such as Graham teach others how to use this tactic, it will be used against them when the shoe is on the other foot -- and when they are powerless to stop it.

Some links on the topic.
* Duke reverses decision to allow Muslim call to prayer
* Duke backs down, cancels Muslim call to prayer from chapel tower
* Security threat nixes Islamic prayer call from Duke Chapel 

* There may be a fine line between an individual choosing not to support Duke because of the Muslim call to prayer, and an organized boycott to not support Duke because of the Muslim call to prayer. But I believe there is a line. The first is an individual to pursuing a course of action consistent with his or her conscience, while the second is aimed at hurting (or at least threatening to hurt) in order to guarantee a certain course of action is followed.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Is peddling malarkey and making money more important

...than the truth?

* The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World (A True Story) by Kevin Malarkey (Published by Tyndale House in 2010) 
"In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex—and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. “I think that Alex has gone to be with Jesus,” a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels who took him through the gates of heaven itself."
The publisher has announced that it will take this book out of print, and the Southern Baptist's LifeWay Resources have vowed to quit selling the book.

In a Christian Post story on the 15th Martin King, LifeWay director of communications stated, "LifeWay was informed this week that Alex Marlarkey has retracted his testimony about visiting heaven as told in the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Therefore, we are returning to the publisher the few copies we have in our stores."

Based on e-mails and Twitter time stamps it seems that Thom Rainer (president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources) and Ed Stetzer (Executive Director of LifeWay Research) knew about this problem much much before this week -- at least by early December 2014 and probably as early as April or May 2014. Beth Malarkey, Alex's mother wrote The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven...not quite on April 20, 2014, stating, "Alex's name and identity are being used against his wishes..."

This makes it look like peddling this book was more important to the LifeWay than buying the truth, and that they are now trying to cover their tracks. Shame if it is so.

* Malarkey: speech or writing designed to obscure, mislead, or impress (
* The explanation of the time difference might be that LifeWay was not informed by Alex Malarkey personally of his change of heart until this week. IOW, they had heard it from second-hand sources and not the author himself. Nevertheless, I have not heard or read LifeWay give this explanation. Whether it is this or something else, they should make it clear.

2015 Life List

* AUL’s 2015 Life List

Americans United for Life’s 2015 Life List ranks each state of the United States according to Pro-Life/Abortion views. This is basically a "legislative" scoreboard, looking at "how well women are protected from abortion industry abuses" in those states.

The "top five" (best) states are:

  1. Louisiana 
  2. Mississippi 
  3. Kansas 
  4. Oklahoma 
  5. Arkansas

Of the top ten best, 8 are a block of states in the central U.S.

The "bottom five" (worst) states are:

  1. Washington 
  2. Vermont 
  3. Oregon 
  4. California 
  5. New Jersey

Of the top ten worst, 4 are adjoining states on the west coast of the U.S.