Thursday, March 30, 2006

This just in: scientific study on prayer fizzles

Power of prayer overrated? - MALCOLM RITTER - Associated Press
New York — Does praying for a sick person's recovery do any good?

In the largest scientific test of its kind, heart surgery patients showed no benefit when strangers prayed for their recovery.

And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications. Doctors could only guess why.

* * *

God, the Majesty on high, does not perform "on demand", nor permit himself to be subjected to laboratory testing by his subjects.

He has nothing to prove.

He has said everything He wants to say in His Word, and the self-sacrificial offering of Jesus on the cross tells us all we need to know about a) our sin and sinfulness and b) God's love freely offered.
For those who may be upset or angered by such rhetoric, let me assure you, you are under no constraint or compulsion to accept God's freely offered gift. You have the right to refuse. But, to as many as receive Him, to them he gives the right to become the sons and daughters of God, along with a promise of eternal life.

It's up to you.

* * *

What a wonderful God we have!

He gives us our freedom, even when he knows it will hurt us -- and him. He suffers the agony of the Cross to restore the fellowship which we threw away. Yet still, he does not compel us to love Him, or even believe in Him.

And when we do come to Him, still He is non-coercive; wooing us, persuing us, bringing us to the place where we truly trust him and freely offer ourselves to him. And, even then, unlike Islam, it is not a master-slave relationship; it's more like a friendship, a partnership, where we get to taste perhaps just a little bit of the mutuality that ever flows among the members of the trinity -- the unity of mind, purpose, thought, feelings, and determined actions.

What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful God.

(I would like to get to know him better.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Da Vinci Code - Truth Matters

Of course the Da Vinci Code is as false as a three dollar bill.

But the bigger point is that objective truth no longer matters, at least in the area of "personal beliefs" such as philosophy and religion.

Some people choose to believe the Da Vinci code just like others choose Buddhism or New Age channeling. We choose our beliefs today much like we choose our clothes. Our beliefs are often little more than fashion statements. It matters little whether something is actually true, what matters is that someone chooses to believe it. Multi-culturalism has contributed to this; also the western cult of the individual and its embrace of moral cultural relativism.

Fortunately, this irrational commitment to individual truth and multicultural relativism does not extend to hard-core matters such as airline safety. The EU recently put over 100 airlines on a blacklist for falling short of EU safety standards, which are based on the laws of physics. Most were from African nations. How intolerant! How non-inclusive and Eurocentric!

But, in the realm of "personal beliefs", anything goes. It matters little whether Jesus actually married Mary Magdelene, had kids, and settled down to a domesticated life of growing turnips in France. What matters is that some people choose to believe this; we're all entitled to our beliefs; and it is, quite frankly, a bit rude to suggest that someone's beliefs might be bonkers.

Consider popular views of homosexuality. Most people probably choose their attitude towards homosexuality based on how it makes them feel about themselves -- "with-it", tolerant, and kind (as opposed to judgmental, mean-spirited, and out-of-date). The objective biological, medical, psychological and sociological facts get lost in the shuffle, and are considered rude or "mean-spirited" to contemplate or mention.

Still, for Christians at least, truth matters.

Reading Eusebius, the first Church historian, we get a great sense of how important truth was to early Christians. We believe the gospel, not simply because it is "our faith", but because it rings true. We worship Christ, not simply because He is "our guy", but because He is the truth. And we honour and welcome the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth.

Does it matter whether Christ actually rose from the dead? Yes it does. This is not just something we believe because it makes us feel good, or because "the Church teaches it", or because it "helps us make it through the night"; we believe it because the evidence of Scripture, the history of the early Church (not least of which is the apostles' willingness to die rather than renounce their proclamation of the resurrection), as well as the internal witness of the Holy Spirit to our hearts and minds, all bear witness to the truth of this the most central of all facts of human history.

The resurrection is not true because, as some would say, the Church teaches it; no, rather, the Church teaches it because it is true.

Unlike most subjective "truths", real truth is often neither comfortable nor comforting. Scripture makes the apostle Peter out to be a coward, the apostle Paul out to be a persecutor of the righteous, Moses out to be a murderer, and David out to be both an adulterer and a murderer. Ouch!

And it doesn't stop there. Christian truth makes us all look bad. We might even rather wish that something else were true. It condemns us as sinners; it dismisses our natures as irrevocably corrupt; our hearts as evil; it humbles us with its claim (unique among philosophies and religions) that it is impossible for us to rise to an acceptable level of righteousness based on our own efforts. Why would anyone choose such truths? Because they're the truth, perhaps? Because they sound like something other than man's invention, something from the mind of God?

In similar manner, the more comforting (to the Christian at least) claims about Christ -- his unique birth, righteous life, saving death, vindicating resurrection, triumphant ascension, effectual present-day intercession, and imminent return -- are held to be true, and preached as truth, because we are persuaded that they are objectively real and factually true.

And this, by the way, makes all other religions, philosophies, and worldviews "untrue". In the final chapter of the book of Revelation a scene is painted of the Holy City coming down from heaven. Outside the gates, condemned forever to exclusion for the Holy City, are those "who loved and practiced a lie".

This may seem unkind (and today kindness trumps truth), it may seem narrow, it may even seem to smack of "intolerance"; but, it is true.

And truth matters.

Monday, March 27, 2006

This just in from the lunatic CBC...

This from Tony Burman, Editor in Chief of CBC News:

"I find these outbursts of media hostility toward the Christian Peacemakers somewhat perplexing....

I suspect most Canadians have little patience for this. Most of us not only felt genuine relief and happiness about the rescue but, more profoundly, saw in these "peacemakers" something that was quite admirable, courageous — and classically Canadian.

A desire to get involved. To help out. To make a difference even if it involves real personal risk. That's what Canadians do, in very real terms."

* * *

"Most of us"? on what basis does he assume his personal views represent most Canadians?

"That's what Canadians do"? Who says? Don't we also go to war and shed our blood in the name of freedom, democracy, and western ideals? Don't we have a history of warmaking that is even more "very real" than the vapid, vacuous, insipid, and self-deluded "peacemaking" of this self-deluded group?

So far, I haven't heard of a single tangible thing this group has done in Iraq. Have they fed anybody? Clothed anybody? Provided medical services to anybody? If so, why haven't we heard about it? They think they're doing the world a favour just by "being there"? Are their egos that big, and their self-aggrandizement so pronounced that they feel that just "being there" is going to make peace?

If they had gone to Iraq during Saddam Hussein's regime, that would have been heroic. I would have honoured such a group.

But coming in, under cover of the relative safety that the coalition forces have brought, and then denouncing them as "occupiers", is a bit rich.

If they really despise the British and American presence as much as they say they do, why didn't they reject their rescue by the "occupiers", and demand to be returned to their captors? That would have been principled. That would have been heroic.

As it is, I'll save my praise for the American and British and other troops who are putting their lives on the line daily to try to bring a better life to Iraqis.

They're actually doing something.

Which is more than can be said for the Peacemakers.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

This just in: Case against jailed Afghan Christian dismissed

Case against jailed Afghan Christian dismissed - DANIEL COONEY - Associated Press

Kabul — A court on Sunday dismissed the case against an Afghan man facing possible execution for converting from Islam to Christianity, officials said, paving the way for his release.

The move eased pressure from the West but raised the dilemma of protecting Abdul Rahman after his release as Islamic clerics have called for him to be killed.

_ _ _

This is a clash of cultures.

If the spotlight of world opinion had not been on this man, there's a good chance he would have been beheaded. Christians around the world face persecution, including loss of churches, homes, and their lives, for their beliefs. Usually when this occurs, it is at the hands of Muslims. And, usually, it goes unreported and unnoticed by the world.

On the home front (Canada), it demonstrates the inherent foolishness of multiculturalism, the idea that all cultures are essentially the same and differ only at the edges.

Multiculturalism, as a policy of Canada, was used by mainly Liberal governments to displace Christianity as the dominant cultural idea of this country. Flexible Christianity has been replaced with a rigid secularism that asserts that religious views and values have no place in public life and that any opposing views or values will not be publicly tolerated.

And, of course the fruits of all of this. The slaughter of the innocents via abortion. Easy divorce -- and the tragic effects on children and young people. The glorification of single-parenting -- and the diminished family life our children are raised in. The indignity of same-sex marriage -- and the prospect of a hapless child being raised by two moms but no dad. And now, the latest -- efforts to elevate prostitution into just another job.

In Germany, a woman can lose her Employment Insurance benefits if she fails to show up for a job interview at a prostitution agency. I kid you not. Now that prostitution is just another job, and no longer has any moral overtones, this is the position of the German government. Canada has not gone this far, yet.

Christians are sandwiched between two extremes. On the one side, radical Muslims, who want Christians killed, and on the other, radical secularists, who just want Christianity extinguished.

Fortunately, we can lift our eyes to the skies and see Jesus, seated, crowned with glory and honour, telling us it's all going to come out all right in the end. And that we should continue to be faithful to Him, and the vision he gave of a new heaven and a new earth, coming down from God.

This just in: Russia Had Sources in U.S. Command

By ROBERT BURNS - The Associated Press - WASHINGTON —

The Russian government had sources inside the American military command as the U.S. mounted the invasion of Iraq, and the Russians passed information to Saddam Hussein on troop movements and plans, according to Iraqi documents released as part of a Pentagon report.

The Russians relayed information to Saddam during the opening days of the 2003 war, including a crucial moment before the assault on Baghdad, according to the documents in the report Friday.

* * *

We know that France and Russia were in the pocket of Saddam Hussein -- corrupted by their lust for Iraqi oil. The US was right not to subjugate its security interests to a corrupt and compromised UN Security Council. (Indeed, it appears that the whole UN was in Saddam's oily pocket.)

Meanwhile, the left continues to this day to claim that the US went to war over oil.

In fact it was unctious leftist countries that were propping up a brutal dictator because it suited their interests. In doing so they undermined the UN's attempts to make Saddam Hussein come clean on his weapons programs, gave Saddam Hussein the idea that he could outwit and outlast the Anglo-Saxon West, and made the US-led invasion virtually inevitable.

Once again, those on the left are in the wrong.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Christian "Peace-Makers" Freed - Contemptible Behaviour on Display

From the Globe and Mail:

At a news conference in Toronto, Christian Peacemakers Teams spokesman Doug Pritchard said...

"We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by multi-national forces is the root cause of the insecurity of this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq today," he said.

He also credited the outpouring of support from around the world — particularly from Muslim groups — for the safe recovery of the three surviving hostages and renewed the group's call for an end to the U.S.-led military action in Iraq.

* * *

And not a word of thanks, a tip of the hat, or a nod of the head in the direction of their British/American rescuers. Such breathless ingratitude!

There is nothing peaceful about these self-styled peace-makers. They are partisans. They are Michael Moore without the camera. They excuse their kidnappers; can they not likewise find sympathetic excuses for the "occupiers'" actions -- 9/11, anyone?

If the "occupation" of Iraq is illegal, then so is the rescue by the British and American "occupiers". The peace-makers should denounce their rescue and demand to be returned to their Muslim captors.

Alternatively, they could volunteer to take the place of the Iraqi Christian who faces death for converting from Islam. No doubt they would consider it an honour to be be peacefully beheaded in the name of Islam.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Freezer-burn: do you belief in an after-ice?

Sunday, March 19, 2006
Weird World: two founders of cryonics unfreeze and have to be cremated

Two founders of the cryonics movement - whose members are frozen after death - have been cremated after a freezer mishap. The bodies of Raymond Martinot and his wife Monique were stored in a freezer in the hope modern science could one day revive them. But, 22 years after his mother's body was put into cold storage, their son discovered the freezer unit had broken down, reports the Guardian. Rémy Martinot said he had no choice but to cremate his parents' bodies after the technical fault had seen their temperatures rise above the constant level required of -65C. "I don't feel any more bereaved today than I did when my parents died, I had already done my grieving," he said. "But I feel bitter that I could not respect my father's last wishes. Maybe the future would have shown that my father was right and that he was a pioneer."

Raymond Martinot spent decades preparing for his demise in the belief that if he was frozen, scientists would be able to bring him back to life by 2050. But his wife, Monique Leroy, died first, in 1984, and was the first to enter the freezer unit in their Loire Valley chateau. In 2002 Dr Martinot died of a stroke, aged 84, and his son followed his orders to inject him with the same anti-coagulants and store him alongside.


I hope Raymond at least had a healthy belief in the after-ice. He could have saved himself a lot of effort if he had just gone with Hebrews: "For, it is appointed unto men once to die, and then the judgment".

Judgment -- not a popular idea these days.

And who's going to be the Judge of mankind? Jesus Christ.

How intolerant is that?! Shouldn't it at least be some kind of inter-faith committee?

Ah well, we can paint whatever pictures of God we want, but, push comes to shove, God gets to call the shots.

And, that's only fitting, given the job-description that accompanies being God.

Wealth Creation, Preservation, and Transmission

Do Christians have a duty to create and accumulate wealth, for themselves, their children, their church and the needy of their community and the world?

I believe it was John Wesley who said, "Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can".

I believe that God likes growth. He likes increase. He likes prosperity. (But he hates covetousness, greed, stinginess.) He likes us to be good stewards of everything he has given to us.

And remember, "give -- and it shall be given to you".

Here's an excerpt from an article, sent to me by an associate. The entire article can be found at:

Leges Sine Moribus Vanae

Our Creator has endowed us with the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. He has also bequeathed to us the responsibility to choose among competing alternatives. Each individual must therefore decide whether he will be led towards virtue or succumb to vice. To be truly free is constantly to strive towards and, more often than not, choose virtue. As Lord Acton put it (Selected Writings of Lord Acton: Essays in Religion, Politics and Morality, Liberty Fund, 1988), "liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought … Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences … [In Western countries] liberty has not subsisted outside of Christianity."

Like people in all other walks of life, therefore, investors and businesspeople can, as they deploy the material resources at their disposal, choose to act rightly. Seen in this light, the gift of commerce and capitalism is that it encourages people to choose upright behaviour. Buying and selling in the market and accumulating and divesting capital facilitate various virtues. The first and foremost is honesty; and others include independence, diligence, intelligence, prudence, trust and co-operation. But the choice is ours: whilst commerce and capitalism encourage virtue, they hardly guarantee it. Indeed, action in the market offers many vices and temptations to sin. Yet given man's ability to reason and exercise judgement, it ultimately allows him, if only he will choose this path, to practice virtue, shun wrongdoing and therefore glorify God.

> Private Property

The private ownership of labour, land and capital is fundamentally good because it provides many opportunities to glorify God. The Bible's prohibition of theft would make no sense if God did not intend that we exercise dominion over ourselves, the earth and the fruits of mixing our labour with land. The individual's ownership and maintenance of property is his way of exercising stewardship over a tiny portion of the universe. Clearly, individuals own nothing in any absolute sense; instead, as stewards, their task is to preserve and fructify what ultimately belongs to God. What does stewardship entail? One aspect is the husbandry of resources, i.e., the provision for one's children and grandchildren. To husband resources is to deploy them as efficiently and effectively as possible. Good stewards act prudently because they always bear the future in mind. Implicit in good stewardship, then, is the preservation and growth of resources that have been entrusted to you.

Another aspect of stewardship is the devout enjoyment of God's bounty, that is, the use of property as thanksgiving. Good stewardship thus balances consumption today and consumption tomorrow; equally clearly, God rewards those with low time preferences. Finally, good stewardship is charitable. Stewards willingly and gladly give some of what they own (which is not the same as shareholders' funds!) to the poor and unfortunate. Because God provides and preserves, and is merciful and compassionate, He rejoices when we imitate these virtues.

To own property and act as a responsible steward of it imitates God's sovereignty over the universe. Faithful imitation of God, in turn, glorifies God. Accordingly, to restrict and deny the opportunity and responsibility of ownership, as politicians, academics and clergy of all stripes unthinkingly do these days, is to deny individuals the opportunity to exercise stewardship – and thus to imitate and honour God's sovereignty. Seen in this light, critics and opponents of private property mock God.

> Buying and Selling in the Market

Buying and selling in the market are fundamentally good because they too provide the opportunity to glorify God. Buying and selling – that is, undertaking exchange beyond barter – are necessary conditions of anything beyond subsistence. If autarky reigned – that is, an individual or family could buy and sell nothing, and had to subsist exclusively from the food, shelter and clothing it produced – then material standards of living would be woefully and needlessly low. Conversely, becoming a specialised producer of a particular good or service, trading one's output in exchange for money and then exchanging that money for the output of other specialised producers – in short, introducing and following to its logical conclusion the principle of the division of labour – will over time raise material standards of living. To live a materially richer life, in turn, fulfils God's purpose that we enjoy with thanksgiving the resources we have inherited.

Commercial transactions, then, are not a necessary evil. Nor are they morally neutral. Quite the contrary, they are inherently good because they are means towards an unequivocally good end – the benefit of other people. Through our innate capacity to reason, God has given us a mechanism, the market, whereby we can advantage one another. Buying and selling thus provide a concrete means to love one's neighbour – whom one might never have met because he resides on the other side of the world – as one loves oneself.

This point is fundamental. Precisely because they are so often impersonal, and precisely because buyers and sellers are usually honest, business activity among consenting adults exerts a significant civilising influence upon buyers and sellers. People who might not normally trust one another (because they live on different continents, speak different languages, practice different faiths, etc., and therefore might never come into direct contact with one another) learn, from their repeated and usually satisfactory experiences in the market, that it makes sense – because it is usually beneficial – to trust others. "Commerce," Montesquieu famously said, "is a cure for the most destructive prejudices; for it is almost a general rule, that wherever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners." Hence the insight of Britain's foremost pamphleteer of free trade, Richard Cobden: "I see in the [principle of voluntary exchange] that which shall act on the moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe, drawing men together, thrusting aside this antagonism of race, creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace."

Oh, great. Blogspam

I didn't know it even existed, but today I got my first piece of blog spam.

The following was posted as a comment to my last post:

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* * *

I checked -- Askinoo has had 11,679 profile views since October 2005, which means that a lot of people have been hit by this guy with a spam post.

I like to think of myself as centred in grace, but I really believe that spammers belong in jail.

Am I being too harsh?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

This just in: dinosaurs of a feather don't always flock together

This just in from the AP [excerpted]:

New fossil complicates picture of feather evolution
MATT CRENSON Associated Press

New York — A 150-million-year-old fossil from southern Germany has paleontologists ruffled over how feathers arose in the line of dinosaurs that eventually produced birds.

The fossil's exceptionally well-preserved bone structure clearly puts it among feathered kin on the dinosaur family tree. Because its closest relatives are feathered, paleontologists would expect Juravenator to follow suit.

A small patch of skin on Juravenator's tail, however, shows no sign of feathers....

“It has a typical scaly dinosaurian skin,” Mr. Chiappe said....

.... most experts do not see it as a challenge to the widely accepted view that modern birds are descended from dinosaurs.

& & &

The bottom line of the matter is this: materialistic scientists WANT to believe in non-directed evolution, and they interpret the evidence according to their beliefs.

Christians, who believe that we are the products of design (and it certainly looks that way!) interpret the same evidence differently.

A good book on the subject of Origins is Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator. He covers darwinian evolution vs. design, the Big Bang, the universality of moral sense, consciousness, etc. A good read.

One of the philosophical constructs I recall contained in his book goes as follows:

a) Anything that begins to exist has a cause;

b) The universe began to exist,

c) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Once we understand that there is a cause outside of the universe that caused the universe to come into existence, the "threat" of darwinian evolution is greatly diminished. Because, regardless of how we got to this point, there still stands a powerful force behind the universe (who must be a person because surely he cannot be something less than his creation) that deserves respect, and to whom we are presumably accountable.

It is precisely these conclusions that materialistic evolutionists desperately want to avoid, and will go to almost any intellectual lengths to do so. To cede to them would not only make these scientists morally accountable, it would de-throne them from the god-like role they currently enjoy -- defining reality for the rest of us lesser mortals and having complete sufficiency and control over explanations of life and origins. As soon as a non-materialistic factor is added to the equation, they cease to be masters of their domain.

So, you might say that the scientists have a vested personal interest in maintaining a belief in materialistic darwinian evolution. And that amounts to bias.

Increasingly, as the scientific evidence for a moment of creation mounts, the arguments of some materialists are becoming increasingly far-fetched -- reflecting an ABC - Anything But a Creator - desperation.

Another argument that bolsters the scientific evidence for creation comes from philosophy. It goes like this:

a) If the past is infinite, this means there are an infinite number of moments preceding the present

b) If there are infinite moments preceding the present moment, we can never arrive at the present moment

c) Because the present moment exists, the past cannot be infinite

d) Therefore the past is finite and time had a beginning

I find this pretty convincing.

The Christian faith in a powerful Creator possessing personal attributes such as personality, consciousness, and moral sense is not unreasonable. In fact, I would say just the opposite.

And that's the way the ball bounces.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tsunami vs. Afghanistan: Image vs. moral purpose

Andrew Coyne has written the following concerning PM Harper's trip to Afghanistan:

"Implicit in Mr. Harper’s address is a very different sort of nationalism: a nationalism of moral purpose. Canada exists to do good, for its own people and for the world. It is defined by its beliefs and measured by its acts, not by the virtues of its people, real or imagined. Indeed, it makes no claim to uniqueness in this regard, but rather upholds principles that are timeless and universal. But it aspires to be the best exemplar of these: in Mr. Harper’s words, to 'be a leader.'"

* * *

When our rapid-response team was (belatedly) send out to help the tsunami victims by the former Liberal government, we were told that the purpose of the rapid-response team was "to enhance Canada's image to the world".

I thought at the time, "who cares what the rest of the world thinks of us?. We should be sending the team out not because of what the world may think, but because IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO".

Image vs. moral purpose. A clear juxtaposition of liberal vs. conservative values.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The first sign of Spring!

It's an annual Canadian rite -- the first sure sign of spring, where the cold of winter begins to give way to the hope of spring with its promise of a landscape awash with the warmth of the sun.

No, it's not the sighting of the first bewildered robin hopping around in the PEI slush.

And it's not the first crocus pushing its way through the red earth to say "hello!" to a waiting world. It's Tim Hortons' Roll up the Rim Contest.

If it's Roll up the Rim, spring can only be a short hop-skip-and-a-jump away.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Back where I belong

Prior to leaving for Africa I wrote, "I've heard that the College I'll be teaching at has installed high-speed satellite Internet, but I'll have to see it to believe it. So, I might be landline-locked for the next month; we'll see."

Turns out, this was optimistic. During the two-weeks I was at the college, the Internet was only up one day. "Up and running" would not describe it. "Up and badly limping", perhaps.

Not only that, my prediction that I might be landline-locked also proved hopelessly optimistic. The telephone line at the Kerrs' house where I was staying was down for two or three weeks.

We ended up doing most of our interneting in-town, at a Cyber Caffe.

I'm not even going to bother hiking the internet phone all the way to Africa next time. I'll wait until Africa catches up.

For a depiction of my exploits in Africa, please refer to my goodnewsforzambia blog.

It's good to be back.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"