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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, July 28, 2006

Book Recommendation:

The New Concise History of the Crusades

By Thomas F. Madden

If you are like me, you learned next to nothing about the Crusades when you were in high school and college. If you did learn anything about the Crusades, 90 percent of it is probably pure urban myth.

The popular view of the Crusades was carved into stone by Sir Walter Scott and his book, The Talisman, published 1825, and by Sir Steven Runciman's 3 volume work, History of the Crusades. These books paint the picture of greedy, European barbarians exploited by the imperialistic Roman Catholic Church which organized invasions of otherwise peaceful Muslim territories so as to financially plunder their sophisticated cultures and expand the Church in order to earn religious favor with God. The Crusades are considered Christian Europe's fault and hence the reason why there was an official apology made by the Pope and George Bush expunged the word "crusade" from his vocabulary when speaking about going to war with the Taliban.

Thomas F. Madden, the professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University, has written a more accurate history of the Crusades than what I was exposed to during my secondary education. The New Concise History of the Crusades not only makes for some engaging and informative reading, it is also mercifully short, coming in at 256 pages including the bibliography, glossary, and index.

Madden begins by briefly describing the conquests of Islam across North Africa and into Spain. The Islamic advance into Southern Europe was defeated in 732 by the forces of Frankish leader Charles Martel. In Asia Minor, however, Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine Empire and the Greek Orthodox Church, was facing the Islamic push up into Turkey. Turkish Muslims destroyed the Byzantine armies in 1071 at the Battle of Manzikert. The people of Constantinople, the eastern most edge of western society, could look out from the city walls and see the land of the encroaching Muslims. Thus, rather than being religiously sanctioned wars to capture the lands of peaceful, innocent, high-cultured Muslims, the Crusades began as a call to assist and defend the Christian brothers of Byzantium at the behest of its emperor, Alexius I Comnenus, from a brutal enemy bent upon the Empire's destruction and its citizens submission to Islam.

The book then moves into providing an historical summary of each Crusade, placing the events of each into proper context. The triumphal first Crusade in 1099 re-took Jerusalem from the Muslims, as well as key cities like Antioch. The second Crusade was a disaster with one of the largest crusading armies being nearly wiped out. Richard I, the Lionheart, spearheaded the more victorious third Crusade. The fourth Crusade saw the sacking of Constantinople by outraged crusaders who were lied to by a deposed successor to the throne of Byzantine. The fifth Crusade was a failed attempt to capture the Muslim stronghold of Egypt's Nile delta. And the Crusades of the truly pius, St. Louis, were also unsuccessful attempts to capture Egypt.

Madden also highlights the warts of the Crusaders. For instance, the Christians were not always wise in their attempts to battle Muslim forces. Although the desire to free the Holy Land and stem the tide of the encroaching Moorish hordes was well intentioned, many times the crusaders would be stymied by the feudal squabbles between scheming Lords and Kings. The fourth Crusade, for example, started way too late and was even redirected to Constantinople, because the money promised to the Republic of Venice for the use of their ships to transport the crusading knights to the Holy Land was never paid in full. The fifth Crusade was also a disaster because Frederick the II was basically a big lay-about who kept promising to personally lead his forces to help with the crusade, but found pitiful excuses for delaying until he was excommunicated by the Pope.

I am not sure if Madden is a Christian, but he writes about what I see as two examples of God's providence during the time of the Crusades.

The first is the rise of the Ottoman Turks in the 1300s. The authority of the Roman Catholic Church had waned significantly because of the immense political intrigue between various papal factions. Before anyone could do anything, the Ottoman Turks managed to push far into Eastern Europe. Christendom was severely threatened, until a young Mongolian leader named Timur lead battles into the eastern lands of the Ottoman Empire. Timur was as brilliant a military leader as he was brutal. The Ottomans had to abandon their European front and deal with Timur. His army destroyed the Turkish army and if it were not for this victory of his, Europe may had fallen to the Muslims.

The second, and much more profound act of providence, involved Pope Leo X and his battle with the Turks. It was while he had his Catholic armies engaged with the Turks that an Augustinian friar by the name of Martin Luther published his 95 theses. The printing press spread Luther's reformed ideas across all of Europe and he was the fire brand that started the Protestant Reformation. The Turkish threat distracted the pope long enough for Luther to nurture his movement and for Protestantism to gain root. Because of his wars with the Turks, Charles V was unable to remove the Protestants from his domains. If not for God's use of the Turkish Muslims in occupying the Roman Catholic Church, protestants might conceivably have gone the way of Albigensianism, which was destroyed by pope Innocent III's forces some 300 years before.

Over all, The New Concise History of the Crusades is a fast moving, informative read about a woefully mischaracterized period of world history. I would highly recommend it to be on the reading list of all Church historians, because it provides a valuable back ground to current events playing out in our world now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Answering Comments from a Pluralist

My series on Chaz the Christ hating anarchist generated a comment from an anonymous religious pluralist. The person's objections were worthy of being answered with a main blog article because they are so common. The objections are in blue; my response follows:


I fail to understand the logic in Christianity.

That's OK. Most people like yourself who are harshly critical of Christianity have either never been exposed to biblical Christianity, or they only have cartoon like ideas about it that have been pieced together from woefully misinformed sources. It may surprise you to know that most Christians fail to understand the logic of Christianity as well, so don't feel too bad.

They claim that "Jesus" is the "only" son of God.

There is a reason for that claim: This is what the Bible teaches. Biblical Christianity begins with the Bible as the source for its claims of authority.

They claim that one must follow him in order to achieve salvation or else go to hell! How absurd!

Actually, this is not what Christianity teaches. Christianity begins with God's purposes to redeem out the whole of sinful humanity a people called by His name (See Ephesians 1). He initiated that plan of redemption which He accomplished by the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross to satisfy His wrath against those sinners He had elected to salvation. The Bible is explicitly clear that no person can "achieve salvation." We are justly condemned by God who is under no obligation to save anyone. He alone applies the merits of Christ's death and Resurrection to the sinner. Good works flow out of that divine act, but they are unable to save anyone.
Are you not familiar with the books of Romans and Ephesians?

If this Christian thinking is true, it makes God an extremely sadistic,unkind, and discriminating Being!

On the contrary, it makes God extremely gracious and merciful. God does not have to save anyone, but does redeem a people called by his name, the number of which is uncountable (Revelation 5:9). This is in spite of man's treasonous rebellion against him. Much of your misinformed thinking about Christianity is born out of a erroneous view of God's righteousness and justice and man's sin. I think if you get your head on straight about those two things, you will begin to see more clearly.

This follows from the fact that "Jesus" came to earth only 2000 years ago. What about all the souls that were present on earth before that? Did God create them just to watch them burn in eternal hell (since "Jesus" was not around to "save" those souls??? This makes no sense whatsoever!

Again, you are assuming all those souls before Christ were innocent and never did anything to violate God's law, so thus it is unfair for God to punish them. This is not true. The history of the world is one of murder and bloodshed and the worship of false gods, all things that violate God's law. See for example Romans 1 and 2. Salvation belongs to all those who put their faith in God's promises. Remember, Jesus is the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. The redemption men experience now by putting faith upon what Christ has done was experienced by those people who put their faith in the promises of what Christ was going to do. In a manner of speaking, as Christians look back at what Christ has accomplished, those before Christ looked forward anticipating what Christ would do.

God revealed He was going to send a redeemer primarily through the prophetic messages of His prophets. Though the understanding of that redeemer was veiled in the sense it was not fully understood by God's people what was going to happen, they still put their faith in what God had told them about Christ.

We are all God's children. We are all EQUAL in the eyes of God. How then, could God who is perfection, kindness and love itself, be so cruel and discriminating?

What exactly then does it mean to be God's children? If you mean God's children in the sense that all humanity is created in the image of God, I would agree with you. If you mean God's children in the sense that all people deserve to go to heaven and should never be held accountable for violating God's law, then I disagree with you.

Would he create just a "chosen few" to enjoy all the benefits of heaven and condemn the rest to eternal hell? Even earthly parents wouldn't dream of such blatant discrimination amongst their own children! Let alone God!

That is exactly what he did. But you are of the mindset there is something unfair with God doing this and that those not chosen for heaven even care about their state. It seems like to me you think Christians teach salvation is like attempting to get into an elite, upscale night club on Sunset Street in LA. Everyone wants to go there, but unless your name is on the list at the door, no matter how bad you want to be inside, you can't go. It is invitation only. This a warped view of God's grace, man's salvation, and reality in general.

It also makes no sense that a person who has led a perfectly good and moral life on earth would be subjected to eternal torture in hell just for following a different path and not "surrendering" to Jesus Christ! THIS IS ILLOGICAL!

Well, God has stated in the 10 commandments - in fact it is the first commandment - that you will have no other gods before me. Additionally, the first four commandments specifically detail how God desires to be worshipped and served. He is the only God; there are no others in existence providing alternative ways to have salvation, so He is the one who has set the rules governing how men are to understand Him. If men willfully and rebelliously depart from what He has revealed, then God has every right, in fact, He has every duty, to punish those individuals according to their crimes against Him. To leave sinners unpunished makes God capricious and unjust. I would not wish to serve such a god if that were the case. When terrorists killed 300 plus children in Beslan a couple of years ago, would it have been illogical for the Russian government to leave those terrorist unpunished, just give them a warning not to do the same thing again and play nice? It would have not only been illogical, but a monstrous act of injustice.

The truth is that there are several paths to reach the Almighty (different strokes for different folks!). This should be recognized and respected by all people instead of offending God by misusing His name to impose their biased views on other people! God (including Jesus)is definitely NOT pleased with such disrespectful behaviour. They will have to face the consequences of their actions sooner or later! (This similar absurdity also pervades Islam which claims that only their way is true and everyone else will burn in eternal hell!)

If we are to speak of illogic, this is certainly an illogical claim. Basically, you are saying that God is schizophrenic - that He suffers from multiple personalities. He is one God, but He has told different people in different cultures different ways to be in fellowship with him. All of the Hindu variations on their gods, Islam with its 5 pillars, Shintoism with its ancestor worship, the Druids with their paganism. You believe the logical understanding of all this diversity is that these are different strokes for different folks who are all really following the same God in their own way? I would imagine you would say that as long as they are sincere, then God will honor their efforts? So the Molech worshipper in the ancient Near East who was required to burn alive their first born son in an sanctified oven as long as he was sincere, God would honor such an "act of worship?" Different strokes for different folks I guess? And you think this is logical?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mending Chipped Ceramics

The Bob Johnson Saga

[updated 8/29/10]

See Special update as of August, 29th, 2010

Opening Remarks:

I posted this email response of mine to Bob Johnson back in 2006. Since then, however, he has become more vocal and aggressive against John MacArthur, even putting together a website and an occasionally updated blog so as to post his rants. Individuals outside of Grace Community Church have contacted John MacArthur's radio ministry, Grace to You, looking for a response. The radio ministry doesn't make it a habit to respond to such muddled antagonists like Bob, but because of the nature of my personal blog, I have. So any meaningful response to Bob comes through a handful of blog articles I have written about him.

Due to recent events during the fall of 2009 with a local L.A. intercity "pastor" by the name of John Coleman who has allowed Bob to teach his error about Grace Church on his personal internet webcasts, I thought it necessary to revisit my posts regarding Bob and update them with new personal comments. I have re-edited the original post just a bit and have added new editorial comments that provide more context to the claims Bob makes against Grace:



Some of you may remember my post highlighting a conversation with a fellow by the name of Bob who was on the sidewalk out side of my Church passing out literature claiming that two of the single ministries were promoting Purpose-Driven Life/ Saddleback methodology. [Editor's note: Those two ministries in question are The Guild, a fellowship group aimed at singles 35 and older, and The Foundry, a fellowship group aimed at college graduates 21 to 30. The Foundry disbanded in early 2009 because the pastor, Kurt Gebhards, took a pastorate in North Carolina and the elders of Grace thought it better to close it, rather than look for a replacement pastor]

Bob's literature [available on-line HERE] further charged that these ministries were promoting what is called an Hegelian-dialectic process of "brainwashing" its members to all think alike. These dialectic sessions take place in small group settings and because Marxists have historically used small group settings to mind control the people, all of the small groups affiliated with the two suspect singles ministries are engaging in this Hegelian-dialectic process and thus stoking the hotbeds of Marxist revolutionaries.

Since I posted that original article, Bob and another fellow by the name of Robert who agrees with Bob, have been emailing me off and on. They both have been attempting to convince me of my slavish devotion to Grace and being blinded to the truth. The phrases "open your eyes" and "have an open mind" are oft repeated in their emails.

They have pointed me to the writings of a Robert Klenck and Dean Gotcher who claim to be the foremost authorities on the Church Growth Movement, and a local LA pastor named John Coleman who regularly entertains Klenck and Gotcher's ideas on his web cast.

[Editor's note: Robert Klenck is an orthopaedic surgeon by profession. He apparently has a propensity to entertain conspiracy theory type ideas such as the nefarious dealings of the U.N. in the world and their alleged attempts to usher in a one world government that will set up the anti-Christ. Much of his teaching regarding "church growth" methodology has been developed in this matrix of conspiracy laden ideology. Because his teaching against "church growth" has this conspiracy driven philosophy behind it, his so-called exposes' against church growth methodology is unique, if not out right unusual and strange. He thinks that he has gotten to the real heart of the matter with identifying "church growth" methodology by highlighting the so-called Hegelian-Marxist connection and the small group dynamic.

Dean Gotcher has a similar approach to exposing "church growth" ideas as Klenck, but as I understand it, he has distanced himself from Klenck and Coleman. John Coleman is a former pastor who has had an "apologetic" style ministry in L.A. for a number of years. He once participated on a local apologetic radio program with the addition of pastoring a Baptist church. Around 1998 he was dismissed from his church due to some serious accusations of inappropriate behavior with male congregants. He now maintains a "house church" with a handful of supporters. He also has kept up a webcast called RAM radio on which he has frequently entertained the conspiracy theory ideas of Klenck]


Well, for the sake of providing a more comprehensive critique of what Bob is charging and providing an antidote to the non-sense about the core of church growth methodology being directly tied to Hegelian philosophy so that if your Church has small discipleship groups you are breeding Commies in your midst, I wanted to publish one of my more extensive emails to Bob that interacts with his key charges.

Just to make it perfectly clear to my readers, I am NOT speaking for Grace Community Church in any official capacity. My interaction with Bob is solely on my own free time. Though I do believe I am responding to him as a concerned member of Grace, my words are my own and I bare the sole responsibility for them.


Bob,
I appreciate the email and the frankness of your words. I will address each of your points in turn, but by way of introduction it is important for you to realize that you are not unique. I realize you may think you have some sort of special message of alarm for the people of Grace; that you have some sort of wall watching ministry where you feel compelled of the Lord to alert us to some special message that you alone with a handful of friends have discovered. However, you must know that you stand at the end of a long line of odd individuals with an assortment of odd beliefs.

Grace has always had people like yourself standing on the side walks out in front of our church warning the members of some bad teaching or philosophy infiltrating our ranks. Years ago, Darwin Fish claimed we were all under the influence of psychology and he and his band of merry messengers handout papers like you have. Other people claimed John denied the gospel because he denied the blood of Christ, that he denied the deity of Christ because he held to incarnational sonship, and that he taught sinless perfection because of his views of Romans 7. Other individuals have attempted to warn us about his use of the NASB from the pulpit. We have received hundreds of copies of quack researcher Gail Riplinger's book, New Age Bible Versions with desperate notes attached begging us to tell John to stop using the NASB for his preaching. Another group of protesters accuse John of being in league with neo-cons and Zionists, while others hand out papers "documenting" how the CFR and Trilateral Commission controls John because of certain views he holds.

So Bob, please don't take it personally when people dismiss you as a kook. We have had our fair share of them around here over the years claiming they have some prophetic warning about the goings on at our church which are utterly nonsensical.

Furthermore, you must also understand our annoyance toward your accusations against two of our pastors we have known personally for years. For you, an ill informed outsider, to publish a paper accusing two of our fine men of basically being liars and brute beasts seeking the destruction of our church and the souls of the people in our church, only rankles us and closes our minds to your message. You claim you would not lie to me, but the very fact you are raising slanderous accusations against these two men demonstrates you are already doing this.

Now, I won't say it is lying just yet, because I will grant you being woefully ignorant of the facts and there is teachability on your part. With that in mind, let me address your points:


*I knew that the Guild was a purpose driven ministry before I ever went there. It is obvious from the language on their website. I only went there to corroborate that fact. I suspected that the Foundry was purpose driven from the website as well. This suspicion was confirmed to me when I went there. It is not necessary that I go to these ministries more than once or even go at all in order to know this. I would estimate that the Guild is 85% purpose driven and the Foundry is 65% purpose driven*.
[Editor's note: Bob visited the Guild once, meaning only one time. His accusations against our singles ministries is based upon this one visit to a Friday night study in the spring of 2006. Bob has also since modified his percentages claiming now that both ministries are/were 100% purpose driven].

(Fred) How did you know these ministries were "purpose driven" before you went there to see for yourself? Did you conclude this your self or did someone tell you? You deduced that from scanning over a website and witnessing "language" you find suspicious? [Editor's note: Bob claims the use of certain language implies a PDL or Hegelian-Marxist influence. So, if someone were to say, "I want the Bible study to catch a vision for missions", the phrase catch a vision is a PDL term, thus by implication, the user of such language adheres to the so-called "church growth" methodology Klenck and Bob point out].

I take it that it does not matter to you that all the leadership (many of whom I know personally at each group) denies these claims? From my observation of your paper you wrote, you have a description of church growth that I would reject. I could care less what Hegel or Marx taught. So what if they taught a small group methodology to control people, this is not what is happening at Grace. In fact, I notice through out your article that you have this hang up with small groups, like the application group you supposedly attended. Small groups have been an integral part of GCC for years, long before Rick Warren was even pastoring at Saddleback.

I thoroughly enjoyed my small groups when I was involved with a singles ministry (by the way, the small, application group dynamic is only found in the singles ministries; they are not found in the other adult fellowship groups). The home Bible studies and the application group is where I got to know people on an intimate level. I had accountability as a believer and I was prayed for and stretched to think biblically. To automatically equate any small group dynamic as you define it through Marxist-Hegelian filters with being "church growth" is utterly absurd. Like I told Rob who raised a similar objection, it would be like a person accusing John of allowing Mormonism to infiltrate GCC because one of his main series is called the "Fulfilled Family." Because Mormons speak of having "Fulfilled Families" we are imbibing Mormon theology. such a comparison is ridiculous.


You (and the Klenck fellow) seem to have a fringe definition of what you perceive as church growth philosophy and because folks at Grace may use "buzz" words you find suspect or enact group dynamics you defined as suspect, it is automatically labeled as purpose driven and church growth. This is presumption at its worse.

Let me break up your next point and address individual claims:

*I spoke with a man who read my letter who attended the Guild and the Foundry for 4 months. He corroborated what I said*


(Fred) Who exactly was this person? Is he credible as a critic of these ministries? By "credible" I mean to say was he someone actively involved with these ministries where he was attending regularly, had friends within these ministries, and actually knew and interacted with the leadership of these ministries? I have met many people over the years who have attended GCC's single ministries who have been critical of them, but when their criticisms are evaluated, they flow from some personality conflict with other folks in the group, or the fact the leadership confronted the individual about specific maturity issues, or the person came into the group with a certain level of expectation as to what to find and when those expectations were met with disappointment the person tries to find some fault with everyone in the fellowship group and the church in general. I have seen this time and again.

So, in my mind, for this person to have any credibility as a critic accusing the ministries in question of operating with PDL philosophy, he would have had to have been actively involved with them for more than four months. If you think about it, four months is just 16 Sundays if the person came regularly and 16 Bible study times if the person attended those regularly. That is hardly enough time for him to draw such radical conclusions unless of course the person came to the ministry with these presuppositions in mind.


*He told me that these ministries are run differently from J Macarthur's teaching. He told me that they are both extremely seeker friendly ministries and he told me that most in attendance there are not Christians. He told me that relationships are always discussed and emphasized in these ministries*.


(Fred) How exactly are they ran "differently" from MacArthur's teaching? We do make a distinction between fellowship groups and the main service; a fact many of Grace's critics such as yourself tend to overlook. A Sunday school class dynamic is totally different than the overall dynamic of the main Church.

At any rate, all the men I have spoken with at length about your charges affirm that the Sunday morning portion is spent in music, fellowship, and then the preaching or teaching from the word. This is exactly how I remember Working Disciples, the former single's ministry these other two replaced when all the singles got married to each other. What should we do differently? I would expect more activities because singles have the time and desire to involve themselves in many activities. I did when I was single. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of activities.

Additionally, how is having a large group of non-Christians in attendance being automatically "seeker friendly?" Grace has had a 35 plus year average of having a large group of unbelievers attending our Church. It would only be a problem if the ministry sought to water down or ignore biblical teaching in order to accommodate the unbelievers so as to keep them comfortable. This is not going on with either one of these ministries. Furthermore, why exactly is it wrong or suspicious to discuss and emphasize relationships? Again, this is only a problem if that emphasis replaces the authority and teaching of God's Word. This is not happening in either one of these ministries. The singles ministry I was involved with frequently emphasized relationships with others outside the Church and discussed relationships with each other in the immediate group from a biblical perspective. In fact, this is something common in single ministries simply because the main thought of singles is being married. There is nothing sinful about that, especially if the fellowship group is providing an opportunity for godly singles to potentially marry each other and is teaching the biblical perspective on these issues. You mistakenly assume it equates something bad, but it does not.

*He told me that he didn't understand why this was so (I Do). He told me that he was so troubled by what he saw happening at the Guild that he attempted to speak with the pastor. He said that he avoided him for a long time and then finally when it came time to discuss a meeting time, the pastor refused to meet with him because this man insisted on having a witness present so the pastor would be held accountable. He refused to speak with him with a witness present! This man is highly credible. He also told me that the Foundry is worse that the Guild (which I already could tell). This man knows that these are not Christian ministries.*

(Fred) I cannot speak for this pastor, but knowing him like I do, I doubt the credibility and accuracy of this testimony. Again, you automatically assume the worse because you are attempting to uncover bug-a-bears and want him to be a bad guy. I personally would like to hear from this pastor about this specifically named person, as well as get the person to tell me exactly what he or she did in order to speak with him. At this point, this accusation is speculative and falsely accuses a personal friend's character that I know is not who he is.

Let me break this point up into a handful of comments:


*The foremost Christian authority in the country regarding the church growth movement (CGM) is Dr. Robert Klenck MD. Dr. Klenck knows that the CGM/purpose driven church is at the Guild and Foundry. He knows from viewing their web pages*. [Editor's note: Bob often appeals to Klenck as one of the "foremost Christian authorities" even though he evaluates church growth ministry according to his bizarre presuppositions regarding conspiracy theories and is virtually unknown to anyone else who has actually written on the subject].

(Fred) The foremost Christian authority in the country? Really? Seeing that I have never heard of him except through your paper, and a host of other folks I know who study church growth stuff also have never heard of him, I believe that claim is a tad exaggerated. I further find it amazing he can draw such a conclusion about the ministries of Grace by "viewing their web pages." This is being presumptuous and such an attitude can be foolish and sinful. Once again, Klenck has a unique definition of church growth he attempts to tie to his so-called expertise in Marxism and Hegel's philosophy. The use of words he believes is suspicious does not immediately equate his accusations. We don't define church growth and seeker sensitive philosophy according to his themes, nor should we.

I mentioned Klenck to a variety of elders and teachers at Grace and his charges about the Marxist-Hegel elements and they all shrug their shoulders and dismiss the guy as hunting windmills. In order for Klenck to be correct about Grace, he would have to demonstrate that we are specifically using the church growth philosophy he defines in the negative manner he accuses the leadership. He would also have to demonstrate where he has actually seen a specific instance of its negative effects upon the church and document it. Has he? All he has done is accuse the two ministries of falling into his self defined patterns of church growth, a philosophy apparently hard to define according to you.


*Other Christians know besides for me. Would you like to hear what he says about this? Please do. Go to www.johnecoleman.org and click on Ram Radio Stream. Scroll down about halfway to Ram Radio Live 1-21-06. Listen to the first hour of this 2 hour broadcast. Dr. Klenck will say that the CGM agenda is going at GCC at full swing. Do you think that he doesn't know what he's talking about?*

(Fred) I did listen to the link and all I can say is that I am stunned of the horrible misinformation John and his friend are passing along. I am disappointed that someone like Coleman would be so easily sucked into believing it. I am troubled by this and truly wonder if he has any real discernment. I take it that you are the "Bob" feeding them the poor information about GCC? A couple of things struck me from their comments.

First is their berating the email to you from "George" who refused to meet with you after another certain pastor told him not to do so. Apparently, you, Coleman and Klenck see that as thought control or hiding the truth or something. We however see this as shepherding our people. Coleman of all people, who is a pastor, should know better than to bad mouth what happened. I don't know who George is, but it is the duty of any pastor of Grace to protect him from being led astray. I am sorry if it offends you that we think of you as a wolf, but your material and protest behavior out in front of our church place you in that category. It is a biblical mandate to protect those who are immature and unstable from false teaching. For you guys to see that as negative demonstrates to me a woeful misconduct with the souls of the saints. I would expect Coleman to protect his members from some Fred Price wanna be who wished to meet alone with them. It is his calling as a pastor.

Second, Coleman suggests that John MacArthur is out of touch and unaware of what is happening in these ministries and he seems to think it is his duty to inform John of what is going on. I can assure you that John is actively involved with all the ministries at Grace in spite of our Church's large size. He meets with the staff weekly when he can, as well as monthly with the elders, one or two who are members of those two ministries in question. To assume John's ministry is so big that it is near impossible for him to know what is really happening under his nose is another example of presumption.

*Mohler is a fellow of a UN-NGO. He's a fellow of the ERLC. The ERLC is a UN-NGO. Pastors, leaders and staff workers at GCC denied these facts for one year. Why? Why did they lie?* [Editor's note: Bob has a fixation with Al Mohler, Jr. and even claims that Al's loose affiliation with a non-governmental organization in the U.N. makes him really a satanic agent who's duty it is to water down the Christian church as a whole with his teaching]

(Fred) Are you sure they lied that the Faith and Family group was part of the U.N.'s non-governmental organization list, or that they denied your charges of one world conspiracies? I have never denied that the ERLC was listed under the UN's NGOs. I have stated that there is nothing sinister about such an affiliation. I am guessing you are from an independent fundamentalist background and adhere to rigid (unbiblical) secondary separation principles? Also, Al is a fellow, which means he is on a board of directors or has some other loose affiliations with the group. Moreover, several other prominent men are fellows like Paige Patterson and the late Carl Henry. Are they guilty by association like Al is?

*Mohler is dedicated to fulfilling the principles of the UN charter. This goes without saying and it naturally follows. Also, I was told this by his associate. Anyone denying this denies reality. If you think that a man can serve 2 masters, then you deny scripture*

(Fred) If the principles of the UN charter are as benign as they are listed on their website, http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/index.html I would agree with them. I think because you operate from this 70s, one world government eschatology in the vein of Hal Lindsey, you start with a goofy presupposition that the UN is going to bring in some one world government ready for the anti-Christ. I judge the UN as being incompetent and too given over to corruption to accomplish such a grand scheme. If Al Mohler believes he can exploit the UN charter to advance the gospel in the world, I say we let him try. As for the serving 2 masters thing, why can't Al Mohler cooperate with the UN and be a Christian? What exactly does it mean to "serve two masters" in your mind? How are you defining that? Am I serving two masters if I agree to uphold the employee agreement at say, Wal-Mart or Target, and still be a Christian? I believe you are misapplying Jesus's words.

*As I stated in my letter, the CGM is not easily understood. The leaders at GCC can't recognize it. Also, do you think that those bringing this agenda into Grace would admit it to you? They know that you cannot discern what is going on* [Editor's note: Notice how on one hand with Bob's arguments outlined above, the Church Growth Movement (CGM) is easily recognizable by him, Klenck, and Coleman as having infiltrated Grace Church. It's noticeable on our websites and is visibly taking place in our singles ministries. Anyone who would take the time to examine their claims would see it so plainly. Yet , on the other hand, here we have Bob claiming the CGM is not "easily understood" except by some supposed expert like himself and Klenck. In a manner of speaking, Bob's teaching smacks of gnosticism, or the idea that only a few "anointed" individuals know the truth and their message must be heeded].

(Fred) Then basically, if you believe this Bob, you are charging the elders and pastors of Grace with intentionally lying to and willfully deceiving its members. In a nutshell, you are charging our pastoral staff as being unbelievers. Is that your position, Bob? Out of all of those godly men who are leading Grace, none of them have the ability to discern what you can discern and those who can are lying about it and trying to hide it? Is that what you are saying?

*Since I handed out my letter, as I count it, 19 pages have been taken off their website. These are the pages that contained the purpose driven phrases and revealed the purpose driven agenda that I quoted from in my letter. Why were these pages taken off? Obviously because they want to hide the PD language and agenda written on these pages. Now when someone reads my letter, it can't be verified from the website. If the 19 pages were all Biblical, then why take them off?* [Editor's note: Bob, Klenck, and Coleman all assert that Grace church is trying to hide the evidence they bring against the church leadership by removing the alleged "evidence" from websites, or letting pastor go, or shutting up members by threats and the like. Coleman has even gone as far as claiming an overt racism on the part of Grace's elders because he, being a black man, is "smeared" as being "nuts" by the white elders of the church. He also argues other motivations of wanting to shut him up about the "truth" such as protecting the money source from rich donors]

(Fred) I can't speak to that directly. I will ask around and see what folks say. However, I know the website updates regularly and old stuff gets removed and replaced by new stuff. But, to suggest that the staff of these ministries are intentionally hiding things is again charging them with lying and being dishonest and thus accusing them of being ungodly and unbelievers.

*I know of a church in the LA area that is becoming purpose driven. They have spiritual gift assessments, diverse small group ministry, leadership seminars for accountability and purposes of "relationship building". A man in their office told me that they couldn't be PD because the "vast majority of their staff and pastors come from the Masters College and Seminary*

(Fred) Do you care to tell me the name of this Church so I can contact them about your accusations? Who was this man in the office? Again Bob, you have yet to establish, as has Klenck and Coleman, that diverse small groups and leadership seminars for accountability and relationship building are inherently evil and unbiblical. Just because Marx or Hegel or any other crackpot in the past utilized these things for their purposes does not equate to us using these things in the same manner. Methodology is not in itself evil, but those who utilize it for such purposes. Here is our main disconnect: Where you see evil behind small groups, we see a good thing that has been beneficial for the spiritual health of our Church. When you continually insist, despite our protests to the contrary, that this is what we are doing, you are headed into the realms of paranoia.

*Did you know that GCC officials called the police on me the second week I was there giving out my letter? I did nothing wrong. The GCC officials lied to the police. Why?*

(Fred) I spoke with one of our key security men, the man who told the police about your presence on the sidewalk, and he told me that you certainly did nothing wrong. He never accused you of wrong doing at all. In fact, he had no problem with you handing out your paper on the sidewalk. The patrol unit was already at GCC because they routinely drive through our parking lots to help deter thieves which we have had problems with in the past. The security guy simply stopped the car, told the officer you were there and asked him to stop by and make sure you knew what your rights were and were not. That is all. Unless you come on to our property, you have every right to protest out in front of your Church. Of course, we also reserve the right to dismiss you as a crank and heckle you if it is deemed necessary.

*It sounds to me that you are naive. This agenda can only be at GCC because Christians like you lack knowledge and discernment*.

(Fred) Just a closing thought. Ok, lets suppose I am naive and lack knowledge and discernment, what is the end goal of this "agenda" as you call it? If church growth has truly infiltrated Grace, how will it manifest itself in the open beyond just the use of trendy buzz words and small groups meeting together without the Bibles opened? Could you elaborate on that for me? [Editor's note: This is the one key question neither Bob, nor Klenck, nor Coleman have ever answered. They refuse to interact with me or anyone else who has attempted to correct them of their slanderous misinformation]

Thanks

Fred


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Friday, July 21, 2006

Web Watching

I have some more significant essays and posts forth coming, but in the meantime as I compose them and in order to keep the blog "fresh," I thought I would pass along some links of interest:

Frank Turk's Da Vinci Code lectures:

I never read the Da Vinci Code in its entirety; just the salient portions attacking the Christian faith. I must confess that I became sick of hearing about the Da Vinci Code with all its characters like Langdon, Teabing and Sophie by the end of November of last year. I even became tired of all the apologetics put out - there must have been a new book or DVD debunking Dan Brown's story published every week with each one basically regurgitating the same material as all the others.

So, when the Turk announced that his home church had released the MP3s of his Sunday School lectures on the subject, I thought, "Oh yeah, another Da Vinci Code debunking talk, been there, down that." I was of course curious as to what Frank sounded like, so I downloaded a couple of the messages, part 1 and part 4.

Maybe I am just a biased, sycophantic side kick wanna-be, but the lectures are good. I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, they are some of the better ones I have heard over the last few months. Frank tackles the subject in a unique fashion particularly by wrapping up his first three talks with a fourth one geared toward the gospel message and how we as Christians should utilize the material for evangelism.

I wrote in a comment on Frank's blog that I thought he had a little Jerry Falwell in his voice. I was making reference to his opening prayer on his fourth message. If he had thrown in some thees and thous and some verbs ending in "th" I thought it would have been a spot on Falwell. However, once Frank starts teaching, he peels off the Falwell and gets into that fast talking, popular apologetics/Richard Abanes mode.

Two new additions to my creationism and evolution series

My webmaster just added my two latest talks from my Evolution, ID and Creationism series. We're slow getting them on line, but I have been away and the messages have to be edited and processed. My friend and I work on them during our freetime, which I for one have not had much of lately. The first is on Critiquing Intelligent Design and the other is an Introduction to Biblical Creationism.

Archaeological article on the so-called findings of Noah's Ark in Iran.

Rick Lanser of the Associates for Biblical Research has an extensive review of the recent claims by Bob Cornuke to have possibly found the remains of Noah's Ark. That may be some good reading for folks over the weekend.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

So Now You Know


I am sure anyone who has been through an airport in recent years has witnessed TSA officers grimly waving wands over little old ladies while others are scrutinizing her shoes and personal belongings. Such absurd scenes have been the subject of jokes and sarcastic remarks about P.C. highmindedness running amuck that only begets annoying inconvenience, while not targeting the real culprits who would attempt another terrorist attack.

So now you know why there are random searches on little old ladies.

We need to thank the TSA.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Kent Hovind and Irrationality

Shortly after the presidential election of 2004, my family and I went to Disneyland with a group of friends. While we were standing in line at the Small World ride, I noticed a smug looking, college age youth wearing a black tee-shirt with a big red image of George Bush on the front. Underneath the picture were written the words: NOT MY PRESIDENT.

My wife and I both quipped at the same time about how irrational the slogan on that shirt truly was. As much as this little political malcontent wants to believe W. is not his president, he most certainly is. In fact, President Bush could use the full authority of his office to really mess up this fellow's life, and no amount of sticking his fingers in his ears and mumbling "Not my president" over and over again will change reality.

Sadly, this is the same mentality being expressed by creationist apologist Kent Hovind and his wife as they are being brought up on 58 counts of tax fraud. How did "Dr. Dino" respond? Apart from handing out creationist tracts as he headed to court, he stated:

"I live in the church of Jesus Christ, which is located all over the world. I have no residence."

This is irrational talk from the mind of a man woefully misinformed as to where he currently resides. It is this mindset that gets many Independent Christians into trouble with the law.

I don't care who a person thinks he or she is, or what sort of special privileges he or she believes they are entitled to, and so forth; when it comes to paying taxes, the government wants its money, and it will get its money. It may take a while, and though the mills of the IRS grind slow, they grind very fine. Dr. Dino should have taken a lesson from Al Capone.

Now it is true I am engaging in a bit of sport with Dr. Dino, because I am happy to see someone who is truly an embarrassment to the faith get his comeuppance, but as I reflect upon this whole fiasco, I am genuinely grieved at heart for a number of reasons:

First and foremost is the shame heaped upon the Church. Here is a man who was a self appointed spokesmen for the Christian faith now playing a fool. I am reminded of James 3:1. He claims he has no property, yet he insisted any IRS inspectors must have "prior written consent" to get onto his property. He sincerely believes he is tax exempt because he "lives in the Church of Jesus Christ." Perhaps he ought to consider this his "rent due" notice from Jesus?

Second, many folks follow his ministry. I am stupified by how many otherwise sound-minded Christians actually believe Dr. Dino is a reputable defender of biblical creationism. I mean, I am truly stunned. I had a young teenager tell me one time with a straight face that Kent Hovind is more scientific than the guys at ICR. What do you say to that?

Even more stunning is how they have come to his defense in this matter. It is as if they honestly believe there is some conspiracy by Darwinianists, skeptics, freethinkers and atheists to shut him down. Such blind commitment to a misguided man only heaps more mockery upon our Lord. Has discernment flown out the window here? Is there no one among his supporters who will stand up and say sin is sin, and those who are guilty must pay the consequences? No pun intended.

Third, genuine creation ministries on the financial up and up, led by men and women with integrity and the true credentials to speak authoritative against Darwinians on the matters of origins are going to receive a severe blow with all of this. The watching world doesn't distinguish between reputable Christian individuals teaching creationism from a flamboyant braggart who has no business addressing these issues. In their minds, everyone is piled together in a big heap. Dr. Dino just happened to get caught, but his "ministry" is true of other ministry. You can't trust any of them. Obviously, such an characterization is unfair, but it is the way people see it.

The words of the Apostle Peter ring so clear, Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evil doers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:16,17).

I hear all the time that theology matters, meaning, what we believe about God, the Bible, and salvation impact how we interact with the world and live a consistent Christian life. But I would add that how we handle theology in our personal lives matters even more.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Sound of Chicken Wings Flapping

...or how NOT to run a Christian ministry

The man to the left is Kent Hovind. He is an amateur apologist for biblical creationism. He goes by the name "Dr. Dino."

If you scroll down my blog you will note on the right I have listed many links. I have those links broken into a variety of categories so as to identify how I feel about the content a person will find on those links. You will note that I have placed Dr. Dino under the Muddled Theology category - and for good reason.

A few years ago I use to slum around on some KJV only email discussion groups. I can recall one of the fellows I tangled with regularly singing the praises of how Dr. Dino was the best Christian apologist in the world defending biblical creationism.

The best? I guess the guys over at Answers in Genesis are a bunch of hacks?

I had a real surface knowledge about the guy at the time, but the beauty of the Internet is that you can do a quick search and find a person and then retrieve a ton of information about him or her. I googled Dr. Dino and was directed to his main ministry website, and go figure, it's called Dr. Dino.

I surfed through out his website and it fast became obvious that he was something of a goofball. I had that sneaking suspicion on account of a crackpot KJV onlyists whole-heartedly endorsing the guy.

There was something of a conspiratorial tone to many of his ideas. He solicited the help of Queen Quack, G.A. Riplinger, for defending Bible difficulties. As a publicity stunt, he has a standing offer to pay any person $250,000 who can demonstrate evidence for evolution. And stunningly, he seemed to imply that Christian ministers were not required to pay federal and state income tax. I left his website with a big red flag billowing in my head.

Also during my research, I discovered he debated progressive creationist Hugh Ross on the John Ankerberg show. According to one of the staff at AiG who reviewed the debate, Dr. Dino did not fair well debating Ross and he did more harm to his credibility as an apologist than good. Dr. Ross still appeals to this debate as an example of how easily young earth apologetics can be trounced. Moreover, AiG published a lengthy paper listing what they believed to be poor arguments defending biblical creation that apologists should NOT use. Dr. Dino took issue with their list because he utilized several of the listed "poor" arguments in his talks and offered a rebuttal that really only sunk his competence as an apologist even more.

I had a friend who happened to have one of his taped lectures and so I borrowed it. The lecture was OK; he didn't necessarily say anything bad, but he seemed to be rehashing material pieced together from previous talks made by other, more reputable creationists. Some folks would call him a plagiarist, though he added his own personal flare.

All of that to say that I never found Dr. Dino to be impressive. He had too many trouble areas with his apologetics for me to recommend him to anyone.

Well, Dr. Dino's views on paying federal and state income tax has come home to roost. He was arrested in Florida this past week for tax fraud, and get this, for threatening investigators, whatever that means. Sadly, as someone who already had a questionable way of doing evangelistic apologetics, this only shackles the rest of the Christian community who genuinely do have an evangelistic ministry in the area of evolution and creationism.

There are many testimonies from folks over at Sharper Iron commenting on their personal experience with Dr. Dino which only affirm what I had concluded about him. I can only hope God will use this for His good, but this is another example of how a person's reputation and integrity will make or break his apologetics for defending the faith.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Ark Raving Mad

The Lord told Noah to build him and arky-arky

World Net Daily (not one of the most impeccable sources of Internet news) posts an article highlighting all of the supposed wreckage sites for Noah's Ark. Coming on the heels of Bob Cornuke's claim he found "ark-like" ruins in Northern Iran, several other ark enthusiasts have chimed in accusing Bob and his "ark-like" ruins as being all wet.

There are at least four other ark sites vying for the identification of being the official "Noah's Ark." At least two on Mount Ararat itself, one near the base of Ararat and still another in the former Soviet Union.

As I noted in a previous post on this subject back in March: let us not forget that the historicity and authenticity of the biblical record of Noah's Ark does not stand or fall upon having tangible gopher wood in hand from the top of Mount Ararat. Sure, it would be nice to have such artifacts, and the world's geology screams of a global, cataclysmic flood happening in the past; however, it is the testimony of God that affirms to us the reality of Noah's Ark, not tangible evidence.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Scopes Trial Anniversary

81 years ago this week in July the infamous Scopes' Monkey trial took place in Dayton TN. The secular world generally marks this anniversary as a titanic struggle between irrational, superstitious religious dogma and rational, progressive science, and beliefs in scientific progress triumphed over hill billy fundamental Christianity.

However, a good deal of what the American public believes about the Scopes' Trial is an urban legend forged from the revisionist play Inherit the Wind written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (not the famed Confederate general). The play was later made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy as the "heroic" Clarence Darrow.

Once a person knows the truth of what really happened during the trial and the lies pushed onto the unwashed masses of the American public through a popular movie, it will stir up pure indignation.

Christians should familarize themselves with the truth of what actually happened. Here are some links for your consideration:

Many good links from AiG


Inherit the Wind: An Historical Analysis This is probably the most comprehensive article on the subject.

The Scopes' Trial website. Some of the trial transcripts and other links and articles.

My lecture on the subject found at FBT in MP3 format: The Scopes' Monkey Trial

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Who are these women?

Mom's Prefer Smell of Their Own Baby's Poop.

There is so much that could be said about this.

Why was this study even necessary? Who cares?
I notice the results of the study will be published in an upcoming edition of Evolution and Human Behavior. It is concluded mother's biologically adapted to overcome their own disgust of Baby droppings so as to take care of the baby, thus giving the baby a better probability of survival. So what happened to all of those other babies BEFORE mothers learned to overcome their personal disgust of human sewage? Were they left to wallow in their own filth? If this is the case about evolutionary behavior of human beings, how did humanity even continue until such an adaptation occured?

I am curious if any fathers were tested.

Bumper sticker: My Baby's Poop Smells better than Your Baby's Poop

I am sure there will be much discussion about this on all the homeschool Mom blogs.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thoughts on Justice, Forgiveness and Ken Lay

While my family and I were away on holiday, Ken Lay died. He was the founder of Enron who was tried and found guilty of basically swindling thousands of Enron employees out of their jobs, savings, and retirements.

The collapse of Enron even had reaching impact beyond just the immediate employees. My wife and I were indirectly effected by the Enron scandal when a subsidiary cell phone company, the name of which escapes me at the moment, was sold to AT&T. For some reason, AT&T refused to match our awesome cell phone plan we had with the previous Enron related company. In fact, they were quite uncaring and totally unsympathetic to our predicament.

But I digress.

What I find note worthy about Ken Lay's death is the public response. I have in mind the commentary I have heard from local talk radio personalities and the interviews with former Enron employees who lost millions of dollars in retirement funds and their lives are essentially ruined. The comments I have heard are downright vicious and cruel. Ken Lay is painted as one of the greatest scoundrels the world has ever known.

Vladimir the Impaler, Jack the Ripper, Pol Pot, Ken Lay.

I can recall one person flippantly remarking that though Mr. Lay is now burning in a devil's hell after his death, he wished he could have spent some time in jail so he would be brutally savaged by other criminal prisoners. Wow. You want to wish such cruelty upon a guy because he financially ruined the lives of thousands of people? Believe me, I can resignate with the raw anger these former employees feel by having their financial security stolen away by a greedy, arrogant man. I am still a little bitter about loosing our cell phone. I certainly want him to go to jail, but I would never want to wish upon him some Escape From New York like punishment. Were talking about a guy who was convicted of financial fraud, not flaying infants alive.

Added to this mix is Ken Lay's alleged Christian faith. He was often heard invoking the name of Jesus, God's sovereignty, and divine providence when he was interviewed by the media horde outside of the court. Romans 8:28 was a popular verse he regularly quoted. His reference to religious themes annoyed his haters even the more, because how can a man so filled with wickedness dare to assume some spiritual connection with Jesus or God. They would accuse him of hiding behind the religious conversion shield.

I don't know what Mr. Lay's spiritual condition truly was. I understand he was raised in a Christian home and his dad was a preacher. So, on one hand, perhaps he was a genuine believer who became rich and powerful, lost all sight of humility before the Lord, and fell into sin. Then again, perhaps he was a big phony hypocrite, the by-product of traditional Bible-belt easy believism who thought he was saved but in reality was not. When the heat was ratcheted up, he was hiding behind a big Jesus shield and cited religious language to garner some sympathy from those he wronged. Who knows.

Here are a handful of thoughts I have in light of the responses to Ken Lay's death:

1) Unbelievers are legalists at heart. By that I mean they believe life is lived to please God by working hard so as to earn points for a ticket to be punched at the "pearly gates."

2) Unbelievers are conditional securists. Pretty much anyone who lives a good and decent life here on earth can get a "pearly gates fast pass," but if you financially ruin the lives of thousands of people like Ken Lay, you automatically forfeit all your fast pass rights for a seat next to Hitler on the speed tram ride to the caverns of hell.

3) It reveals the hypocrisy of easy believism, Bible-belt Christians. The walk the aisle, sign a card, pray a simple prayer of the middle America religious Christian does not set well with people when push comes to shove. I would venture a guess and say all those people in Houston who lost their jobs after Enron shut down are a product of, and weekly supports of, Bible-belt, easy believism. A good portion of them attend the kind of church where Ken Lay was raised as a boy and probably attended himself now and then when he was still a big shot. If these swindled people can be saved by easy believism methods, have their spot reserved for heaven with their signatures on a prayer card, and live life as they please minus the financial fraud, why then can't Ken Lay have the same certainty with the financial fraud? He is named a religious hypocrite because he swindled a bunch of people out of their money and then names Jesus as his savior? Yet Bubba who works way down on the food chain at Enron is not a religious hypocrite when he imbibs Internet pornography and names Jesus as his savior when he is found out?

4) Unbelievers hate any idea of Grace. Again, I don't know the reality of Ken Lay's spiritual condition. A few Bible verses thrown out on TV while standing outside a court house does not qualify a person as being a Christian. However, let us suppose Ken Lay was a Christian - a genuine, regenerated, born again Christian whose life changed during this crisis moment. That means his sin against all those people has been covered over by Christ's merits and he will stand justified before God. Now, that does not excuse him from having to pay the human, legal consequences of breaking the law and wronging all those people, but as far as God is concerned he will be seated at the supper table of the lamb, while all his harshest critics who never defrauded a person in their lives are cast into outer darkness. That is grace. Ken Lay never deserved such forgiveness, but neither do all those critics.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool (Pt. 7)

Is Christianity cruel?

I wish to return to my critique of Christ-hating anarchist and blues guitar aficionado, Chaz Bufe and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. It has been a while since we paid Chaz a visit. I confess it is difficult to maintain freshness with a review particularly when the writer is blind to the philosophical problems of his own perspective. I for one become annoyed with having to repeat myself; but I am committed to follow through with a post on every one of Chaz's points, so let me trudge on.

With this post, Chaz complains Christianity is cruel. I will lay aside what I have already mentioned in previous critiques, that being how Chaz conveniently ignores the cruelty of secular anarchists in the past century as they attempted to establish their enlightened utopias free from the bondage of religious superstition. Apparently, Chaz doesn't think the slaughter of millions of individuals who stand in the way of such regimes like the former Soviet Union and our current day Red China and North Korea is a particularly cruel act.

Rather than quoting the entire point, allow me to hit on two examples Chaz raises when he accuses Christianity of being cruel: sexual repression and burning witches.

Let us begin with the first, Christians supposedly having repressive attitudes toward sex. Chaz lays out an extended citation from William Lecky to illustrate his charge of sexual repression on the part of Christians:

For about two centuries, the hideous maceration of the body was regarded as the highest proof of excellence. . . . The cleanliness of the body was regarded as a pollution of the soul, and the saints who were most admired had become one hideous mass of clotted filth. . . . But of all the evidences of the loathsome excesses to which this spirit was carried, the life of St. Simeon Stylites is probably the most remarkable. . . . He had bound a rope around him so that it became embedded in his flesh, which putrefied around it. A horrible stench, intolerable to the bystanders, exhaled from his body, and worms dropped from him whenever he moved, and they filled his bed. . . . For a whole year, we are told, St. Simeon stood upon one leg, the other being covered with hideous ulcers, while his biographer [St. Anthony] was commissioned to stand by his side, to pick up the worms that fell from his body, and to replace them in the sores, the saint saying to the worms, "Eat what God has given you." From every quarter pilgrims of every degree thronged to do him homage. A crowd of prelates followed him to the grave. A brilliant star is said to have shone miraculously over his pillar; the general voice of mankind pronounced him to be the highest model of a Christian saint; and several other anchorites [Christian hermits] imitated or emulated his penances.

There are three things to note with this citation:

First, this citation is from the book called History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe by 19th century atheist historian William Lecky. Lecky published a two volume puff piece under the guise of genuine history that exposed the backward, anti-rational superstition of the Christian faith and the triumphal victory of Enlightenment rationalism in the societies of Europe.

The problem is that Lecky is about as competent an historian on the history of the Church and religious philosophy as Michael Moore is a documentarian on the events of 9-11. Chaz's source is of dubious origins and it is further compounded with problems because he doesn't tell us where Lecky is getting his information about these two men.

Second, the section Chaz chose to quote is a biographical description on the lives of two mystic hermits, Simeon the Stylite (see picture) and Anthony of Egypt. Both men were monastic ascetics who cut themselves off from the world to live in the desert for the pursuit of deeper spirituality. Ascetic monastics represented (and still represent) an unbiblical extreme in Christian spirituality. The goal of the ascetic’s spiritual life is to pursue spirituality by utterly abandoning all the comforts life has to offer. Simeon, for example, took the idea of loving not the world to the point of building himself a house on a pillar and making it his home for 30 plus years. In his mind, he was loving not the world by physically removing himself from it. I, too, readily reject such absurd notions of Christianity. Jesus and the Apostles never taught this type of discipleship. This is just another fraudulent example of Chaz's dishonesty against what he is criticizing.

Third, what exactly does this section from Lecky's book have to do with sexual repression? There is no mention of sex in the entire citation.

Is Christianity really sexually repressive? Let's consider the facts, shall we.

Take for instance the Puritans. They are held up as the model of sexual repressiveness, right? But most people tend to ignore the fact that Puritans had large families of 8 plus children. That sounds like they are sexually liberated to me. A recent example is the Duggar family of Arkansas. Last year, the mother gave birth to the couple's 16th child. That is a couple that had sex at least 16 times. Who were the critics of this sexually free family? None other than single, free thinking secular progressives who basically want to have their cake and eat it too. Columnist Mark Morford wrote a bigoted piece decrying the Duggars as freakish dullards with too many babies to feed.

But Morford is a classic example of the so-called liberated free thinker. Let us be reminded of how Chaz considers himself a "free thinker." But remember, "free thinker" is really just a code word for sexual deviant: a pervert. When secular atheists boast that they are "free thinkers" they want you to believe they have opened minds and consider many areas of intellectual pursuits. This is a dishonest picture. In truth, the idea with the term "free thinker" is of a person longing to be free to have as much sex with whomever (or whatever) he or she desires with reckless abandon and impunity, and without fear of judgment from societal norms.

Those fuddy dudes, like Christian morality, which tells individuals to control their sexual impulses; teaches faithful, sexual commitment to one person of the opposite sex; and maintains a since of propriety with those restrictive age of consent laws, are frowned upon by "free thinkers" as being "dinosaurish" and unenlightened. Even more disdaining is the idea that sexual encounters will result in ... gasp ... the birth of children. The very thing Morford, and I am sure, Chaz, fears happening with sex starved religious folks. In reality, it is Chaz's view of sexual relationships that is repressive and I would add, warped. His view of sex is sexists in that Chaz just wants to use and reuse women for his own pleasures and it is ultimately self-destructive, because he doesn't want the responsibility of raising the next generation of Christ-hating anarchists. In short, Chaz is nothing but a adolescent minded playboy who refuses to grow up.

Next is his complaint that Christians are notorious witch hunters and worse, witch burners. I bet you all were wondering when we would be getting to the witches?

It is a common charge by feminist revisionists of world history that the Inquisition burned millions of ladies both young and old for being witches. The images of naked women being burned at the stake by the millions is a fantasy not only passed along by fringe feminists, but even affirmed by more reputable critics of religion like the late Carl Sagan in his book Demon Haunted World. I reckon he got bored with astronomy and thought he would try his hand in world history. The common figure cited by Sagan, along with other feminist historians, is that the church burned close to 5 million women as witches. I believe this is the number Dan Brown provides in his novel The Da Vinci Code.

Let's do the math.

5 million women over a period of 300 years?

Dividing 5 million (witches burned) by 300 (years of the Inquisition) by 365 (days in a year) we get roughly 46 women being burned at the stake a day.

There is no way this figure can be supported. It is utterly absurd. One point of commendation is that Chaz just mentions hundreds of thousands of women, which is more accurate. Historically, the number is closer to 30,000 witches burned over a course of 300 years. That number is still outrageous, but is it due in part to a superstitious Church? Not entirely. Philip Sampson, who has written an excellent little book called the 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization, points out how,

In fact, detailed studies have shown that the Inquisition, far from "stimulating the prosecutions," acted as a brake on lay courts and popular zeal. As the historian William Monter notes, "The mildness of Inquisitorial judgements on witchcraft contrasts strikingly with the severity of secular judges throughout northern Europe"; " most secular European legal systems punished their prisoners more severely than the Inquisition." In Southern Europe the execution rate was low, especially in Italy and Spain - precisely where the Inquisition was involved - because of the higher standards of proof that it demanded ... the Inquisition demanded evidence, investigated the truth of charges and was suspicious of fantastical confessions. Contrary to Carl Sagan's belief that the Inquisitors disregarded motives of jealousy or revenge in those who made accusations, they were in fact required to investigate such matters carefully. Thus, when Anastasia Soriana, presented herself before the tribunal at Murcia in 1584 and declared that she had had a carnal relationship with the devil. She was told to go home because she was suffering from delusions. She presented herself again at the tribunal at Toledo with the same story. Again she was sent home. Far from encouraging prosecutions the Supreme Council of the Inquisition protected women against charges of witchcraft.

Then Chaz winds up his claim of Christian cruelty by raising the spectre of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist crackpots as an example of sound minded, biblical Christianity. Amazing.

Once again, Chaz has demonstrated that he is clueless as to what he hates. He attacks cartoons, not Christians.

Next up: Is Christianity Anti-Intellectual?

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Welcome to Arizona: Where it is 143 degrees everyday

(But at least it is a dry heat)

My mother came to pay us a visit (really to spoil our children), so we thought that while she was here we would take a drive over to the Phoenix area and see my wife's side of the family for the fourth of July.
In order to make this trip, we had to rent a mini-van. One with air conditioning.

I had planned to leave around 2 pm on Friday afternoon. I wanted to get in as much driving time that I could during the daylight hours. It is a funny thing how my personal expectations are regularly dashed to the ground and shattered into pieces.

When my mother arrived a few days before our trip, we decided to do something that my wife and I had sworn we would never, ever do: get a portable DVD player for the car. We never had anything as cool as a DVD player when I was a kid on long trips. I had to suffer with starring out the window or engaging the family with conversation. Occasionally I would see how long I could keep my hand on my brother's side of the back seat before he noticed it and cried to my parents that I was on his side of the car. Besides, why should we get our boys in the habit of thinking they are going to watch a DVD everytime they get into the car? I mean, a DVD in the car is so anti-Reformed Christian and worldly. We could be spending the entire trip going over catechisms and Bible drills with the children rather than letting them watch Blue's Clues. We are such terrible, unengaged parents.

After much discussion about the pros and cons of DVD players, we decided we would secure one. Much of the decision fell to the fact my mom was willing to buy it. So, we headed off to Wal-mart to find one. Guess where they sell portable DVD players at Wal-mart? You would think the electronics section, right? Partially correct. The ones we needed for a car are found in the automotive department right across the aisle from the oil filters. That seems a tad reasonable. They are meant to go into the car. I figured if they were in intimate apparel, I would be scratching my head.

My mother wanted to get a dual screen player so the boys could both have there own. We picked up a cheapy model. It was not high-end, but at least it served its purpose. Once we got it home and unpacked it, to our dismay, it did not have the remote or the instructions. It must had been a return. My wife spends some time calling around to the Wal-marts in town, but this was the only one available that was not way over 200 dollars.

She then calls Target. "Kristin" the electronics girl says they have one similar to what we just got, but she can't hold it for us because it is against store policy, but it should be here for me the next day. After work, I hop by Target, stroll back to the electronics department and explain to "Danny" what "Kristin" had told my wife the night before. "Danny" looks high and low for this DVD player "Kristin" affirmed to us would "still be here the next day," but to no avail. I go home empty handed.

My mother, undeterred, wanted to immediately go back to Wal-mart and purchase a player way over 200 dollars. We go back, but when she gets to electronics, the one she wants is also gone. I reckon other families must think along the same lines as us when planning their weekend get-a-ways. Finally, we take a ride to Radio Shack and they have what we want. By this point, we are nearing 2 hours past the time I wanted to start - and we hadn't packed the mini-van yet.

After our DVD snipe hunt, with mini-van loaded and DVD player strapped to the seats, we head off to Phoenix around 5:45 pm. It was going to be a long, 6 hour trip across the desert.

Arizona Factoid: Phoenix was originally known as "Pumpkinville" because of the large quantity of pumpkins grown there. After a big fire, some rich guy said something about the area rising out the ashes like a Phoenix and the name stuck. I like the original name. I think it would be cool if one of America's major cities was called "Pumpkinville."

Even more grueling is the heat. As we were traveling through the Palm Springs area of California, it was 105 degrees at 9 pm! It was like that all the way to the out skirts of Phoenix where it cooled down from a stifling 105 to a balmy 98 at 12 midnight. I was not liking the feel of this. We pulled into our destination around 1:30 am.

Some friends allowed us to stay in their home while they were out camping near the Grand Canyon. It was a lovely house up in the new Anthem area north of Phoenix. They even had a media room with a digital projector and surround sound. Thomas the Tank engine had never looked better.

Sunday, we hooked up with my in-laws and made a 2 hour trip up to Sedona. This is a lovely place, known primarily for its red rock cliffs and giant mesas. It is also over ran with UFO cults and new age mystics. In fact, they were having a psychic convention while we were there.

Because Sedona is a tourist attraction of sorts, there are lots of shops, art galleries and road side flea market style places selling Native American art, crafts, and pottery imported straight from the Philippines (I kid you not). Knowing that lets the air out of the local charm, doesn't it?

Cactus Factoid: The Saguaro cactus, the one providing the popular image most folks have in mind when they think about cactus, takes 70 years before it flowers. That means the ones with arms are over 70 years old. The ones with more arms can be near 200 years old or more.

Later in the afternoon, we experienced a desert rain storm complete with thunder and lightning. The rain was excellent and a refresher from the 100 plus degree heat. My oldest son, however, is not fond at all of thunderstorms. It may because of a previous traumatic experience with thunderstorms.

I have to confess I was a tad disappointed that we didn't see any UFOs skimming around the mesas and buzzing up and down the canyons. I guess they don't fly those things in rain storms.

Tuesday was spent at the in-laws house enjoying a cook out. They have a large back yard of dirt, sand, pebbles and shurbs. Right in the middle of the back yard there is a play set with a plastic slide and some swings. My children, who are now experiencing childhood for the first time, quickly learned how the swing set surfaces can become blistering hot baking in the Arizona sun. My oldest boy came in with the back of his legs beet red and with a straight face told me the slide was hot and wanted me to cool it off. He had a hard lesson on the limits of a father's ability to control weather.

The heat didn't seem to deter him and his brother. They were thrilled to just be playing in a big backyard. We slathered them both with sunblocker and let them play. Of course they wanted daddy to come out and push them in the swings or dig a hole in the sand. Children don't seem to understand that it is undignified for a father to dig in the dirt; but I indulged their request none the less.

Overall, it was a good trip. Many folks are not necessarily fond of the desert, but it does have its own unique beauty - A beauty that is best enjoyed in an air conditioned vehicle.