Life is better without Facebook

I once thought that Facebook was a medium where friends could freely exchange ideas. Later I realized it’s not about exchanging ideas at all, but more about affirming feelings and reinforcing opinions. It seems most people prefer that now, anyway, which accounts for Facebook’s success. Now this. In the world of Generation Snowflake, where people are finally able to insist on their own version of reality and still be considered both mentally and morally sound, it shouldn’t be surprising that Facebook is part of it. Christians would do well to remember that Facebook is not a public forum, but a corporation. Its highest goal is to please its shareholders, not to serve truth. Its business is advertising, not ensuring the free exchange of ideas and allowing them to stand or fall on their own merit. It will not treat the biblical worldview fairly, but instead will draw Christians into accepting things contrary to the word of God. Just so you know.

Where Are the Men?

At Christian churches across the United States, it seems that there is a disproportionate number of men and women. I’m no advocate of affirmative action, but this long trend is disturbing. More recently, it struck me not as some failure on the part of the church, but as stations and posts that have been neglected, abandoned, or deserted.

Perhaps churches have a responsibility to serve men better than they have. But that’s not the whole story. The rest of the story, to borrow an appropriate phrase from Paul Harvey, is that Christian men have an equally great responsibility to man their stations. Not only do they have divinely-assigned tasks in the workforce, but also in the home and in the church. Those are the places where God has put them and given them a special, vital role. In some cases, men seem to be more interested in recreation than in any of these things, and in other cases, Christian men have forgotten one or more of these areas of responsibility.

Much has been said and written to criticize the biblically-defined roles of men and women under God’s moral law and the ordering of His Church. Much of this comes from the feminist tradition, especially since the sexual revolution. It seems less concerned about what’s good for men and women, and more concerned about erasing any notion that they are distinct from one another. Perhaps Christian men on the whole have bought into this. Whether or not they have, the fact remains that God has given them a distinct place in the Church, and in general they are going AWOL. Instead, churches are filled with women and children, with very few men. It’s little wonder that the children — especially boys — also drift away from the Church as they get older, since the men who ought to be guiding them are generally not there. It’s no wonder that some women would like to take the place given to men, when that place is mostly empty.

Take a lesson from Tolkien. In The Lord of the Rings, the Shire enjoyed centuries of peace and safety in an otherwise dangerous and hostile world because the Dunedain, the Rangers of the north, worked tirelessly and selflessly to protect its borders, while the men of Gondor stood bravely at their watch against the evil power growing in the east. If those men had not been so faithful and doughty, the Shire and much else that is good and fair would have perished long before the story began.

Or take a lesson from history. Time and time again, men both young and old answered the call from their comfortable homes to defend their loved ones against forces often greater in strength, and in circumstances both dark and grim. It was not a sense of ease or self-preservation that drew them, but love for their wives, their children, their neighbors, their homeland, and their way of life. Many even fought to preserve a place for their faith and the freedom to live by it all week long, raising their children and grandchildren to trust the Word of God. Some failed despite valiant effort, but knowing that the effort alone was worth the risk. Others succeeded, and many of us have enjoyed the benefits of their great efforts. Make no mistake: we are engaged in such a war. Though it may at times be less bloody, the stakes are higher and more lasting.

Or take a lesson from Holy Scripture. Ephesians 6:4: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” And Luke 12:35-36: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.” In too many churches and Christian homes, the lamps are dim. If they burn still, then all too often it is to the credit of faithful women who have taken up the fight not only for themselves, but in place of their missing husbands and fathers.

We men should pray that God would forgive our disregard for things that are more important than our own comfort and recreation, and help us to once again assume our places as guards and sentinels on the walls of Zion. Will you be a man or a child? We need to lead our families to church weekly, and especially in the seasons when the Church celebrates the person and work of Christ. We need to lead our churches in keeping their priorities straight and advancing the mission with which the Church has been entrusted. None should be more eager for prayer and repentance, or better examples of the same. None should be better students of God’s Word, or more motivated teachers in word and deed.

May God forgive our faint hearts and supply what we lack, that His church, our families, and houses may be blessed. Christ is our example, and His mercy is our reason.

Mozilla and Marriage

I was deeply disappointed with the response from Mozilla to pressure from the LGBT(ABCDEFG) activist community leading to the April, 2014 announcement of the Mozilla CEO resigning. The pressure was exerted by activists because the CEO, who had helped to lead Mozilla from its founding, had also contributed to the grassroots efforts in California to pass Proposition 8. This was an effort on the part of the people of California to enact a law defining the state’s involvement in marriage according to the so-called “traditional” concept of marriage. That is, the concept used for millennia throughout the world, that marriage is a permanent institution uniting a man and a woman, recognized by government because of its foundational role in the fabric of society and its well-documented and frequently-observed benefits in promoting a stable and morally-sound environment for raising children.

There have been other concepts of marriage through the ages, but none so well-rooted in the design of human gender, and so beneficial. The alternatives have produced greater strife and less stability, not to mention moral depravity.

So Proposition 8 was not a revolutionary proposition. It was reasonable and well-supported by the history of human civilization. Prior to 21st-Century America, nobody anywhere seriously conceived the institution of marriage including groupings of the same gender. It’s self-evidently contrary to nature, and nonsensical.

When the furor was fabricated against the Mozilla CEO, attempting to strong-arm the Mozilla organization into public support of the LGBT(ABCDEFG) agenda, it was my impression at the time that the organization caved, and I was deeply disappointed. I had been using Firefox as my browser of choice, and subsequently began to prefer alternatives.

It turns out that my impression was only partly right. Mozilla did issue a blog post in support of “LGBT Equality,” going as far as “including marriage equality for LGBT couples.” That is still deeply disappointing to me, because Mozilla’s existence and Manifesto are unrelated to the politics of immorality. This incursion is more than a distraction from the excellent purpose of Mozilla, it also turns Mozilla ever so slightly into an influence upon others in favor of that immorality, even if the organization never actively pursues it. Mozilla should retract that blog post and issue another saying that it takes no public position on such issues. Until that happens, I can’t wholeheartedly endorse Mozilla or its products to others, because it has taken a position on a moral issue that happens to be wrong. That’s not my personal judgment. It’s the clear judgment of the Bible, which I consider to be God’s Word.

Despite this corruption of Mozilla’s focus, it has not gone any further in support of such things, and has otherwise continued to advocate for the principles of its Manifesto. It has clarified the circumstances of the resignation of its CEO, making clear the fact that this was another coordinated ambush by a tiny minority group, attempting to coerce a well-known entity into showing support for a revolutionary immoral stance. It may be that the CEO’s resignation helped to limit the corruption of Mozilla’s mission.

So I will again recommend Firefox and related technology to others, because the free Internet has few advocates, and Mozilla is one of the strongest. My recommendation has the caveat: ignore the public statement by Mozilla about “marriage equality.” It was a coerced statement, and we can hope that like a coerced marriage vow, it doesn’t mean much. As for me, I will begin using Firefox again even as I keep an eye on Mozilla and all of the companies and organizations which I support through my use of their products.

The Value of Life

There is an exciting possibility at church this year. We’ve been talking about starting a school, and the best ways to do that from scratch. Now, there is a likelihood that we will be able to start with students and families who have been attending another Christian elementary school, as it transitions into our new classical Christian day school. That could be rolling as soon as September! Please pray for the congregation, students, and their families as we work toward that end.

In the midst of this flurry of activity, here is something worth posting, and hopefully worth reading. When I was in (public) Jr. High school, a group of students were involved in the “Great Books” program. I suppose it was a precursor to the current federal Common Core program, which seems to be pretty much the opposite of classical education. One of the discussions we had involved four people in a lifeboat at sea, with only enough supplies for three to survive. We were supposed to wrestle with the value of human life, and perhaps defend a distinction between the four different people in the boat.

A conversation in our kids’ school this morning (a classical school at home) centered upon the question, “What gives a person’s life objective value?” People seek to find value in their lives through things like health and appearance, in diet and exercise; through their education and jobs; through popularity; or in the simple fact that they are alive or that they are human; or that they were created by God. The former options are self-evidently shallow. The latter options sound better, but still fall short of the answer. There are many living things, and a reasonable person can see the difference in value between a tree or a fish and a human being. Moreover, all of those living things were created by God.

The answer is this. A person’s value is determined not by something in themselves, but by the most external thing possible: by the love of God, which is expressed emphatically in the incarnation and death of His only-begotten Son. When we say that Jesus Christ died for all people, to reconcile us to God, that sets the value of every human life as high as it could possibly be set, because God was willing to pay the greatest price for it. John 3:16 tells us the objective value of every single human life.

Scientific Jury Still Out on Hypothesis

The title of this post is something like a tautology in that no scientific hypothesis is considered the final word. Unless, that is, you are listening to certain people about the “theory” of evolution. It’s not a theory in the sense that it can be disproven (the classic sense), but in the sense that people use it as a model for trying to understand new evidence. So it’s more like a hypothesis, which means a claim (or “thesis”) that’s somewhat less (“hypo”) than fully developed. To hear some people, evolution is settled science. In reality, it’s just the best alternative they have found to biblical creation.

Along those lines, an article linked today on Drudge caught my eye. Though written from an evolutionary point of view, it’s rich for pointing out the weaknesses of that “theory.” If you read it, just keep in mind that the ages mentioned there don’t disprove the biblical timeline, because they are based on a number of assumptions, several of which may easily be wrong.

But one thing above all seems noteworthy in that article. It discusses several different species identified in this research, which are “theoretically” related to human beings (homo sapiens). It says,

Meanwhile, using improved methods, Dr. Paabo, Dr. Meyer and their colleagues assembled a rough draft of the entire Neanderthal genome in 2010.

That discovery shed light on how Neanderthals and humans’ ancestors split from a common ancestor hundreds of thousands of years ago. It also revealed that Neanderthals and humans interbred about 50,000 years ago.

My point is this. If Neanderthals and humans interbred at some point, then they are really the same “kind” of creature, as described in Genesis chapter 1. So not only are the ages applied to these discoveries wrong, but even the classification of creatures like Neanderthals as “non-human evolutionary relatives” must also be wrong. Rather than evolutionary relatives and ancestors of mankind, this research is identifying something more like a variety of races within the human family tree. That sounds biblical.

A Provocative and True Quote

Yes, it’s been a while. Those who know me well can verify that I usually talk when I have something to say. The same goes for blogging. What’s been going on? Well, a visit to the doctor this summer resulted in the very good advice that I should have a drink immediately before the first service Sunday morning. No, not that kind of drink. Something like Gatorade, preferably. Worked like a charm. No, charms don’t really work. It worked better than a charm.

We also had a family vacation in September, and I was happy to take another course at Front Sight. Looking forward to taking it again. They are challenging, and the best way to learn how to prepare for one is to take it first. You should be able to find prior posts here about Front Sight, if you’re interested.

Anyway, here’s the timeless quote. It’s worth a ponder. It’s attributed to Winston Churchill.

“If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”

So then, what is the “right” today? What’s worth fighting for, with or without bloodshed?

Infographic on the History and Effects of Homeschooling

I’m usually the last to hear about things like this, so if you’ve already seen it, feel free to disregard this post. But it’s just so interesting, and anyone who hasn’t seen it yet really should.

Keep in mind as you read this that not everyone is able to provide a homeschool education for their children, even if they would like to. I bet that similar positive statistics would support Lutheran parochial schools, especially the kind we’re interested in starting at Bethany in The Dalles. It’s certain that on balance, parochial schools do far better for each student, with less money, than public schools do. I say that as a Head Start through 12th-grade product of the public school system, and as a home-schooling dad. The effort required to homeschool or to send your children to a good-quality parochial school is most certainly worthwhile.

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

Brief Review of “Hey Mom, What About Dinosaurs?”

I received this book from a source that I have since forgotten, and must apologize if someone passed it to me. The good news is that I finally read it. The author is Russell Husted, described on the cover as a university researcher and former teacher of evolutionary science. “He decided to test the original Hebrew Scriptures, treating the creation account as if [it] was a scientific theory. What he discovered revolutionized his faith (and his scientific thinking).”

Husted certainly learned some Hebrew, and translated from the original text of Genesis. He also used linguistic tools available for correlating the usage of Hebrew words in Genesis to their usage elsewhere in the Old Testament. His endeavor was intriguing from the start.

I had hoped that Husted would examine existing scientific evidence in light of the biblical text, allowing the natural meaning of Scripture to guide him, but was disappointed to find that this was not his method. Instead, he has strategically chosen from the possible meanings for the Hebrew words of the creation account, and has made certain hypotheses about the implications of those meanings, so that the account would mirror the hypothetical sequence of events posited by naturalistic science that has supposedly brought about the universe and the world we know today. In other words, the accepted sequence hypothesized by naturalistic science takes a somewhat higher priority for Husted than the natural meaning of the biblical creation account.

To be fair, Husted makes some interesting points about the meaning of certain vocabulary in the creation account, especially in view of the prevalent understanding of that vocabulary among English speakers. For example, where the NKJV in Genesis 1:11 uses the word “grass,” following the Authorized Version (KJV), Husted points out that a more precise rendering might refer instead to the microscopic flora much more prevalent across the face of the earth than what we usually call “grass.” In similar ways, he reconsiders what the most precise rendering would be for each item created, given the present-day conceptual model of the world around us. Some of his suggestions seem to have merit.

However, Husted’s agenda is to demonstrate to evolutionists that the biblical account of creation is not as far as they thought from their own beliefs. Coming from the other side of that conversation, I think that the Bible ought to be the starting point for Christians, rather than naturalistic theory.

While Husted’s work is appreciated, he also demonstrates that he is not an expert linguist, at least in biblical Hebrew. For example, much of his later reasoning depends heavily upon a distinction between the Hebrew word Adam (meaning the ground, and later the name of Adam) and the Hebrew word ha-adam. He supposes that this shows a distinction on God’s part between a sub-human creature like the Neanderthals, and the humanity of Adam and Eve. But really, the only difference between them is that the latter word has the Hebrew definite article attached to it, as in “man” vs.\ “the man.” I am not an expert Hebrew linguist either, but I know a definite article when I see one, even in transliteration (latin characters).

The reasoning of Husted’s presentation becomes quite forced toward the end, when he suggests that the description of Eve’s creation really means something quite different from the natural meaning of the text. Perhaps the meanings he attributes to the Hebrew words can be justified from Hebrew dictionaries, which simply list words without context, but multiple layers of context here point the reader toward the traditional understanding of Eve’s creation. Besides the context in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we also must consider that readers of Hebrew much closer to the time it was written have agreed with the traditional understanding. The Hebrew words date to about 1450 BC, and may have been translated by Moses (with divine guidance) from an earlier language. For the Bible to have the authority it does, we must maintain that it was inspired and preserved by God so as to present clearly what He wishes us to know.

While I don’t question Husted’s sincerity as a Christian, it seems that his desire to make the biblical creation account palatable to his evolutionist colleagues has introduced a naturalistic presupposition that undermines the authority of divine revelation. If we can accept that God created all things, including Eve, with a power we would consider to be miraculous, then the only reason to conceive of such a convoluted alternative explanation for her creation is to align the Bible with naturalistic science, which denies the possibility of miracles as a basic premise. It may be an entertaining exercise, but the Bible is divine revelation about our origin, identity, and salvation. It’s dangerous to entertain the possibility of a higher authority, and much more dangerous to accept one.

As a result, I can’t recommend Husted’s book for Christians who are drawn to the question in the title: “Hey Mom, What about Dinosaurs?” It may be appropriate for exegetical and scientific discussion, but not for general consumption.

A Christian Living under Authority

My how time flies! We have projects at church, projects at home, and the continuing cycle of obligations like Synod Convention, which meets next week. As I wrap up preparations to fly out later today, I was musing a bit about the nature of law and the country we know as the United States of America.

For quite a while, I’ve been learning about the distinction between common law (or natural law) and the kind of law enacted by the fiat of a legislature or ruler. This distinction has come into sharper focus thanks to Richard Maybury’s books, like Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and Whatever Happened to Justice?. I was provided with a collection of these books by members at one of my congregations, and have found them fascinatingly informative.

What I realized today is a corollary of the special uniqueness of the United States. It was founded upon the principles of individual liberty and limited government that proceed from common law as discovered over time in English history. (Not only English history, but that’s what affected the American colonies.) Every other nation was under a different kind of law, even if the particular laws were somehow voted into existence. Maybury calls the other kind “Roman” law, which is what practically everyone knows today. Common law is all but forgotten.

It was this basis in common law that produced the peculiar character of the Declaration of Independence, which was further enfleshed in the Constitution with its Bill of Rights. If someone were to ask, “What’s a Lutheran?” the best answer would be based upon the basic principles of Lutheranism, found in the 1580 Book of Concord. If someone were to ask, “What’s American?” the best answer would be based upon the basic principles of the United States of America, found in the Declaration and the Constitution. That’s common law.

Now, the corollary I mentioned comes from the peculiar identification of the American people as that which is sovereign in the United States. In other political systems, the monarch may be sovereign, or the legislature, or the judiciary, or some combination of them. In the United States, by definition, it is the people which are sovereign, so that the government (i.e. the executive, legslative, judiciary, or even the new bureaucratic arm) is not to be identified with the nation, and those who are in positions of government must always answer to the people.

The question often arises in the minds of Christians, “What if my government tries to force me to contradict my faith?” The answer is obvious when the contradiction is clear. But sometimes it is not. The corollary recognizes that the answer is different in a country constituted upon common law, in which the people are sovereign, than it would be in a country constituted upon fiat, “Roman” law.

If we consider the Constitution to be binding still, and that it still presents the principles of the Declaration, then an American Christian’s earthly obedience is not ultimately due to any part of the Federal or State government, nor even the government as a whole. Our Christian obedience is due to the people, according to the common law principles of the Constitution. Yes, we must still honor the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, but only insofar as they carry out the will of the true sovereignty in the United States, which is in the people.

But here’s the rub. The duty of an American to the people of the United States is actually weightier than the duty of the subject of a monarch. Yes, we are free people, but as the saying goes, “freedom is not free.” It’s encumbent upon every American, and owed to the sovereign power of the country (the people) to maintain the liberty in which the country was founded. Inasmuch as we have allowed encroachment to take place upon our liberty under the Constitution, we have been derelict in our duty as Americans, and have failed to perform the sacred duty that God has given to Christians toward our sovereign ruler.

Chew on that for a while. I intend to.

Commentary on Doctrine and Life