Mere Links 06.24.14
Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 10:00 AM

No, Pope Francis did not officially excommunicate the mafia
Brandon Ambrosino, Vox

By now, the news is everywhere: the Pope has declared the mafia excommunicated from the Catholic Church: “Those who in their life have gone along the evil ways, as in the case of the mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated,” he said on Saturday in the Italian city of Calabria. But did Francis really excommunicate the entire mafia from the Catholic Church?

Freezing Tiny Human Beings
Arland K. Nichols, Crisis Magazine

The most obvious offense to their human rights is that the process of freezing and thawing the embryos leads to the death of many.

Anyone Can Speak in Tongues
Emma Green, The Atlantic

The rise of water baptisms and encounters with the Holy Spirit in the Assemblies of God.

A Christian Convert, on the Run in Afghanistan
Azaim Ahmed, New York Times

In official eyes here, there are no Afghan Christians. The few Afghans who practice the faith do so in private for fear of persecution, attending one of a handful of underground churches that are believed to be operating in the country. Expatriates use chapels on embassy grounds, but those are effectively inaccessible to Afghans.



An Historic Day in Washington, D.C.
Monday, June 23, 2014, 10:20 AM

When I lived in Washington, D.C., one of the first places that I would take visitors and family to visit was the National Cathedral.  Officially, the Episcopal National Cathedral is called The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington.  It is architecturally beautiful, and I consider the cathedral to be a sermon in stone to the glory of God.  The cathedral has long been a place of importance in American history.  I remember it best for the first part of former President Reagan’s funeral in June 2004, and for the worship service held on the Friday morning after the September 11, 2001, attacks when the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham comforted our nation.

In a curious way, the Cathedral made history again this past Sunday.  The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, was the first openly transgender priest to preach from the Canterbury Pulpit at the cathedral.  The Rev. Dr. Partridge is also lecturer and counselor to Episcopal/Anglican students at Harvard Divinity School.  The Right Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop, presided at this service.  The service was part of the cathedral’s celebration of LGBTQ pride month.  The service included readings and prayers from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.  The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the cathedral, said that he hoped that Rev. Dr. Partridge’s participation would “send a symbolic message in support of greater equality for the transgender community.”  And for that symbolism, I am sure that the Very Rev. Hall is correct.

Many of my readers know that the Bible is not supportive of transgender priests.  A number of Holy Scriptures find “an abomination” for those who attempt to transform their masculinity into femininity.  (See, e.g., Deuteronomy 23:18.)  St. Paul, in I Corinthians 6:9, includes a group called “malakoi” or “soft men” in his list of those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Of course, effeminate or soft men are not solely homosexual, and I have observed that some lesbians seek to appear overtly masculine.  But during Sunday’s services at the cathedral, those present prayed the following:

Gracious God, have mercy on us.  We confess that we have turned from you and given ourselves into the power of sin.  We are truly sorry and humbly repent.  In your compassion forgive us our sins, known and unknown, things we have done and things we have failed to do.  Turn us again to you, and uphold us by your Spirit, so that we may live and serve you in newness of life through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

That is a profound confession for all of us, including those in attendance on Sunday morning, and we continue to pray and work for our national repentance.  If you wish to watch Father Partridge’s sermon, you can watch here.



Mere Links 06.23.14
Monday, June 23, 2014, 10:00 AM

Could the Persecuted Church Rescue American Christianity?
Russell D. Moore, OnFaith

Christianity in this country is big, powerful, and familiar. We need it to become strange again.

Presbyterians Vote to Allow Same-Sex Marriages
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted at its General Assembly on Thursday to change its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” and to allow its ministers to perform same-sex marriages where it is legal.

Kerry Asks Sudan to ‘Respect’ Condemned Mom’s Religious Freedom
Melissa Quinn, The Daily Signal

A day after Christian groups rallied outside the White House seeking presidential action on behalf of a mother condemned to hang in Sudan because of her Christian faith, Secretary of State John Kerry posted a statement of “concern” about her persecution.

Pope Condemns Legalization of Recreational Drugs
Associated Press

Pope Francis condemned the legalization of recreational drugs as a flawed and failed experiment as he lent his voice Friday to a debate that is raging from the United States to Uruguay.



Mere Links 06.20.14
Friday, June 20, 2014, 10:00 AM

Resurrection in the Old Testament?
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

When we search for Old Testament evidence that ‘Christ must rise,’ we should be prepared to look at the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens used by the New Testament writers.

Polygamy and Human Dignity
Carson Holloway, Public Discourse

The normalization of polygamy would undermine our commitment to human dignity—our sense that each human being is to be valued as an end in him- or herself, and not merely as a means to others’ ends.

Prayer as a Political Problem: A Classic Reconsidered
Regis Martin, Crisis Magazine

What will make the existence of a Christian people possible in the civilization of tomorrow? The religious problem is a mass problem. It is not at all the problem of an elite.

When the Pursuit of Justice Isn’t
Jared C. Wilson, The Gospel Coalition

We keep hearing from confessing Christians the appeal to biblical justice in the question of marriage equality and the like. I think beneath the fundamental redefinition of marriage to something both foreign to and against the Scriptures is the fundamental redefinition of justice, as well.



Mere Links 06.19.14
Thursday, June 19, 2014, 10:00 AM

Know Your Enemy
Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine

If human beings were utility machines, acting by a calculus of moral duty regardless of passion, memory, the body, and all that they see that cannot be reduced to a calculus, then debates might be simple affairs.

The War on Christians
Paul Marshall, The Weekly Standard

From Africa, to Asia, to the Middle East, they’re the world’s most persecuted religious group.

On the Southern Baptist agenda: Get the evangelizers evangelizing
Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post

From Billy Graham’s roadside tent revivals to Jerry Falwell’s TV ministries to Rick Warren’s 20,000-member megachurch, Southern Baptists dominate the evangelical brand in America.

Jesus Came Preaching
Timothy George, First Things

t the heart of the Christian faith is a Savior who was a preacher. “And Jesus came preaching” (Mark 1:14). This stands in contrast to the gods of Olympus or the deities of the Roman pantheon whose interaction with mortals, when it happened at all, was transient, ephemeral, detached, like a circle touching a tangent. Zeus thundered, but he did not preach



Mere Links 06.18.14
Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 10:00 AM

Anti-Catholicism: The Defining Religious Principle of Early America?
Thomas Kidd , The Anxious Bench

There’s nothing like war to fuel prejudice of all kinds, and the imperial conflicts of the first six decades of the eighteenth century fostered a particularly intense anti-Catholicism among many Americans.

Is Gay Marriage Destroying the United Methodist Church?
Timothy C. Morgan, Christianity Today

Progressives violate ban on same-sex unions, sparking fresh talk of schism.

Science and the Embryo
Christopher O. Tollefsen, Public Discourse

Senator Rubio was on solid ground in saying science has settled the question of when a human being’s life begins. Science does not need to wait on philosophy’s pronouncements to investigate what the human embryo is and when its life begins.

Undercover Investigation Exposes Planned Parenthood’s Controversial Sex Ed Advice
Monica Sanchez, The Daily Signal

Planned Parenthood, which is receiving taxpayer funding under Obamacare for teen sex education, is the subject of a new undercover investigation that exposes its counselors providing graphic sexual advice to minors.



Mere Links 06.17.14
Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 10:00 AM

Family-First Conservatism: A Tentative Manifesto
Joe Carter, Canon & Culture

My political philosophy could be called “family-first conservatism” for I believe in our current period within Western history, the institution of the family should be given pride of place in decisions about public policy and the creation of social norms.

Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy
Michael Paulson, New York Times

In a collision between religious freedom and antidiscrimination policies, the student group, and its advisers, have refused to agree to the college’s demand that any student, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, should be able to run for election as a leader of any group, including the Christian association.

Four Defining Characteristics of Biblical Flourishing
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

How do you live the good life? How do you really, truly flourish? What’s more, how do we as Christians navigate the clash of cultural visions concerning “the good life” and what it means to flourish?

What Jesus Said About Divorce
Daniel Thimons, Crisis Magazine

The Church is called during this time in preparation for the Synod, to reflect ever more deeply on the teaching of Jesus Christ with regard to marriage, a teaching that is full of mercy: hoping, forgiving, and loving to the end.



Mere Links 06.16.14
Monday, June 16, 2014, 10:00 AM

Was The Resurrection Necessary?
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

Is it possible to determine the source of this active idiom? In other words, can we identify what kind of setting prompted Christians to proclaim, ‘Jesus rose’ or ‘ Christ is risen,’ instead of ‘Jesus was raised’

The Future of Christianity in America
Joe Carter, Aleteia

The case for what might seem like an unusual spiritual indicator.

Baptizing the Dora Generation: Why Preschooler Faith Is So Controversial
Kevin P. Emmert, Christianity Today

Southern Baptist leaders would rather ‘the only consistently growing group in baptisms’ be shrinking.

Experimenting on the Lambs
Tony Woodlief , Image

News from Alabama is that researchers obscured risks of blindness, brain damage, and death in order to convince parents of 1,300 premature infants to participate in a medical study.



Could Common Core Fix the Scientific Ignorance of Americans?
Friday, June 13, 2014, 2:48 PM

As recently reported on Mere Comments, a new Gallup poll shows that many Americans still believe in God’s involvement in the creation of mankind.  The largest proportion of Americans, 42 percent, believe that God created human beings in their present form.  Additionally, 31 percent believe mankind evolved, but with God guiding the process.  Finally, 19 percent believe that man evolved without any involvement by God.  The Gallup survey results are available here: http://www.gallup.com/poll/170822/believe-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx.  Interestingly, despite many decades of “education” regarding evolutionary theory in government schools, the proportion of Americans subscribing to a creationist worldview that God made humans in their present form has never dropped below 40 percent since the question was first asked in 1982.

Non-theistic evolutionary theory has, of course, a myriad of problems.  There is the obvious irrationality that a pool of contaminated water struck by lightning is the source of all present life, after having replicated trillions and trillions of times successfully.  Fred Hoyle, the late English astronomer and atheist, famously observed regarding the likelihood of evolution of cellular life, “It would be easier for a tornado to go through a junkyard and create a 747.″  Moreover, if evolutionary theory were true, we would have expected to find by now millions of fossils of “transitional forms.”  For example, if birds evolved from reptiles or dinosaurs, as is often speculated, we could expect to find fossils showing various forms of stunted wings covered in scales.  But numerous evolutionary paleontologists have observed that no fossil has ever been found that can be identified as a transitional form.

What is to be done by this so-called scientific ignorance of so many Americans?  This is particularly important as the new Common Core educational standards have not issued their “science” standards, even though the Common Core standards will be first tested on the College Board Scholastic Aptitude Test in 2016.  (I suspect that issuance of new Common Core science standards may not be well received by the general public, and their release is awaiting a very slow news day.)  However, at the very least, we can reasonably anticipate that the new Common Core science standards will begin teaching evolutionary theory in the earliest school grades, as compared with the high school years now.  Alison Kopnik, writing recently in the Wall Street Journal, observed:

A new study in Psychological Science by Deborah Kelemen of Boston University and colleagues helps to explain why evolution is hard to grasp.  It also suggests that we should teach children the theory of natural selection while they are still in kindergarten instead of waiting, as we do now, until they are teenagers. . . Even babies understand that human actions are that preschoolers begin to apply this kind of design thinking more generally, an attitude she calls “promiscuous teleology.”  By elementary-school age, children start to invoke an ultimate God- like designer to explain the complexity of the world around them—even children brought up as atheists.  Kids aged 6 to 10 have developed their own coherent “folk biological” theories.  Dr. Kelemen and her colleagues thought that they might be able to get young children to understand the mechanism of natural selection before the alternative intentional-design theory had become too entrenched.  They gave 5- to 8-year-olds 10-page picture books that illustrated an example of natural selection. The “pilosas,” for example, are fictional mammals who eat insects.  Some of them had thick trunks, and some had thin ones.  A sudden change in the climate drove the insects into narrow underground tunnels.  The thin-trunked pilosas could still eat the insects, but the ones with thick trunks died.  So the next generation all had thin trunks. . . .  One picture book, of course, won’t solve all the problems of science education.  But these results do suggest that simple story books like these could be powerful intellectual tools.  The secret may be to reach children with the right theory before the wrong one is too firmly in place.

Emphasis added.

So we see that children intuitively perceive life as reflecting “intentional design.”  So the answer, according to the learned evolutionists, is to catch them very early and “train” them to understand things from a Darwinian perspective.  Of course, the example of the pilosas is fictional, which is, in and of itself, quite telling.  Moreover, the extrapolation from such a trivial example into the origin of all species and all biological complexity by unguided natural processes is dishonest, and particularly so, in a children’s book.  Personally, I am skeptical about the origin of all species through evolution.  In my thinking, it takes far more faith to believe in an ex nihilo creation that does not involve God than to believe in God’s direct involvement with Creation.  In fact, according to Professor Hoyle’s analysis, he estimated the probability of cellular life evolving to be one-in-1040,000.  He also observed, “Life as we know it, is, among other things, dependent on at least 2,000 different enzymes.  How could the blind forces of the primal sea manage to put together the correct chemical elements to build enzymes?”  An excellent question, I think.  In the Holy Gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of the reality of God’s direct involvement in Creation and the creation of mankind.  Well, He would know, wouldn’t He?



Mere Links 06.13.14
Friday, June 13, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Dying and Rising of Jesus
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

Whereas early Apostolic testimony, the letters of St. Paul, and the Synoptic sources normally speak of Christ’s Resurrection as the act of the Father, the event itself—the noun—is invariably the Resurrection of Christ.

9 Things You Should Know About Surrogacy
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Last week, the issue of surrogacy returned to the news when Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation allowing for legal surrogacy births. Here are nine things you should know about surrogacy.

An honest assessment of the Southern Baptist Convention
Jacob Lupfer, Religion News Service

SBC leaders are pleased that the convention is having a robust debate about the doctrines of salvation and not, like many other Protestant bodies, about same-sex marriage and LGBT issues.

A Lethal Legacy: Hurricane Katrina and the Indignity of Euthanasia
Christopher White, Public Discourse

A new book tells the harrowing story of Memorial Medical Center, where some physicians took the lives of their patients during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Marriage Takes a Beating
Kenneth D. Whitehead, Crisis Magazine

Traditional marriage has been taking quite a beating ever since the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Windsor case handed down in June 2013, ruled that same-sex unions must be considered true marriages wherever they have been legally enacted as such, whether by legislative action, court action, or referendum.


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