Mere Links 04.03.14
Thursday, April 3, 2014, 10:00 AM

Understanding the Apostle Paul
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

God seems to have chosen the Apostle Paul to demonstrate—arguably more than any other person in Christian history—how the life “in Christ” arrives at insight through experience.

Bishops seek immigration reform during border trip
Associated Press

Less than a week after President Barack Obama discussed immigration reform in a meeting with Pope Francis, a delegation of Roman Catholic leaders is visiting the U.S-Mexico border Tuesday to raise awareness about the plight of immigrants and to pray for policy changes.

No-frills canonization for Popes JPII, John XXIII
Associated Press

The low-frills style of Pope Francis is having an effect on the upcoming canonizations of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII.

Selective News Coverage of Islamic Violence
William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine

According to Reporters Without Borders, the U.S. has dropped to 46th place in press freedom. The lowered ranking was based on the conviction of the WikiLeaks informant, the effort to punish NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and the Justice Department’s monitoring of reporters.

Mere Links 04.02.14
Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 9:19 AM

Jesus and the Psalms
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

The prayer of Christ is inseparable from the being of Christ. In the mind of Christ the eternal reciprocity between the Father and the Son assumes the contour and quality of human consciousness; it transfigures the mind, the will, the memory, the imagination, and the freedom of Jesus.

Why We Need More Canon Lawyers
Randall B. Smith, Crisis Magazine

We’ve all known administrators who were hired to do a certain job, but when they found they couldn’t do that job, they either tried to do everyone else’s job or else tried to change the job into something else completely.

The Fault Lines Before the Evangelical Earthquake
Trevin Was, The Gospel Coalition

The recent controversy surrounding World Vision USA’s decision to open employment to same-sex couples and the organization’s subsequent reversal reveals the fault lines in evangelicalism today.

Evangelicals Opposed Abortion Much Earlier Than You Think
Dale M. Coulter, First Things

More and more writers are confidently asserting that Evangelicals were once pro-choice, but under the influence of Religious-Right organizations like Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority became prolife.

A Bad Week for Planned Parenthood
Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 9:16 AM

On these pages over the past several years, I have written about the on-going misfortune of Planned Parenthood (“PP”).  Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Obama was the first sitting president to address PP’s gala celebration (what could they possibly be celebrating?), it still had a rough week.  It started last week in Kansas when a federal appeals court ruled that the state does not have to keep funding two abortion mills.  Kansas enacted legislation that required its portion of federal family planning funds go to public health departments and hospitals, and not pay for abortions.  As a result, in 2011, PP of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a lawsuit challenging the requirement preventing PP from receiving federal family planning funds.  In its lawsuit, PP said that the budget provision would result in a $330,000 funding loss, and the likely closure of PP’s abortion mill in Hays, Kansas.  Incidentally, PP received $542,000,000 in taxpayer dollars during 2012, which is equal to $61,836 per hour, 24 hours a day for 365 days.  (For more information on PP, please see Joe Carter’s “9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood,” available here.)

Then this past Monday, a federal court refused to place a hold on Arizona’s new law that requires abortion-inducing drugs to be dispensed according to federal Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) protocols and the instructions on the label.  (Does that law seem so onerous?  Imagine that physicians should follow FDA guidelines for medications!)  Again, PP sought to block this law that would limit the use of abortion-inducing drugs.  As a result of the court’s ruling, the regulations went into effect yesterday.  Practically, this means that the FDA- approved RU-486, the abortion pill, can only be used within seven weeks of gestation.  Doctors who have prescribed it later than seven weeks have made an “off-label use,” which is not allowed under Arizona’s new law.  David Brown, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that he was disappointed with the court’s ruling.  With no apparent irony, Mr. Brown noted, “This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier, and less effective method [of surgical abortion].”  And to think we were told repeatedly that abortions were safer than childbirth.

Third, also this past Monday, a federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama, denied PP’s request to rule immediately in its favor in a legal challenge to the state’s law against the so-called “cut-and-run” abortionists.  Alabama enacted a new law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.  PP objected to the new law, noting that enactment of the law would end abortions at three-fifths of Alabama’s “reproductive health centers.”  Attorneys for Alabama argued that the law was necessary to guarantee patient continuity of care, and that there have been numerous documented serious complications and deaths to the mothers from botched abortions.  Instead, the judge ordered the case to trial to examine the constitutionality of an abortion restriction passed by the Alabama legislature in 2013.

Steven H. Aden, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said the following in response to the multiple legal setbacks for PP:

Planned Parenthood’s efforts to put their profits ahead of the safety of women and children continue to fail.  From Arizona to Alabama to Kansas, America’s largest abortion seller has not succeeded so far in its opposition to common-sense laws that put women’s health and well-being ahead of Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.

I agree; every defeat for Planned Parenthood is a victory for women and for their unborn children. Lord, have mercy!

Mere Links 04.01.14
Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 10:00 AM

Disaster & Disillusion: History Without The Messiah
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

After so much historical disappointment, who could blame the Jews for abandoning their interest in history? After centuries of interpreting the events of history, sheer disappointment forced the Jews finally to abandon the effort.

Here Comes Everybody
Robert P. George, First Things

[S]ometimes, one notices the little things that make it great to be Catholic. Like diversity. Diversity? I know what you’re thinking: “My goodness, Robby really has been hitting the sauce. He’s not usually the sort who goes for this p. c. diversity business.” But, no, I mean it. Diversity.

An Anxious Author: Hope and the Spirit of Joseph Bottum
Greg Forster, Public Discourse

Why bother with American culture? Bottum recommends despair.

How Well Should Pastors Be Paid?
R.C. Sproul, Jr. , Ligonier Ministries

So what’s the bottom line? I’d encourage a church to aspire to these goals, in this order. First, give freely and joyfully. The pastor is not spending the church’s money when he is paid.

Mere Links 03.31.14
Monday, March 31, 2014, 10:00 AM

Court Panel Upholds Texas Law on Abortion
Erick Eckholm, New York Times

A federal appeals panel on Thursday upheld a Texas law that has forced several abortion clinics in the state to shut down, saying the law did not pose an “undue burden” on women’s rights.

For Religious Liberty, Desperate Times; Faithful Measures
Matthew Cochran, The Federalist

As a Christian, I am used to speaking about faith in a very specific sense—a trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ through which we receive God’s promises. Though this is not primarily an activity of the intellect, faith manifests itself in the intellect inasmuch as a person possesses one.

The Christian Penumbra
Ross Douthat, New York Times

n the Christian penumbra, certain religious expectations could endure (a bias toward early marriage, for instance) without support networks for people struggling to live up to them.

The Repristinator: A Review of Noah
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Ignore the controversy—this movie simply isn’t worthy of the heated debate that has grown up around it.

Just Another Day in Lahore, Pakistan
Monday, March 31, 2014, 9:20 AM

The New York Times reported late last week that a court in Lahore, Pakistan, found a Christian sanitation worker, Sawan Masih, 35, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death.  This case began in March 2013, when during an argument with a Moslem “friend,” Mr. Masih was alleged to have insulted Mohammed, which, under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law 295(c), is a capital crime.  The New York Times, the newspaper of record, intoned that “it has often taken little more than the rumors of insults to Islam to incite lynchings and other violence.”  As if on cue, following the mere accusation against Mr. Masih, enraged mobs swept through the Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood in the city of Lahore, setting more than 170 houses and two churches on fire.  The riots caused great panic and fear among the city’s Christians, most of whom are desperately poor and do menial labor.  Hundreds of Christians fled the area.

A lawyer for Mr. Masih said that he would appeal the case to the Lahore High Court.  In a statement following the verdict, Mr. Masih insisted that he had been falsely charged as part of a plot by businessmen to use blasphemy allegations to drive Christians from the land in Joseph Colony so that it could be seized for industrial use.  “They hatched a conspiracy to push out the residents of the colony,” the statement said. “They contrived a case and got it filed by a person who was close to me.  I am innocent.”  Such things have happened all too often.  Human rights groups have long observed how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores and to persecute religious minorities.  Sadly, many accused never go to trial, but are killed by vigilantes instead.  The vigilantes are almost never arrested, and if arrested, are never prosecuted.  As I have written on these pages, in 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the provincial governor of Punjab, was killed by one of his body guards after campaigning to have the blasphemy laws repealed.  Two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian cabinet member, who also criticized the blasphemy laws, was assassinated in Islamabad.

I don’t know about you, but I have a gnawing sense that many politicians are lying to me when they say that Islam is a “Religion of Peace.”  We are told that we cannot blame an entire religion for the actions of a few.  (Have you ever wondered why that same rule doesn’t apply to gun owners?)  As I am getting ready to send in another regular annual contribution to our Internal Revenue Service, I am disgusted about how billions of dollars of U.S.-taxpayer “aid” are sent annually to Pakistan and other Islamic countries that persecute Christians.  Regular readers of Touchstone and Mere Comments know that almost every day we read stories of Moslem men killing their sisters, wives, and daughters for the sake of their family’s “honor.”  We hear of Moslems rioting, as in this case, over some unproven offense; of Moslems murdering Christian and Jews (and frankly, plenty of other Moslems) because they aren’t “believers,” or are not “believers enough.”  We hear of Moslems burning schools for girls, and stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery.”  We hear of Moslems regularly performing female genital mutilation.  And all of this is done because the Koran and Sharia laws say that it must be done this way.  Let’s see whether Messrs. Obama and Kerry will say anything about the injustice against Mr. Masih.  But somehow I doubt it.  I was even surprised that it was reported in the New York Times.  At least, that is one man’s view.  Please pray for Mr. Masih and his lawyers as he now sits on death row.

Preview: The May/June 2014 Issue of Touchstone
Friday, March 28, 2014, 11:12 AM

Mere Links 03.28.14
Friday, March 28, 2014, 10:00 AM

God Used Me to Stop a School Shooter
Interview by Caryn Rivadeneira, Christianity Today

Antoinette Tuff, the steady voice who famously talked down an armed intruder, speaks out about her faith.

Rebuilding Catholic Society
James Kalb, Crisis Magazine

The Church is not part of the State. Nor is she simply a part of civil society set up by her members to advance their public and private goals. She is an independent society established by God to be a light to the world. As such, she has her own principles of existence, authority, and action.

Searching for Clarity in Vocational Discernment
Fr. Bryce Sibley, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

The call of the Lord usually comes to us in a more subtle and indirect manner … left up to us, with the assistance of divine grace, to discern whether we are being called to the priesthood or consecrated life.

9 Things You Should Know about the Story of Noah
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Darren’s Aronofksy’s new film Noah, which opens in theaters today has been criticized for not being faithful to the biblical narrative. But how much of the story do most people remember? Here are nine things you should know about the story of Noah.

Mere Links 03.27.14
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 10:00 AM

World Vision Reverses Decision To Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages
Celeste Gracey and Jeremy Weber, Christianity Today

President Richard Stearns: ‘Certain beliefs are so core to our Trinitarian faith that we must take a strong stand on those beliefs.’

The Benedict Option: What Does It Really Mean?
R. Jared Staudt, Crisis Magazine

The Benedict Option—what does it really mean? In my mind, it is quite simple: taking St. Benedict and his Rule as a model for the Christian life within the context of our culture.

Hopes high for Obama meeting with Pope Francis at Vatican
Meredith Somers, Washington Times

Gay marriage. Abortion. Stem cell research. There’s plenty for President Obama and Pope Francis to discuss when they meet Thursday at the Vatican.

Why Catholics Love Evolution and the Big Bang
Daniel McInerny, Aletia

FOX’s reboot of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series may not be everything we would like it to be, but not for the reason you might think.

World Vision US Causes a Mild Ruckus
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 9:37 AM

Several days ago, the US-arm of World Vision, the international Christian relief agency, announced that it would hire employees in homosexual “marriages.”  Prior to this change in policy, World Vision had an employee policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees, and faithfulness within the biblical covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.  Following the announcement by World Vision, as you can readily imagine, many Christian leaders and lay persons, and churches, responded with shock and great dismay over its decision to embrace an unbiblical practice.  Reasonably, I am thinking that at least some Christians wondered whether they could continue supporting World Vision’s popular child sponsorship program.  (My wife and I have sponsored children through World Vision for decades, and had this policy been left in place, I am certain that we would have terminated our child sponsorship support.  I suspect that other child sponsors would have as well.)  Although World Vision has annual revenues approaching $3 billion dollars, a policy change of this nature could have a potentially devastating impact on its operations.

However, late yesterday afternoon, World Vision US released a statement confirming that it had reversed its decision to hire employees in homosexual “marriages.”  In its statement, the board of World Vision acknowledged that “it made a mistake . . . We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.”  As we know from Holy Scripture, marriage is exclusively the legal union of one man and one woman.  (Titus 1:6.)  Further, as unfashionable as it might be among some in Western Europe and the United States, biblically legitimate sexual relations are exercised solely within a heterosexual marriage, as we see in I Corinthians 6:9-10, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27.  As shocking as it may sound to some modern, secularized ears, even the notion of homosexual “marriage” is sinful and incompatible with biblical, Christian behavior.  I commend the Board of World Vision for promptly recognizing their error, and for reversing their policy.  Robert Pierce, World Vision’s founder, would have been mortified at this policy, but gratified that World Vision’s board reversed it so quickly.  As has been noted by many, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

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