Mere Links 06.30.14
Monday, June 30, 2014, 10:00 AM

How Churches Can Bridge the Marriage Divide
Interview with W. Bradford Wilcox , First Things

What accounts for the growing marriage divide in America? Liberals like William Julius Wilson at Harvard tend to finger economic causes, whereas conservatives like Kay Hymowitz at the Manhattan Institute tend to finger cultural changes and poorly conceived public policies. They are both right.

The Intuitive Guide to Religious Liberty Law
Jordan Lorence, Public Discourse

Common sense can tell us whether particular citizens should be exempt from certain government policies for religious reasons. Codifying such instinctive judgments into formal statutes is more difficult.

How Scalia’s prophecy became a moral crises
R. Albert Mohler Jr., CNN

One year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, this much is clear: Justice Antonin Scalia is a prophet.

Exchanging Sex for Survival
Mike Mariani, The Atlantic

So-called “safe harbor” laws may help, but they overlook the vast number of teen runaways who use their bodies as their only form of currency.



Mere Links 06.27.14
Friday, June 27, 2014, 10:00 AM

Supreme Court Holds That Pro-Lifers Have First Amendment Rights Too
Andrew Kloster, The Daily Signal

Ultimately, though, this is a victory for pro-life advocates and for the First Amendment. And it is yet another 9-0 loss for the Obama administration, which weighed in on behalf of the State of Massachusetts.

National Cathedral “Comes Out” With Transgender Preacher
Jeffrey Walton, Juicy Ecumenism

The Episcopal Church’s embrace of transgenderism is part of God’s “project of revelation” according to the first transgender person to preach at the Washington National Cathedral.

U.N. Reports Sharp Increase in Refugees as Civil Wars Cripple Nations
Somini Sengupta, New York Times

According to the United Nations annual report released Friday, most of the forcibly displaced worldwide are homeless in their own countries and are known as internally displaced persons. An additional 16.7 million people are refugees in another land.

Divorce Shocker: Most Marriages Do Make It
Paul Strand, CBN News

Most people believe only half of U.S. marriages make it. But a leading researcher is announcing the true divorce rate is much lower and always has been.



Mere Links 06.26.14
Thursday, June 26, 2014, 10:00 AM

Asian Nations, Once Again, Among the Worst Human Trafficking Offenders
Olivia Enos, The Daily Signal

An estimated 30 million people are trapped in the mire of human trafficking, with over half of trafficking victims living in Asia. Profits from this global scourge amount to around $150 billion.

The Aesthetics of Prophecy
Toby J. Sumpter, Desiring God

Beauty is all the rage. You can’t get three sentences in modern theology without tripping over words like “aesthetics” and “beauty” and “Christianity and the arts.” And in many ways this is a welcome shift.

Dostoyevsky the Prophet: The Trial of Dmitri Karamazov and the Redefinition of Family
Randall Smith, Public Discourse

Dostoyevsky prophetically depicts the notion of family as determined not by nature but by consent—an idea that has come to dominate our modern society.

Why Religious Freedom in Sudan Matters to All of Us
Travis Weber, On Faith

With Meriam Ibrahim and her children facing torture and impending death, a surprising collection of activists have fought to save them.



Fellowship of St. James Needs Your Support
Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 1:44 PM

Last week, I had the privilege to attend for the fourth time Acton University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where more than 1,000 persons from 67 nations gathered to speak and learn about how our Christian faith informs our understanding of freedom and economics.  It was an exhilarating experience, and I would encourage my readers to begin to plan to attend the next session in June 2015.  One evening as I introduced myself to a young man at dinner, he said, “You write for Mere Comments, right?”  It was an affirming comment.  I certainly appreciate my many blog readers from around the world, and also deeply value the ministry of Touchstone and Salvo magazines, and the St. James Daily Devotional Guide.  On occasion, I have been asked why I don’t start my own blog instead of writing for Mere Comments.  However, my answer has always been the same: Writing for Mere Comments is a wonderful privilege to share my Christian faith with many, and the website serves as a strategic tool to encourage others to grow more deeply in their faith in Jesus Christ.

That is the ministry of the Fellowship of St. James, the publisher of Touchstone and Salvo magazines, and of Mere Comments.  The Fellowship, founded in 1976, seeks to promote fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ, and encourages greater Christian unity based upon shared belief in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith as revealed in Holy Scripture and taught in the ancient creeds of the Church.  As a recognized 501(c)(3) charitable organization, subscriptions alone do not cover the costs of publishing the magazines.  As a result, the Fellowship relies upon generous gifts from its readers and supporters.  My wife and I have long been supporters of the Fellowship as we recognize the great value of a clear, consistent, ecumenical platform for thoughtful and learned Christians to share how our Christian faith informs an understanding of modern-day life in these spiritually dark times.  I would ask you to prayerfully consider a generous donation to the Fellowship as we approach the end of the Fellowship’s fiscal year on June 30, 2014.  As of today, the Fellowship needs $35,000 to balance its budget.

You can make an online donation here.

Thank you very much for your prayer consideration of this request.



Mere Links 06.25.14
Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Coming Methodist Split?
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

The United Methodist Church, with 7.4 million members in the United States, is America’s third largest church, despite having lost over 3.5 million members over the last 50 years. But now its debates over same sex marriage are threatening to fracture the denomination.

Teaching creationism as scientifically valid now banned in all UK public schools
JC Sevcik, UPI

UK government: “The requirement on every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum … prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school.”

Ukraine’s Ancient Hatred
Nikolas K. Gvosdev, The National Interest

Three hundred years of history explain why Putin can never see his neighbor as a fully legitimate sovereign nation.

Pope: More Christian Martyrs Today Than in Church’s First Centuries
Mark Movsesian, First Things

Pope Francis opened an academic conference in Rome last week with a statement on religious liberty and the persecution of Christians. He reflected on the place of religious liberty in Catholic thought and decried religious discrimination across the world, particularly against Christians.



Please Pray During Ramadan
Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 9:33 AM

Beginning June 28, 2014, and running for thirty days until July 27, 2014, 1.6 billion Moslems will celebrate Ramadan.  During Ramadan, Moslems set aside time to seek their god by abstaining from earthly pleasures.  Moslems will pursue the cleansing of their souls through fasting from sunrise to sunset, and refrain from bad habits.  During this time, God will move in the lives of millions of Moslems to introduce His Son, Jesus, as their Lord and Savior.  Today, the Moslem world is in great chaos, and Christians are being martyred daily throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  Missiologists tell us that today four of every five Moslems, or 20 percent of the world’s population, have never heard a clear presentation of the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Further, it is estimated that no more than ten percent of Christian missionaries work among Moslems, and I have seen some estimates as low as 1 percent of missionaries work among Moslems.  This means that there is approximately one missionary for every 1 million Moslems.

The Lord Jesus is revealing Himself throughout the Middle East and North Africa through dreams, visions, and miracles, as well as through television.  As one prime example, Father Zakaria Botros, a Coptic priest from Egypt, has a ninety-minute, Arabic-language television program that combines preaching and teaching, along with answering questions from often irate callers from all over the world.  His daily television audience is estimated to be more than fifty million, and his program is viewed in every country of the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, as well as other parts of the world.  As a result, because of God’s great love for Moslems, more Moslems have become followers of Jesus Christ in the past several decades than in the previous 13 centuries.  I have been reading a fascinating book by Tom Doyle, entitled Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?  This book reads as a modern-day version of the Book of Acts of the Apostles, and I commend this book to you to understand more fully what God is doing in the Moslem world today.  There are credible reports that hundreds of former sheikhs and imams are now Christ followers, and are leading many out of Islam.  There are also cases of entire mosques coming to faith in the Lord Jesus.  Many of these imams and sheikhs are the new Christian leaders in the Middle East and North Africa with tens of thousands of Moslem-background Christian believers.  I have personally corresponded with and encouraged more than one dozen Moslem-background Christian believers in the past year from around the world.  Areas of the Moslem world that have never had one church before now have dozens that were started in the past several years.  As one can expect, the formerly-Moslem Christian believers are severely persecuted.  But despite great persecution, imprisonment, and martyrdom, with many others losing their homes and loved ones, these new Christians boldly serve our Lord Jesus.  They have truly counted the cost, and know the pearl of great price of their newfound faith.  I encourage all of us to pray during this month of Ramadan for God’s Holy Spirit to be poured out throughout Moslem lands.  A number of Christian organizations will offer guided prayers during this time.  As two examples, www.prayercast.com will offer a daily prayer journey through the Moslem world during this month.  Open Doors, the Christian organization involved in ministering to the persecuted church around the world, offers a 30-day Ramadan prayer guide, which you can find here.  God is doing great and miraculous things throughout the world today, and I encourage each of us to pray for our Moslem friends and neighbors, as well as those around the world, during Ramadan.  As we pray, let us ask God to shatter the deception of Islam with the presence and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.



NEW: The July / August Issue of Touchstone
Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 2:06 PM

bigcover 27 04 227x300 NEW: The July / August Issue of TouchstoneYou can read the cover article online:

The Things Freely Given

The Bible, Sacred Theology & the Mind of Christ
by Patrick Henry Reardon

Having been asked to present some reflections on the theme, “What is the Bible?” it seems appropriate to begin this essay with a passage from Sacred Scripture.

Indeed, I want to begin these reflections by analyzing and comparing two passages from the New Testament, one from the second chapter of 1 Corinthians and another from the eleventh chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. Each of these chapters contains a contrast between the wisdom of fallen man and the wisdom God gives to those who believe in his Son.

Thus, 1 Corinthians 2 takes issue with those Christians at Corinth who boasted of their superior wisdom, which St. Paul was careful to distinguish from the wisdom of God revealed in the Cross. The apostle writes, “We speak the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery, which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

Paul goes on to comment, “But the carnal man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

When we turn to Matthew 11, these carnal men, those who do “not receive the things of the Spirit of God,” are the citizens of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, who refused to believe the gospel. Jesus, immediately after pronouncing his “woes” against them, went on to identify their moral problem. His prayer, Matthew indicates, was an “answer” to the previous curse. Jesus prayed, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babies.”

Continue reading >>>

I would also like to encourage those of you who are fans of Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s writing on the bible to: 1. read his column “As It Is Written . . . “–found on the last page of each issue of Touchstone– 2.  subscribe to his Daily Devotional Guide, and 3. check out his Daily Reflections blog.



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.


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