Tragic Events Can Turn Into Second Chances
Friday, March 14, 2014, 9:46 AM

One of the greatest truths and encouragements in the Bible is that God uses deeply flawed men and women to accomplish His purposes.  The clear teaching of Holy Scripture is that man’s sinful nature must be battled moment-by-moment in our lives.  As one example, the flawed man Moses was used by God to lead the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt.  The Washington Post reported this week that Bill Gothard resigned from the ministry he founded, the Institute in Basic Life Principles, after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at the ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.  According to the website, Recovering Grace, 34 women said that they had been sexually harassed, and four women have alleged molestation.  I have read many of their stories on that website, and each story is tragic.

Some of my readers might not be familiar with Bill Gothard.  During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Gothard regularly filled 20,000-seat auditoriums with Christians (mostly), but also non-Christians, who attended his weeklong seminar focused on applying Biblical principles to modern life.  During those years, more than 2.5 million people attended, and his seminars were particularly popular with home-schooling families.  I confess that I did attend on a number of occasions, first in college, and then several times after college.  I was first invited by an Eastern Orthodox sister from my college dormitory Bible study.  I found the seminar to be a transformative experience for me.  After attending, I remember that I stood before a large group of several hundred college students, most of whom were Christian believers, and encouraged them to attend an upcoming seminar.  To “close the deal,” I offered those who came that if they didn’t find it to be an important seminar for them, I would give them double their money back.  Of those in attendance that night, about 80 came to the seminar at McCormick Place in Chicago.  Fortunately for me, no one ever asked for their money back.  Further, some would later return to other seminars with their friends and family.  (One would pay the attendance fee the first time, and then you could attend subsequent seminars for free.)  One dear brother in the Lord, a college classmate and a close friend to this day, attended and later brought his father, a devout Christian believer.  His father later would bring his friends, some of whom were not Christians, but they became Christians at the seminar.  (Mr. Gothard would invite people to follow Christ on Thursday evening of the seminar.)

As I look back upon my life, besides my parents and Rev. Rosheger, my beloved youth pastor, there has not been a greater and more positive influence in my life than Mr. Gothard.  Of course, I never met him personally, and have no personal knowledge of the allegations against him.  While I have been blessed to sit under the teaching and ministry of some exceptional, godly clergy throughout my life, Mr. Gothard furrowed deep a path for me as a Christ-follower.  During times of youthful sturm und drang with my parents, I would remember his teachings on what it meant to obey practically one’s parents, and his teachings brought me very close to my parents until the day they died.  At a time when many churches were silent and confused about the so-called sexual revolution, he stood for sexual purity, and clearly articulated why God established His standard against promiscuity.  He taught me how to be a good employee, serving my employer with a Christian attitude, as Joseph served his pharaoh.  Mr. Gothard encouraged his attendees to study and meditate upon the teachings of the Book of Proverbs, and I believe that inculcation of those principles contributed to some modicum of success in my professional and business life.  His teachings on tithing and gifts, as well as avoidance of debt, influence me to this day.  On the bookcase in my home office still sit the seminar’s manual, and a number of his books.

Moses, the Bible teaches us, was someone who became nobody.  God took that nobody, and then made him someone for God’s glory and for His purpose.  Mr. Gothard, at 79, is almost the same age as when God called Moses at the burning bush.  We don’t know what the future holds for Mr. Gothard.  But we do know that our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is One of second chances.  Such has happened before.  God took a murderer, Moses, and made him the much-loved leader of the Israelites.  Ironically, it was Bill Gothard who taught me that about Moses.

Mere Links 03.13.14
Thursday, March 13, 2014, 10:00 AM

God and Sexuality at Bowdoin
Owen Strachan, The American Spectator

Is Bowdoin Christian Fellowship really discriminating against others by selecting its own leaders, students who adhere to the historic Christian belief that homosexuality is sinful? The answer is plain: it most certainly is not.

Russell Moore on “Convictional Kindness” and Transgenderism
Alexander Griswold, Juicy Ecumenism

Dr. Moore stressed that faithful Christians most be more compassionate and hospitable to transgendered individuals, and make it clear that they were not ‘a freak’.

Can Megachurches Deal With Mega Money in a Christian Way?
Ruth Graham, The Atlantic

Mars Hill Church spent $210,000 getting its pastor’s book to the top of the New York Times best-seller list. Where is the line between a pastor promoting his own career and promoting the ministry of his church?

The Scandinavian Sceptic (or why atheism is a belief system)
Andy Bannister, BeThinking

“I don’t believe that Sweden exists,” my friend suddenly declared from across the coffee shop table. He took a sip of espresso and stared intently at me, clearly awaiting a response. I paused, my cinnamon roll halfway to my mouth, as I digested what he’d just said.

Plantinga on the Ham-Nye Debate
Thursday, March 13, 2014, 9:41 AM

One of the things that struck me in my work on the ecumenical movement was the extent to which social factors influence the sense of fraternity that Christians feel about one another.

I’ve often been confused that Christians of a more liberal bent, whether theological, political, or otherwise, come across as far friendlier and more aligned with their secular counterparts than fellow believers of a more conservative, traditionalist, or (gasp!) fundamentalist disposition. Try to find a progressive or liberal Christian professing unity (mystical, spiritual, or otherwise) with someone like Jerry Falwell. I’d be glad to see an instance of it. The same is true, by the by, for many more conservative Christians. They are far more amenable to the likes of a professed atheist or agnostic secular conservative than many progressives.

In some sense if Machen is right, that liberalism and Christianity are two different religions, then the reason for this is explicable, at least to a point. But I do think there are social sources of factionalism that are not so theologically motivated or principled.

 Plantinga on the Ham Nye Debate

Alvin Plantinga

In conversing with a friend on this phenomenon the other day, he noted in passing what was a kind of charitable interpretation of young earth creationists relative to that of atheists in Alvin Plantinga’s magisterial Warranted Christian Belief. Consider this, then, a kind of comment from Plantinga relevant to the sort of thing on display in the recent debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.

It comes in footnote 25 on p. 217 of WCB (or footnote 260 in this online version), in which Plantinga is discussing the noetic effects of sin. The model to which Plantinga refers is his “sensus divinitatis” model, according to which “the most important truths about [people] is that we have been created by the Lord and utterly depend upon him for our continued existence.” Here Plantinga notes:

In this connection, consider the despised creationists, who believe that the world is only ten thousand years old: they are ignorant, pitifully ignorant about when God created the world. From the point of view of the model, this ignorance pales into utter insignificance compared with that of many of their cultured detractors, who foolishly believe that there is no God and thus (naturally enough) are ignorant of the vastly more important fact that the world was, indeed, created by God.

Perhaps not a ringing endorsement of someone like Ken Ham, but it is at least an acknowledgment of the relative unity of creationists of any kind as compared to that of creationism’s “cultured detractors.”

North Korean Brutality
Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 10:21 AM

For the past twelve years, North Korea has topped the Open Doors World Watch List as the most repressive regime against Christian believers.  The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the “Commission”) conducted a systematic investigation of the ongoing atrocities in North Korea.  (The recently released reports in both the 35-page summary and the 372-page detailed report are available here.

The detailed report is difficult to read because of the brutality described therein.)  The Commission stated that “there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association.”  The report concluded that the dictatorship of Kim Jung Un “considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat,” and as a result, “Christians are prohibited from practicing their religion and are persecuted.”  Well, of course, the use of the term “persecution” by an agency of the usually sanguine United Nations is diplomat-speak for horrific abuse.  Severe punishment is inflicted on any person caught practicing their Christian faith.  The Commission noted in its report that between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners are currently detained in four political prison camps, “where deliberate starvation has been used as a means of control and punishment.”  The actual number of those trapped in the hellish North Korean prison camps is likely to be much higher.

Last week, South Korean newspapers reported that North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, had ordered the deaths of 33 people alleged to have received money for building 500 underground churches from South Korean missionary Kim Jung Wook.  As is customary in North Korea, the executions will take place publicly.  (You may recall that late last year, Kim Jong Un’s uncle and mentor, Jang Song-Thaek, was executed, along with his brothers, children, and grandchildren.)  The background of the South Korean missionary Kim is still unclear, as some sources claim he was arrested in North Korea last October, while others said he was kidnapped in China by North Korean secret agents.  Poignantly, North Korea Freedom Coalition Chairman Suzanne Scholte reminded the U.S. Congress just last week that the international community promised after Nazi Germany’s treatment and murder of six million Jews to never allow such atrocities again.  And yet, such atrocities continue unabated in North Korea.  In fact, it is a stunning reality that North Korea’s satanic political prison camps have been in existence 10 times longer than the Nazi death camps, and three times longer than the Soviet gulags.  Open Doors USA President David Curry said in a statement issued this past Monday, “Usually when persecution increases in a country, the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is rapidly spreading.”  Please pray for the lives of these 33 Christian believers awaiting execution, and please pray for the at least several hundred thousand secret Christian believers of North Korea.  Please also pray for the freedom of the American missionary, Kenneth Bae, who remains in North Korean prison.

Mere Links 03.12.14
Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 10:00 AM

Whatever happened to the word “sin”?
Philip Yancey, OnFaith

Although almost every sermon in my childhood church centered on sin, the word has vanished in the years since.

Where Did All These Calvinists Come From? A Visual History
Tim Challies,

I don’t think anyone could have predicted that in the twenty-first century the old doctrine of Calvinism would suddenly experience a great resurgence. Yet this is exactly what has happened.

In Defense of Book Banning
Mark Hemingway, The Federalist

Do you know what your child is reading? It’s probably awful.

Gender, Discrimination, and Marriage
Kelly Bartlett, Public Discourse

In the name of equality, same-sex marriage seeks to codify gender discrimination. But marriage welcomes everyone: husband and wife, father and mother, grandfather and grandmother.

Mere Christianity in New Mexico
Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 12:01 PM

stones cross Mere Christianity in New Mexico

If you are a subscriber, reader, supporter, or friend living near Albuquerque, you are invited to meet the Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. James Kushiner, Executive Editor of Touchstone, will be on hand with his wife Patricia, to meet for informal conversation. There will be light refreshments and the opportunity to meet other supporters and readers.

We will be there on Sunday, March 30th at 3 p.m. at

Faith in Christ Lutheran Church
1750 Faith Ct. NE.
Albuquerque, NM 87112
(the intersection of Indian School Rd. NE and Chelwood Blvd. NE)

Park in the church lot.

Please RSVP by Friday, March 21, 2014. RSVP by email: or Jon Dockery by phone: 773-481-1090.

We are looking forward to meeting you!


About true fasting
Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 10:12 AM


Thoughts on fasting from the eastern church. (The sound quality is scratchy, but it is subtitled. 6 minutes.)

 About true fasting

Saint John Chrysostom

Saint John Chrysostom

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast, but ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties. For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting.

~ St. John Chrysostom (Homily III, paragraph 8, Ascetic Treatises)

 About true fasting

Saint Basil the Great

St. Basil the Great

Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. “Loose the bands of wickedness.” Forgive your neighbor the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you.

St. Basil On Fasting (pdf)

Mere Links 03.11.14
Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 10:00 AM

Orthodox patriarchs urge peace in Ukraine, plan first council in 1,200 years
Tom Heneghan, Reuters

Patriarchs of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians ended a rare summit in Istanbul on Sunday calling for a peaceful end to the crisis in Ukraine and denouncing violence driving Christians out of the Middle East.

Confusions About Totipotency: Stem Cells Are Not Embryos
Maureen L. Condic, Public Discourse

The ability to both produce all cell types and to organize them into a coherent body plan is the defining feature of a human organism. All stem cells lack essential elements supplied by the egg cell and cannot develop into a fetus.

On God as a MacGuffin
James Banks, Humane Pursuits

Religion, as many seminarians and clergy today probably think of it, is merely a catalyst to give moral weight to the cause for social justice. But the social justice party are not the only ones who sometimes make God into a MacGuffin. For a lot of new ministers, it might not be so much about changing the world as surviving in it.

‘Son Of God’ Veers Toward Gnostic Heresy
Joel Gehrke, The Federalist

The film gives oxygen to a claim early church leaders denounced as historically and theologically false.

Syrian Nuns Set Free
Monday, March 10, 2014, 11:50 AM

I heard news of this development last night and there are several sources confirming the freeing of a dozen (or 13?) nuns who were abducted  from the convent in Ma’loula in Syria (where Aramaic is still spoken) several months ago. This is from the Sydney Morning Herald. Our sisters in Christ have been in our prayers for their release, and we had feared for their lives. Thanks be to God.

UK’s High Court Justice & the Pedophile Support Group
Monday, March 10, 2014, 11:32 AM

Well, pedophiles in high places? Who knows.

The man: Lord Justice Fulford, high court judge–”One of Britain’s most senior judges actively campaigned to support a vile paedophile group that tried to legalise sex with children, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.” And they do here. Fulford is an Advisor to the Queen.

“An investigation by the Mail on Sunday has discovered that Fulford was a founder member of a campaign to defend PIE while it was openly calling for the age of consent to be lowered to just four.”

Got that? Age FOUR. Our beloved American Liberator Alfred Kinsey would be proud. It is astonishing that Kinsey published Table 34 in his book on sex and was not arrested for sexual crimes or exposed as a liar for making up data. Seriously? A sane scientist records sexual “orgasms” in children 5 months, 11 months, 2 years old, including the time it took to reach those orgasms? Why is this not denounced as a shameful episode in “science,” and why isn’t his book and the warm reception of it considered a shameful episode in American history? Lord Injustice Fulford and much of modern sex “education” drinks from the poison well of Kinsey that has bubbled up from the lower depths. But Holywood lionizes Kinsey with a film by that name, the same well-drinkers who overlook the foibles of Roman Polanski and Woody Allen.

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