Election Day 2014
Friday, October 31, 2014, 1:33 PM

Next Tuesday, November 4, 2014, will be Election Day in the United States.  Although there are many local and state-wide offices being contested, for many, the election for the new Senate is drawing the most attention.  My friends who live in states where there are hotly-contested senatorial elections, such as in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Kentucky, are overwhelmed with the number of political advertisements they face daily.  The cost of these campaigns will ultimately be in the billions of dollars, and yesterday, Senator Harry Reid (Democrat from Nevada) literally “begged” me to send money.  He wrote, “I’m begging for your help to close the [financial] gap IMMEDIATELY.”  (Emphasis in the original.)

I recently read an excerpt from Rev. Israel Evans’ 1791 sermon that was delivered to the Grand Court of New Hampshire (the State’s House and Senate).  You can read his sermon in a two-volume jewel of a book compiled by Ellis Sandoz, entitled Political Sermons of the Founding Era: 1730-1805, available here.  Rev. Evans preached the following in his sermon:

Religious liberty is a divine right, immediately derived from the Supreme Being, without the intervention of any created authority. It is the natural privilege of worshipping God in that manner which, according to the judgment of men, is most agreeable and pleasing to the divine character. As the conscience of man is the image and representative of God in the human soul; so to him alone it is responsible. In justice, therefore, the feelings and sentiments of conscience, and the moral practice of religion, must be independent of all finite beings. Nor hath the all-wise Creator invested any order of men with the right of judging for their fellow-creatures in the great concerns of religion.

As Christian citizens, we have a particular and shared responsibility in our modern American republic.  Consistent with being “salt” and “light,” Christians must choose our national and local leaders with values and integrity consistent with God’s Holy Word.  On some occasions, electoral races involve candidates of high quality and high integrity.  The candidates conduct a tough but fair campaign about the issues.  Voters in those electoral races, although they may have a difficult choice, can know that no matter who is elected they will be well represented by someone who won’t embarrass their community.  Sadly, such is not always so.  Our founders fought and died to establish and preserve our liberties, including the freedom to choose our own leaders.  However, the Church has had a poor voting record.  It may be due to apathy or sad ignorance, or perhaps a lack of gratitude for the privilege that Christians have been given by God for the privilege to live as citizens in this country.  Yet when we have the opportunity to help guide our nation by selecting men and women of righteousness, many Christians do not vote.  I was always deeply troubled by the fact, for instance, that of the more than 80 million American evangelicals eligible to vote in 2012, fewer than 32 million actually voted.  I believe that Christians fail to love our neighbors and our nation when we fail to vote, and then we fail our neighbors when we do not vote for men and women who will uphold righteous and just laws.  This coming Tuesday, I urge my readers to prayerfully and thoughtfully study the issues and to vote for the best candidate.  I remind you that all candidates are flawed men and women, but as we learn in Exodus 18:21, we must use our vote to elect “capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain.”  Amen!



Mere Links 10.31.14
Friday, October 31, 2014, 10:00 AM

On The Failures of “General” Christology
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

When the Church in times past- in 451 at Chalcedon, for instance, and at Constantinople in 670-was obliged to deal with a “duality” in Christ, the questions in dispute were resolved by applying the distinction between his divine and human natures.

Pope Francis praises exorcists for combating ‘the Devil’s works’
Nick Squires, The Telegraph

Catholic Church warns of a rise in Satanism and the occult as Pope Francis sends message to Rome convention of international exorcists.

On God’s Responsibility for Atheism
Joseph G. Trabbic, Crisis Magazine

In spite of themselves, atheists can help to remind us of an important truth about God, that is, that he radically transcends the universe. It is God’s very transcendence that makes atheism possible, or at least more likely.

What Is Reformation Day All About?
Robert Rothwell, Ligonier Ministries

On Friday, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31.



Mere Links 10.30.14
Thursday, October 30, 2014, 10:00 AM

Why I Am A Catholic
Ross Douthat, New York Times

I am a Catholic for various contingent reasons (this is as true of converts as of anyone else), but on a conscious level it’s because I am a mostly-faithful Christian who is mostly convinced that Roman Catholicism is the expression of Christianity that has kept faith most fully with the early church and the words of Jesus of Nazareth himself.

The Church Vanishes, Part Deux
Philip Jenkins, The Anxious Bench

If we extrapolate that rate into the not-too-distant future, then the number of people attending Episcopal churches on a typical Sunday will be negligible by mid-century, typical of a tiny sect rather than a great church or denomination.

Marriage Sounds Great—But How On Earth Do I Get There?
Edward Amsden, The Federalist

When everyone’s having sex before marriage, people who choose to remain celibate have an awful hard time finding people with similar beliefs and virtues to marry. Conservatives should help.

In new video, Francis urges Catholics and Protestants to work together
Austen Ivereigh, Crux

Catholics and Evangelicals should not wait for theologians to reach agreement before praying and working together, Pope Francis recently told a group of Pentecostal Anglican bishops in Rome.



Mere Links 10.29.14
Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Death of the Parish
David T. Koyzis, First Things

Beginning just over a century ago, all this changed. Catholics and Protestants alike have now embraced a new ecclesiology based on the consumer model. Adam Graber tells us that this huge shift was sparked by the invention of the automobile: “How Cars Created the Megachurch and put churchgoers in the driver’s seat.”

Secularism grows as more U.S. Christians turn ‘churchless’
Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself. How does 38 percent sound?

The Hidden Costs of Legalized Suicide: What We Can Learn from Brittany Maynard
Adam J. MacLeod, Public Discourse

We ought to demonstrate compassion for Brittany Maynard, but we must not allow our compassion to obscure the nature of her choice—or the consequences that legal acceptance of a legal right to kill has for those left behind.

The Defense of Marriage Isn’t Over
Ryan T. Anderson, Crisis Magazine

The Supreme Court’s recent refusal to hear lower court cases over marriage is, as I noted elsewhere, a setback for sound constitutional self-government and a setback for a healthy marriage culture.



Is Religious Freedom Flourishing in Cuba?
Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 2:52 PM

A number of years ago, I spoke on a panel at a large church near Chicago regarding the persecution of Christians in other countries.  Seated to my right was a young pastor from Cuba, a refugee to the United States, who had been imprisoned for “abusing religious freedom” in the socialist paradise.  He spoke powerfully about the tortures many Christians faced on the island prison of Cuba.  Today, more than 55 years since the establishment of the Western Hemisphere’s first revolutionary socialist state, religious freedom remains deeply suppressed in Cuba.  After Fidel Castro, Cuba’s dictator, seized power in 1959, all Christian broadcasts were canceled.  The next year, all Christian publications were halted, and all Christian schools, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, or non-denominational, were closed.  Ordinary Christians and their leaders were labeled “social scum” and jailed in Cuba’s notorious labor camps.  Even Christmas and Easter were abolished, with Christmas replaced with a secular holiday.  Even as late as December 1995, regulations were enacted that forbid the sale of paper, ink, typewriters, computers, and mechanical parts for photocopiers and printing presses to religious organizations.  Technicians who helped churches repair their machinery risked losing their jobs.  And yet, in spite of all the imprisonment, regulation, and persecution, today the churches in Cuba are flourishing, and are filled to overflowing.  At the International book Fair in Havana in recent years, the Bible has been the best-selling book by far.

In advance of St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998, relations between the officially atheist government and the Roman Catholic Church began to improve slightly.  The government revived observance of Christmas (which was always celebrated by the people), and in fact, Castro allowed masses and homilies to be broadcast on Cuban state media.  The Cuban Communist Party also dropped a ban on church membership for its members that had been adopted after the 1959 revolution.  However, the new relative “freedom” did not extend to non-Roman Catholic churches.

On Monday, Cuban government authorities announced that they would allow the construction of the country’s first new Roman Catholic church in 55 years.  The new church, funded by donations from Roman Catholics in Tampa, Florida, will be built in Sandino, a small town in the western province of Pinar del Rio.  It is expected to hold 200 people.  Enrique Lopez Oliva, a professor of the history of religions at the University of Havana, was quoted, “The construction of a church is a clear demonstration of a new phase, of an improvement, in relations between the church and the state.”  Of course, it is a small positive step.  But I thought about the many militant non-Christians who complain about the pervasive nature of Christian thought and expression in the United States.  I wonder how much happier they might be living in a revolutionary socialist workers paradise of Cuba.  For me, I continue to support an embargo on Cuba until all of its people, including all Christians, are truly free.



Mere Links 10.28.14
Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Softer Face of Calvinism
Interview with Kevin P. Emmert, Christianity Today

Reformed theology is more irenic and diverse than you think, says theologian Oliver Crisp.

Top Anglican calls for lifting seal of confessional in child abuse cases
Trevor Grundy, Religion News Service

Anglican priests should no longer be bound by the centuries-old principle of confidentiality in confessions when they are told of sexual crimes committed against children, the Church of England’s No. 2 official said.

I Lost My Daughter to Suicide: A Nurse’s Response to Brittany Maynard’s Campaign for Assisted Suicide
Nancy Valko, Public Discourse

Do assisted suicide supporters really expect doctors and nurses to be able to assist the suicide of one patient, then go on to care for a similar patient who wants to live, without this having an effect on their ethics or their empathy? Do they realize that this reduces the second patient’s will to live to a mere personal whim—one that society may ultimately see as selfish and too costly?

Contraception Won’t Fix Fatherlessness
Willis L. Krumholz, The Federalist

No program has reversed the disincentive for marriage among the poor caused by America’s current welfare programs. Contraception won’t, either.



Mere Links 10.27.14
Monday, October 27, 2014, 10:00 AM

Pope Francis calls for abolishing death penalty and life imprisonment
Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service

Pope Francis called for abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced what he called a “penal populism” that promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.

How to Survive a Cultural Crisis
Mark Dever, 9Marks Blog

In all this, Christians are tempted to become panicked or to speak as alarmists. But to the extent we do, to that same extent we show we’ve embraced an unbiblical and nominal Christianity.

UK: One in 50 clergy don’t believe in God
Ruth Gledhill, Christian Today

One in 50 Anglican clergy in the UK believes God is merely a human construct, according to a new survey today.

Three Views: Do the Common Core Education Standards Endanger Religious Freedom?
Kevin Theriot, Karen Swallow Prior, Kristen Blair, Christianity Today

Why a nationwide standard for classrooms may cause concern.



Lagniappe – The Bulgarian National Choir
Sunday, October 26, 2014, 7:00 AM

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! ~ Psalm 118:24

The Lord’s Prayer



Sacred Music Colloquium
Saturday, October 25, 2014, 12:09 PM

Although the Church these days is everywhere beset with difficulties, it is the light of Christ on earth, and it shall never go out. There may be fewer Christians in the future, but I believe they will be stronger in faith and more committed in practice. One indication of this hope is the growth of several movements within the church—liturgical, artistic, musical—to re-affirm the role of the Transcendental in Church experience, to bring back Beauty. Beauty, more than reason, quickens the soul towards God.

This documentary from the Church Music Association of America speaks from a Roman Catholic perspective, but it contains several universal ideas about the practice of church music.



Mere Links 10.24.14
Friday, October 24, 2014, 10:00 AM

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Reformed Theology
Corrie Mitchell, On Faith

Is Calvinism the cold, rigid approach to Christianity it’s made out to be?

You’re Alive Today Because of this 19th Century Doctor
Brantly Millegan, Aleteia

Dr. Horatio Robinson Storer led the movement to enact pro-life legislation in the 19th century and in so doing saved millions, including your ancestors, explains Frederick Dyer in his interview with Aleteia.

Culture War, Spiritual War
Peter Leithart, First Things

So now we’re debating whether or not two men or two women can get married. How, over the course of less than two decades, did we become blind to something as obvious as the difference between friendship and marriage?

How Cars Created the Megachurch
Adam Graber, Leadership Journal

Of the 150 or so acres making up Willow Creek Community Church’s main campus, a full 8 acres are devoted to buildings. Parking lots cover more than 28. That ratio demonstrates just how important cars are to most churches today.


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