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April 21, 2007

In the words of the immortal King Solomon (who famously did not follow his own advice) he who walks with the wise will be wise. This is true, and it is for that reason that I call your attention from time to time, to the words of one or the other of the shrinking pool of wise men available to us. Michael Barone, whom I cited a couple of days ago is one of them. It is important to know that wise men are not always right, but it is always useful to listen to what they have to say and to think about it. I cited Ann Coulter, not because I think she falls in this category, but because satire is often useful in making absurd things look as absurd as they are. And Ann is always entertaining.

Naturally, I wanted to know what Charles Krauthammer had to say about the Virginia Tech shootings. I was not disappointed. Charles is not always right (translate: he doesn't always agree with me), but he is always worth hearing out. If you disagree, take some time to write out the reasons why. There is a place on his page where you can make a comment. And in writing out your comments, you will inevitably clarify your own thinking. To read the column, click on: A Moment of Silence

April 19, 2007

I haven’t been communicating as much in recent weeks as I am accustomed to do, because of working on the book Law and Covenant. The writing is now done and we just have to make our way through two cycles of proofreading and it will be on the way. I expect to have copies in the office not long after Pentecost. It has been a longer journey than my first two books, because I have been plowing some new ground.

Which reminds me. I have the feeling that some of my friends haven’t gotten around to reading the first two books because they are quite sure they know what I have to say. They might be surprised. I have found a lot of the old arguments come up short on some important issues. This is especially true of Law and Covenant. Don’t order it yet. We’ll let you know as soon as we know the date certain we will have it in hand.

Of all the pontificating I have heard on the Virginia Tech shootings this week, you might be surprised at who had one of the most insightful columns. It was Ann Coulter. She is her usual satirical self, but there is less satire and more facts in her column this week. Her piece, titled, "Let’s Make America a SAD Free Zone," examines the numerous examples of mass murder in our history and comes to some startling, supported, conclusions. It is a mistake to dismiss Coulter as just another bomb thrower from the right. She is a rare breed in our culture, a satirist (look it up). So far, I seem to be the only one who recognizes that. Give her a read this week and see what you think.

Another thoughtful column takes off from the Duke Rape case and makes some salient points. It's Michael Barone with "Of Victims and Virtues."

A key thought: "This urge to see the victim class as virtuous and the oppressor class as villainous leads people in countries like the United States and Britain to sympathize more with our enemies than our defenders." This is really worth a read.

By the way, be sure and subscribe to our email newsletter. I can't add an RSS feed to this site, but we can keep you in touch anyhow. Just click here for more.

April 18,2007

Well, my book is all but finished, so I can begin posting here regularly again. I have said that the secret to any long term project is giving it a set amount of time every day until it takes over. I made it a point to give the first hour of every day (except on broadcast days) to my book. Sure enough, this book took over about a month ago.

What I am now posting under "Books under Way" (See the link on the left), are final drafts before page proofs from the publisher. Check back daily to see if there is anything new. Sorry, but FrontPage does not seem to have a function for RSS feeds.

Check the new chapters at this link.

March 14, 2007

I continue to work on the book, Law and Covenant. I am re-ordering some chapters. The Prologue, which needs to be rewritten, and the first five chapters are now in semi-final form and are here for viewing. The book is taking a lot of my time each day, so posting on other matters is taking a back seat. Sorry about that.

March 11, 2007

It is a shock to see how long it has been since I have updated my site, but working on a book does interfere with daily postings. Today, I am putting up two new chapters in my latest book, Law and Covenant, and you are welcome to read them. These are not final drafts, but they are getting close. Organizing the material has been a challenge. You should know, by the way, that there are going to be some new ideas in this book. At least they are new to me. The new chapters, with links, are:

Covenant, a Primer

The Oldest Covenant

December 19, 2006

Reflections on Psalm 80 are now up.

November 27, 2006


I haven't seen the movie and don't plan to, but I am glad Charles Krauthammer did. He is the first person I have read who puts his finger on what is wrong with the movie.

With anti-Semitism reemerging in Europe and rampant in the Islamic world; with Iran acquiring the ultimate weapon of genocide and proclaiming its intention to wipe out the world's largest Jewish community (Israel); with America and, in particular, its Christian evangelicals the only remaining Gentile constituency anywhere willing to defend that besieged Jewish outpost -- is the American heartland really the locus of anti-Semitism? Is this the one place to go to find it?

You can read the entire column here.

November 26, 2006

Psalm 78

Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
{2} I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
{3} Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us. (NKJV)

God often does not speak plainly, but in parables, dark sayings. One may wonder why, but it becomes apparent when we come to Jesus' use of parables. When the disciples asked him why he spoke to the crowds in parables, he replied, "Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but to them, it is not given. I suppose it would be fair to say that you have to want to know. "Don't be silly," I hear someone saying, "everyone wants to know." Actually, they don't. The truth can sometimes be very painful, even frightening. If we have already run too far down the wrong road, the very idea of retracing our steps can be unbearable. So yes, you have to want to know. MORE

November 25, 2006

Peggy Noonan on Immigration

I have found myself reluctantly disagreeing with Ms. Noonan on some of her recent columns. But I have to agree with this one: What Grandma Would Say.

November 23, 2006


I don't know why it is on my mind this Thanksgiving day, perhaps because Robert Altman, one of the creators of M*A*S*H died this week. Commentators remarked that the original movie was a generic anti-war statement (apparently Korea was never mentioned in the movie). The television series that followed was plainly set in Korea, although it was said to be more about Vietnam than Korea. It, too, was an anti-war series, but you didn't have to be an insider to recognize that. What I wonder is what those who did either the movie or the television series think about the war they were against and the result of that war for the people of Korea.

I saw some satellite images, shot at night over the Korean peninsula, which made me think long and hard about it. What the dictator of North Korea has accomplished since the war could just as easily have been the picture of South Korea. We can talk endlessly about the evils of war, but one does have to look at results when all is said and done. The images below are night-time satellite views of the Korean peninsula. Do you see any difference at all between north and south? I am anti-war, too, but I believe there is a time to fight.

To see an even more stark image of the China, Korea, Japan area of Asia, click here. On this day of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for what it means to be free.

November 13, 2006

Psalm 77

(NKJV) I cried out to God with my voice;
To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me.
{2} In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
{3} I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah

When, day by day, God is not in our thoughts, we can run a long way down a wrong road without giving it a second thought. But then, as the psalmist says, we remember God and are troubled. Our deepest troubled thoughts come in the night and sleep will not come. More.

November 11, 2006

Psalm 76

(NKJV) In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel. {2} In Salem also is His tabernacle, And His dwelling place in Zion. {3} There He broke the arrows of the bow, The shield and sword of battle. Selah

I suppose one can say that in America God is known, and that his name is great here. In spite of all the efforts to stamp out recognition of God, he is known. And when nine out of ten Americans speak of God, they think of the one spoken of in the Old Testament—Jehovah.

And in verse 3, the psalmist sings of disarmament or the defeat of an enemy.

November 8, 2006

Election Results

By this morning, a lot of Republicans are probably wondering what hit them.  I think three things conspired to hand congress back to the Democrats.

1. History. The mid term elections of second term presidents usually see strong gains by the opposition party. The reason for this may be seen in number 2.

2. Frustrated Republicans. An awful lot of Republican voters were in a snit because their congressman departed from conservative values. Votes made in anger can't be taken back, so they get to enjoy seeing the Dems in power for two more years, maybe longer. One wonders if they will get over it in time to keep Hillary from becoming the next President of these United States.

3. Conservative Democratic candidates. No one called this to my attention before yesterday, but the Democratic party fielded a large number of conservative candidates this time. That was either a move worthy of Karl Rove, or a fundamental realization among Democrats that they could no longer allow the left wing of their party to speak for them. It would have been a smart move to give frustrated Republicans an alternative. By the way, did you notice how religious the Democratic candidates have become?

What this may imply for the unity of the Democratic party is another matter entirely. Ask Senator Joe Lieberman.

November 7, 2006

If you really want to understand what is at stake in the war on terror, you might get a few clues from a piece by a lifelong Democrat.

The only real issue this Election Day, by Orson Scott Card

November 6, 2006

Stuck in the '60s

"There is an unspoken assumption
that Americansoldiers are
incompetent and vicious."
--Michael Barone

Amid all the noise surrounding John Kerry's "botched joke" about bad students getting stuck in Iraq, I thought Michael Barone had a good, sober summary of what I don't like about certain of the political class. Here is what Michael Barone said in conclusion:

"Premature withdrawal from Iraq would give terrorists more space and time to plan and prepare attacks on us beyond Iraq, and a visible defeat for the United States would exhilarate the followers of Osama bin Laden and other Islamofascist terrorists. It would leave unprotected the brave Iraqis who risked death to vote in three elections and held up their purple fingers in triumph.

"About all this John Kerry, to judge from his changing positions on Iraq, doesn't seem to much care. Rather, he and his ilk seem bent, as they did in the 1970s, on establishing who our heroes should and should not be. They should not be members of the American military, who are portrayed as depraved or incompetent. They should be the antiwar protesters, the professors and intellectuals, the sophisticated elites who know better than ordinary Americans and the servicemen and women what's in the world's best interest. They should be people who believe that fighting those who want to destroy us only makes them madder and that withdrawal will assuage their grievances so they will leave us alone. It turned out that withdrawing from Vietnam did not cause us irretrievable damage. But will we be so lucky if we leave Iraq too soon?"

I suspect that if the Democrats fail to capture either or both houses of congress tomorrow, a lot of the blame will be laid at the feet of one John Kerry.

Read the entire column here.

October 29, 2006

All night in Prayer

     Jesus spent an entire night in prayer before he named his apostles. When you think about it, he could have spent an hour on each of the apostles between sunset and dawn. But if he didn’t go into that long night of prayer with a set of names in mind, the pattern was probably somewhat different. I suspect that deciding which of his disciples was most likely to betray him was painful enough, and he may have discussed several with his Father before deciding on Judas. Some of them were easy choices. I wonder if Peter was obvious, or if he also required a little extra consideration. Mind you, this was not merely thinking something through. It was a conversation with the only person he could talk to about such things—his Father.
     And that raises another thought. From his baptism until his ascension, Jesus led a rather lonely life. There was no one on earth who was his equal, no one to talk to. It is not surprising that he found the need for prayer so pressing.

October 18, 2006

Capital Punishment, The Case for Justice

A very tightly reasoned discussion of the issues raised by the death penalty.

October 17, 2006

On Being Perfect

 The call for perfection that Jesus included in the Sermon on the Mount seems to ask the impossible of us. How on earth can any man ever achieve perfection? One explanation I’ve heard is that perfection is the goal, and we will only reach it only in the resurrection. We strive for perfection in this life, but there is no way we can achieve it in the flesh. But if that is what Jesus meant, there were many ways he could have said precisely that.
There is an odd thing about this passage. Jesus did not speak of perfection here. What he said was, “Be ye therefore teleios, even as your Father which is in heaven is teleios.” Jesus, of course, spoke these words in Aramaic. Choosing the best Greek word to convey the idea, Matthew used the word telios to tell us what Jesus said. With all the wonderful Bible study programs now available, anyone can consult a Greek lexicon and do his own word search. The definition of telios in the lexicon is “complete.” You can do a word study through the New Testament to see how the word is used, and you will find that “complete” works in every instance. Jesus said, “be you therefore complete.” And there is a world of difference between “complete,” and “perfect.” The word “perfect” is defined as “being entirely without fault or defect.” I am sure that is a accurate description of God. I am equally sure that it is utterly inaccurate to describe any man or woman alive.

Click here to read the entire chapter.

September 16, 2006

The One Important Thing

What do you need to know about prayer? Most of it is laid out in one short statement in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said this about prayer:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matthew 6:5NIV).

This is not to say that one never prays in public or in groups. Solomon did. The disciples gathered for prayer. This seems to be more a matter of the intent than of the act itself. Prayer is not done to be seen nor to be a matter of boasting.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words (vv. 6-7).

This is an important distinction. Long is not better. It tends to invalidate the idea of spending an hour in prayer every day. Something I doubt anyone ever really does. I used to chastise myself for my “mind wandering” in prayer. Yet much of what happens in that hour is actually meditation.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (vv. 8-13).

This is not a very long prayer, nor is it very specific. It is hardly “incense beaten small,” as one suggested our prayers should be. That could easily lead to babbling like the pagans. There is a rather surprising statement made by Solomon, a man who wrote some of the truly great prayers of the Bible:

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words (Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 NIV).

Spending some time in meditation before speaking is probably a good idea. And it seems good to distill your requests into the things that are truly important while we gather up the rest in the general manner of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us today our daily bread.” After all, God already knows what we need before we ask him. Think for a moment. If you were only going to get one thing you ask for today, what would that one thing be? And why is that one thing so important?
Not long ago, in making my way through 2 Kings, I came upon a prayer by Hezekiah and God’s response to it. He had a letter from an invading king which he took to the Temple and spread out before God. The answer was not long in coming:

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard’”(2 Kings 19:20 NKJV).

And the implication is that if he hadn’t asked, God would not have heard, nor would he have acted. So that one thing we really want to ask can be of paramount importance. But perhaps you are struggling with that question. It is intimidating in a way. But then there is this from Paul:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26 KJV).

Sometimes we have to fall back on the Spirit and ask God to see and know our need. We can come into the Father’s presence in complete silence, and yet be in prayer. And then there is this, in concluding Jesus’ instructions on prayer:

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

There is not a word here about waiting for those men to repent. Your job is to forgive. The repentance is for God to bring about. Our job is to let it go.

September 10, 2006

Dogma or Understanding?

Sometimes I wonder about the endless discussions of doctrinal issues among church people. And it isn’t just us. It is ubiquitous among Christian people. The reason, I think, is dogmatism– “positiveness in assertion of opinion especially when unwarranted or arrogant : a viewpoint or system of ideas based on insufficiently examined premises.”

Some people come from a church history in which doctrine is  the defining characteristic of the church. Not only that, but you are  required to agree with that doctrine as a condition of membership. Thus, doctrine is  a definer of fellowship. Differences in dogma can create a breach in fellowship. Discussions of doctrine become so important that, in some cases, they are not even allowed. They are not merely looking for truth, they believe they have it and have to defend it against all comers.

We really need to make more progress in our approach to issues that arise in the study of the Bible. Notice that I used the word “issues” instead of “doctrine.” The latter is a much abused term in some traditions, and implies the dogma of this or that church. How can we make that progress? It is simple to say and harder to grasp: We need to be more concerned about understanding one another than trying to prove one another wrong.

Sometimes we have new members of our forum who come to argue doctrine. Commonly, there is more than a little hostility displayed as conversations begin. The reason is a kind of defensiveness that arises on all sides. Debate ensues, which, for the most part, is a waste of time. Neither side displays much interest in really understanding where the other side is. They are much more concerned with defending their own position. It is not easy to let go, but sometimes the solution lies in letting it go.

Most people would agree that the central theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom. The word occurs there some 54 times. But the word “understanding” also occurs 54 times and is almost a synonym. One of those verses speaks volumes about forum discussions: “A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart” (Proverbs 18:2 NKJV).

By far the best way to approach any difference of opinion is to begin by being absolutely certain you understand both sides of the issue. It is surprising how often people don’t even understand their own side, much less the other. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7 KJV)

If you come to our forum to gain understanding, you are there for a worthy purpose. If you are there to rescue your poor brethren from the error of their ways, you are sure to be disappointed in the forum. All you will end up with is wrangling (unless you are ignored altogether).

The biggest problem we face in church unity is not merely a matter of being tolerant of differences. It is more a matter of understanding the differences. Tolerance doesn’t mean much if you don’t understand. Unity is also a matter of not insisting on absolute agreement on all issues. That will never happen. What can happen is for brothers to understand one another. That makes it possible to go forward together. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalms 133:1 NKJV).


August 23, 2006

This is from a speech by Ronald Reagan, delivered June 8, 1982,

"We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention -- totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of repression. Yet optimism is in order, because day by day democracy is proving itself to be a not-at-all-fragile flower. From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than 30 years to establish their legitimacy. But none -- not one regime -- has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root."

I was reading Peggy Noonan's book, "Simply Speaking," and she cited this paragraph from Reagan's speech. It was included as an example of a  really fine address, but it struck me in this age of terrorism. We closed out the century of a terrible political invention, only to open up a new one with a terrible religious invention. Some things never change, and the presence of evil in the world will be with us until we overcome it or it overcomes us. Reagan was a believer in the power of freedom and democracy. So much that he says here is applicable in the real world, right here, right now. Reagan went on to say"

We cannot ignore the fact that even without our encouragement there has been and will continue to be repeated explosions against repression and dictatorships. The Soviet Union itself is not immune to this reality. Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. In such cases, the very repressiveness of the state ultimately drives people to resist it, if necessary, by force.

I hope he is right. We are seeing demonstrations right now in Iran, not against us or Israel, but against the government rebuilding Hezbollah while so many of their own earthquake ravaged homes lie waste. Right or wrong, Reagan's heart was in the right place.


August 20, 2006

Fear Less, Real Truth about Risk, Safety, and Security in a Time of Terrorism. by Gavin de Becker.

Excellent perspective on terrorism and the risks it poses for ordinary people. The book has concrete suggestions on handling your own fears and anxieties. For me, it was an affirmation of a conclusion I had already come to. Stop watching television news. Networks are selling a product, and that leads to hyping the importance of every event in the news from lost children to the war on terror. They have become anxiety peddlers. Of course, ordinary news is, well, ordinary. So, how do you keep up with the news? Best suggestion is to read your local newspaper. The author also lists a number of useful Internet sources for news. Recommended for a blend of broad perspective and useful tips.

Second draft of "Freedom and the Law" is now posted under "Books under Way."

August 18,2006

Judaism and the First Christians

   Some readers of the English Bible have a curious habit. They like to find the meaning of the words and then insist that they always carry exactly the same meaning, and no other, everywhere they are found. Why we do that isn’t clear. After all, English doesn’t work that way. Why should Greek and Hebrew?We understand that words have denotations and connotations, and the meaning of a word can vary with context. It can also vary depending on who is using the word. Some theological discussions can sound like Alice and Humpty Dumpty. Footnote  

   “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that's all. . . They've a temper, some of them – particularly verbs: they're the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!”

      Sometimes I think impenetrability is the object of some debaters of religious ideas. Semantics raises its head again and again, making it possible to carry on an argument indefinitely. For all I know, that may be the objective: endless argument. Continued.

August 16, 2006

Unfortunately, the home page file of this site became corrupted, and I am rebuilding it. I think all the links at the left are valid, but please let me know if they are not.






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