Thursday, September 21, 2017

LINCOLN'S LEGACY: PART III. THE OVERTHROW OF A FALSE CHRISTIANITY

(This Post originally appeared on 2/20/09 when the U.S. was observing the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Some links have been updated and a few typos corrected.)

No doubt there were slaveholders in the Old South who were genuine Christians. This was acknowledged by Frederick Douglass who mentioned a few in his memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. However, some Christians today have been led to believe that because the modern South is the location of America's "Bible Belt", that the Old South was predominantly a Christian land fighting to preserve its religious heritage of true Christianity from the dominance of the "Godless" North. Many Christians view American slavery in a benign light because many slaveholders claimed to be disciples of Christ. Yet the testimony of former slaves, many of them who were Christians themselves, paints a far different picture. The main purpose behind most religious instruction given to slaves was to make them accept their slave status, to do their assigned tasks without complaining (even though their labor and living conditions reduced a male slave's lifespan to 29 years), and to think that to disobey an order or to desire freedom was sin. It is interesting that when slaves were allowed to marry, the charge by the preacher that "...those whom God has joined together, let no man split asunder..." was omitted. This made it more convenient for masters to split families apart to make a profit. When the slaves wished to worship as they felt led, they had to do so secretly, often in wooded areas surrounding the plantations. It was in these secret worship meetings where many of the African American Spirituals came to be.

The following is an excerpt from Douglas's "Narrative" which paints a more accurate picture of religion in the Old South:

"In August, 1832, my master attended a Methodist camp-meeting held in the Bayside, Talbot county, and there experienced religion. I indulged in a faint hope that his conversion would lead him to emancipate his slaves, and that, if he did not do this, it would at any rate, make him more kind and humane. I was disappointed in both these respects. It neither made him humane to his slaves, nor to emancipate them. If it had any effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways; for I believe him to have been a much worse man after his conversion than before. Prior to his conversion, he relied on his own depravity to shield and sustain him in his savage barbarity; but after his conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slave holding cruelty. He made the greatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, and night. He very soon distinguished himself among his brethren, and was soon made a class-leader and exhorter. His activity in revivals was great, and he proved himself an instrument in the hands of the church in converting many souls. His house was the preachers' home. They used to take great pleasure in coming there to put up; for while he starved us, he stuffed them. We have had three or four preachers there at a time. The names of those who used to come most frequently while I lived there, were Mr. Storks, Mr. Ewery, Mr. Humphrey, and Mr. Hickey. I have also seen Mr. George Cookman at our house. We slaves loved Mr. Cookman. We believed him to be a good man. We thought him instrumental in getting Mr. Samuel Harrison, a very rich slaveholder, to emancipate his slaves; and by some means got the impression that he was laboring to effect the emancipation of all slaves. When he was at our house, we were called into prayers. When the others were there, we were sometimes called in and sometimes not. Mr. Cookman took more notice of us than either of the other ministers. He could not come among us without betraying his sympathy for us, and stupid as we were, we had the sagacity to see it.

While I lived with my master in St. Michael's, there was a white young man, a Mr. Wilson, who proposed to keep a Sabbath school for the instruction of such slaves as might be disposed to learn to read the New Testament. We met but three times, when Mr. West and Mr. Fairbanks, both class-leaders, with many others, came upon us with sticks and other missiles, drove us off, and forbade us to meet again. Thus ended our little Sabbath school in the pious town of St. Michael's.

I have said my Master found religious sanction for his cruelty. As an example, I will state one of many facts going to prove the charge. I have seen him tie up a lame young woman, and whip her with a heavy cow skin upon her naked shoulders, causing the warm blood to drip; and in justification of the bloody deed, he would quote this passage of Scripture--"He that knoweth his master's will, and does it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."

Master would keep this lacerated young woman tied up in this horrid situation, four or five hours at a time. I have known him to tie her up early in the morning, and whip her before breakfast; leave her, go to his store, return at dinner, and whip her again, cutting her in the places already made raw with his cruel lash. The secret of the master's cruelty toward 'Henny' is found in the fact of her being almost helpless. When quite a child, she fell into the fire, and burned herself horribly. Her hands were so burnt that she never got the use of them. She could do very little but bear heavy burdens. She was to the master a bill of expense; and as he was a mean man, she was a constant offense to him. He seemed desirous of getting the poor girl out of existence. He gave her away once to his sister; but, being a poor gift, she was not disposed to keep her. Finally, my benevolent master, to use his own words, 'set her adrift to take care of herself.' here was a recently converted man, holding on upon the mother, and at the same time turning out her helpless child, to starve and die! Master Thomas was one of the many pious slaveholders who hold slaves for the very charitable purpose of taking care of them."

Douglass had escaped slavery nearly thirty years before it ended. During this time, if his old master, or a bounty hunter, had captured him, he could have been returned to slavery. After 1850, it was the law of the land that any northerner who gave shelter to an escaped slave was subject to fines and imprisonment. Douglass has already been quoted asking whether or not God will visit a land (judge it) for these things. The fact that Abraham Lincoln was not orthodox in his religious views, or the fact that many in the North were racist, does not alter the fact that they were used as divine instruments of deliverance. The Christianity of the old South was by in large a false one, an institution used as a pillar supporting the South's "Peculiar Institution." Most slaves were not treated any better because a master claimed to follow Christ. Here is more of Frederick Douglass on the subject:

"...Another advantage I gained in my new master was, he made no pretensions to, or profession of, religion; and this, in my opinion, was truly a great advantage. I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the South is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes,--a justifier of the most appalling barbarity,--a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds,--and a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection. Were I to be again reduced to the chains of slavery, next to that enslavement, I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me. For all the slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst. I have even found the meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly, of all others. It was my unhappy lot not only to belong to a religious slaveholder, but to live in a community of such religionists. Very near Mr. Freeland lived the Rev. Daniel Weeden, and in the same neighborhood lived the Rev. Rigby Hopkins. They were members and ministers in the Reformed Methodist Church. Mr. Weeden owned, among others, a woman slave, whose name I have forgotten. This woman's back, for weeks, was kept literally raw, made so by the lash of this merciless, religious wretch. He used to hire hands. His maxim was, Behave well or behave ill, it is the duty of a master occasionally to whip a slave, to remind him of his master's authority. Such was his theory, and such was his practice."

It is my purpose in sharing this testimony with you to highlight the greatness of Lincoln by examining the evil institution which he and those under his authority overthrew. Yes, Lincoln was slow in realizing that the North must act to free the slaves; it was two years into the war when he issued The Emancipation Proclamation. But once Lincoln decided on this course, he never wavered, even in the face of vehement opposition from some sections of the North. He imperiled his own reelection by standing firm on the issue of Emancipation.

To me, it is a miracle that these slaves who had an impossible task of learning the entire Word of God from masters who did not want them to know the whole Gospel, who were forbidden from learning to read God's Word, who had to worship in secret to worship freely, who underwent unspeakable cruelty in the name of the Gospel, these same slaves knew that their masters were not telling them what the Bible really said, and that their masters did not really live up to its commands. For them to be able to know there was a true Gospel, and a God that would hear and one day deliver them, is truly a miracle. In Part IV, Frederick Douglass contrasts real Christianity with the false one their master's proclaimed.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

LINCOLN'S LEGACY: PART II. DEATH, BONDAGE AND THE PURSUIT OF THE MASTER

(First published on 2/13/09 during the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Some links have been updated and a few typos were edited.)

While it is true that Abraham Lincoln always was morally opposed to slavery, he was slow to come to the realization that political action was required to bring about its demise. (It was two years into his presidency that he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.) He was convinced that if slavery was limited to the territory allotted to it by the MissouriCompromise (below the Mason Dixon Line), then the institution would slowly die out. This was the view of many of the original Founding Fathers such asThomas Jefferson. In the early days of this country, slavery was on the defensive. Many of those who held slaves publicly declared that slavery was not to be actively defended and hoped for its demise. However, the terms of the debate changed so that by the 1850's, the South and its defenders argued that slavery was a positive good. Southern politicians and writers made an all-out assault on the Declaration of Independence which declared that all were created in the image of God and therefore possessed the inalienable rights of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Southerners denied this proposition, stating that black people were not as equal as whites and therefore had no such rights the Declaration declared as belonging to all men. The Chief Justice of the United States, Roger B. Tanney, expressed these sentiments in his opinion in the Dred Scott case. This case involved a slaveholder moving to a free territory with his slave, Scott, who soon died. Scott contended that as his master was dead and he was a resident of a free-soil state, he was free. The Supreme Court, under Tanney, declared otherwise, that as a slave he was considered to be property and his fate was to be decided by the laws of property. This assault on the Declaration is what drove Lincoln back into politics. By his actions, and the actions of his supporters, the rights spoken of in the Declaration were preserved in this nation and have been won in other parts of the world. Without Lincoln and company fighting to preserve them, modern day Christians would not have these rights to refer to when fighting for the unborn.

The following is one man's view, Frederick Doulass's, of daily life endured by American slaves in the Old South. His view is by no means unique, as there is abundant supporting testimony from former slaves available. In fact, according to Ken Burn's "The Civil War," the average lifespan for a male slave was 29 years. The following is from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave:

"Mr. Gore was a grave man, and, though a young man, he indulged in no jokes, and said no funny words, seldomed smiled. His words were in perfect keeping with his looks, and his looks were in perfect keeping with his words. Overseers will sometimes indulge in a witty word, even with the slaves; not so with Mr. Gore. He spoke but to command, and commanded but to be obeyed; he dealt sparingly with his words, and bountifully with his whip, never using the former where the later would answer as well. When he whipped, he seemed to do so from a sense of duty, and feared no consequences. He did nothing reluctantly, no matter how disagreeable; always at his post, never inconsistent. He never promised but to fulfill. He was, in a word, a man of the most inflexible firmness and stone-like coolness.

"His savage barbarity was equaled only by the consummate coolness with which he committed the grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under his charge. Mr. Gore once undertook to whip one of Colonel Lloyd's slaves, by the name of Demby. He had given Denby but few stripes, when, to get rid of the scourging, he ran and plunged himself into a creek, and stood there at the depth of his shoulders, refusing to come out. Mr. Gore told him he would give him three calls, and that, if he did not come out at the end of the third call, he would shoot him. The first call was given. Demby made no response, but stood his ground. The second and third calls were given with the same result. Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with anyone, not even giving Demby an additional call, raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his standing victim, and in an instant Demby was no more. His mangled body sank out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he had stood.

"A thrill of horror flashed through every soul upon the plantation, excepting Mr. Gore. He alone seemed cool and collected. He was asked by Colonel Lloyd and my old master, why he resorted to this extraordinary expedient. His reply was, (as well as I can remember,) that Demby had become unmanageable. He was setting a dangerous example to the other slaves,--one which, if suffered to pass without some demonstration on his part, would finally lead to the subversion of all rule and order on the plantation. He argued that if one slave refused to be corrected, and escaped with his life, the other slaves would soon copy his example; the result of which would be, the freedom of the slaves, and the enslavement of the whites. Mr. Gore's defense was satisfactory. He continued in his status as overseer upon the home plantation. His fame as an overseer went abroad. His horrid crime was not even submitted to judicial investigation. It was committed in the presence of slaves, and they of course could neither institute a suit, nor testify against him; and thus the guilty perpetrator of one of the bloodiest and most foul murders goes unwhipped of justice, and uncensored by the community in which he lives. Mr. Gore lived in St. Michael's, Talbot County, Maryland, when I left there; and if he is still alive, he probably lives there now; and if so, he is now, as he was then, as highly esteemed and as much respected as though his guilty soul had not been stained with his brother's blood.

"I speak advisedly when I say this,--that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot County, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the Courts or the Community. Mr. Thomas Lanman, of St.Michael's, killed two slaves, one of whom he killed with a hatchet by knocking his brains out. He used to boast of the commission of the awful and bloody deed. I have heard him do so laughingly, saying among other things, that he was the only benefactor of his country in the company, and that when others would do as much as he had done, we should be relieved of the 'd---d n-----s.' "

We need not just take the word of former slaves concerning the cruelty of everyday slavery. There is plenty of evidence from the pens of slaveholders themselves. This quote is from Francis Schaeffer'sHow Should We Then Live?:

"Anyone with a tendency to minimize the brutality of slavery which existed in the United States should read Charles Dickens's (1812-1870) American Notes(1842). He begins this portion of the book saying 'The upholders of slavery in America--of the atrocities of which system I shall not write one word for which I have not ample proof or warrant....' He goes on to quote pages of newspaper ads which speak profoundly for themselves. Here are four examples out of the dozens which Dicken's quotes: 'Ran away, a negro boy about 12 years old. Had round his neck a chain dog-collar with De Lampert on it.' 'Detained at the police jail, the negro wretch, Myra. Has several marks of lashing, and has irons on her feet.' 'One hundred dollar reward for a negro fellow, Pompoy, 40 years old. He was branded on the left jaw.' 'Ran away, a negro woman and two children. A few days before she went off, I burned her with a hot iron, on the left side of her face. I tried to make the letter M.' "

If a slave survived to old age, this is the fate they could look forward to, according to Frederick Douglass:

"...my grandmother, who was now very old, having outlived my old master and all of his children, having seen the beginning and end of all of them, and her present owners she was of but little value, her frame already racked with the pains of old age, and complete helplessness stealing over her once active limbs, they took her to the woods, built her a little hut, put up a mud chimney, and made her welcome to the privilege of supporting herself there in perfect loneliness; she lives to remember and mourn over the loss of children, the loss of grandchildren, and the loss of great grandchildren...

"The hearth is desolate. The children, the unconscious children, who once sang and danced in her presence, are gone. She gropes her way, in the darkness of age, for a drink of water...She stands--she sits--she staggers--she falls--she groans--she dies--and there are none of her children or grandchildren present, to wipe from her wrinkled brow the cold sweat of death, or to place beneath the sod her fallen remains. Will not a righteous God visit for these things?"

It matters not that Abraham Lincoln was not an orthodox believer in Christianity when one argues that he was a righteous God's instrument for ending "these things." Even the unorthodox Thomas Jefferson, when speaking about a possible Civil War over slavery, said "I tremble when I remember that God is just." It appears that on this point Douglass was a better theologian then those slaveholders who claimed to follow Christ. In Part III, Douglass describes what passed for Christianity in the Old South. It is not a history the Church should be proud to acknowledge.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

LINCOLN'S LEGACY: PART 1. WHAT NO CHILD SHOULD EVER SEE

This series was first published in 2/2009 to mark the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. This is not meant to be a commentary on the events in Charlottesville. It is not an endorsement of the left's narrative on race; I reject that narrative. Nor is is a commentary on President Trump or the controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate statues. I re-post these articles because the pressure of the culture on conservatives, Christian and non-Christian, can cause conservatives to lose perspective and forget just how bad slavery really was, or why the North was justified in keeping the South in the Union. I have made some edits to the original articles as well as updated and added links.

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. I will not attempt to write an article praising his greatness; other writers can do that better than myself. However, a particular group of people need to be addressed as to why Lincoln is considered our greatest President: conservatives and conservative Christians who believe that Lincoln and the North were wrong and that the South was right. I had some spirited discussions on this topic in the mens' dorm in seminary. As to why some of these people have a negative opinion toward Lincoln and think the South was right, that will be addressed in a future column to appear in this series. For now I will express my astonishment that some consider the effort to abolish slavery and subdue the South to be on the wrong side of the theological debate. Some believe that because the South is now designated as the "Bible Belt", that the Old South was a bastion of true Christianity fighting a doomed battle to prevent the godless modernist North from wiping out the last vestiges of the true faith in this nation. Because some plantation owners professed to follow Christ, some have a benign view of what slavery was like. They don't understand slavery's soul-destroying effects upon those held in bondage. The slaves were denied every vestige of human dignity and the effects of slavery caused Southern whites to live in the grossest of sins. One of the best ways to understand Lincoln's greatness is to understand just how evil the system he was instrumental in destroying actually was. For that purpose, we need to hear the testimony of slaves who actually survived the hell that was slavery in the United States. In the following articles we will hear from two former slaves. Both comment not only on the evil deeds they witnessed, but also on the hypocritical religion that called itself Christianity that made their plight even worse. Both were believers in God and were able to distinguish between the true Gospel and the planter's religion that was used as a further pillar to buttress such an evil system. It signifies nothing that many in the North were racists as well; to read the personal testimony of these former slaves shows the justice of its forceful abolition and just who's side God favored in the conflict. God was on the side of the slaves, and any theology that seeks to argue otherwise is at odds with the heart of God.

The first former slave we shall hear from is Frederick Douglass who escaped from slavery in Maryland in the 1830's and wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave in 1845. It is from this work that I will quote from. We will begin by reading some of his earliest childhood memories, and how slave owners did all in their power to destroy all the bonds of family among the slaves:

"I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsbourough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland. I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it. By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant. I do not remember ever to have met a slave who could tell of his birthday...A want of information concerning my own was a source of unhappiness to me even during childhood. The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege. I was not allowed to make any inquiries of my master concerning it. He deemed all such inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and the evidence of a restless spirit...

"My mother was named Harriet Bailey...My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means of knowing was withheld from me . My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant--before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at an early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman too old for field labor. For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child's affection towards its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result.

"I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five times in my life; and each of these times was very short in duration, and at night. She was hired by Mr. Stewart, who lived about twelve miles from my home. She made her journeys to see me at night, travelling the whole distance on foot, after the performance of the day's work. She was a field hand, and a whipping is the penalty of not being in the field at sunrise...I do not recollect ever seeing my mother by the light of day. She was with me in the night. She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but before long I waked and she was gone...She died when I was about seven years old...I was not allowed to be present during her illness , at her death, or burial. She was gone long before I knew anything about it. Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful care, I received the tidings of her death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger.

"...slave holders have ordained, and by law established, that the children of slave women follow the condition of their mothers, and this is done too obviously to administer to their own lusts, and make a gratification of their wicked desires profitable as well as pleasurable, for by this cunning arrangement, the slave holders, in cases not a few, sustains to his slaves the double relation of master and father.

"My first master's name was Anthony. I do not remember his first name...His farms and slaves were under the care of an overseer. The overseer's name was Plummer. Mr. Plummer was a miserable drunkard, a profane swearer, and a savage monster. He always went armed with a cowskin and a very heavy cudgel. I have known him to cut and slash the womens' heads so horribly, that even the master would be enraged at his cruelty, and would threaten to whip him if he did not mind himself. It required extraordinary barbarity on the part of an overseer to affect him. He was a cruel man, hardened by a long life of slave holding. He would at times seem to take great pleasure in whipping a slave. I have often been awakened at the dawn of the day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip to make her scream, and whip to make her hush; and not until overcome with fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood clotted cowskin. I remember the first time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibition. I was quite a child, but remember it well. It was the first of a long series of outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. It was the most terrible spectacle, I wish I could commit to paper the feelings, with which I beheld it...I was so terrified and horror stricken at the sight, that I hid myself in a closet...I had never seen anything like it before...I had therefore been, until now, out of the way of the bloody scenes that often occurred on the plantation."

I heard a theologian say recently that if Christians disobeyed all the verses in the Bible commanding us to protect the most vulnerable, then Christians would be disobeying 60% of the whole Bible. What kind of theology condemns the Civil War fought by the North which would never have occurred but for slavery and which resulted in the destruction of that institution that so brutalized its victims such as Frederick Douglass and his family? Any one care to reply?

Part II will cover more of Frederick Douglass's testimony.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

THOMAS AQUINAS ON BALANCING THE ACTIVE LIFE AND THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE

"The active life may be considered from two points of view. First, as regards the attention to and practice of external works...it is evident that the active life hinders the contemplative, insofar as it is impossible for one to be busy with external action, and at the same time give oneself to Divine contemplation. Secondly, active life may be considered as quieting and directing the internal passions of the soul; and from this point of view the active life is a help to the contemplative, since the latter is hindered by the inordinateness of the internal passions...

"Hence [Pope Gregory I] says...'Those who wish to hold the fortress of contemplation must first of all train in the camp of action. Thus after careful study they will learn whether they no longer wrong their neighbor, whether they bear with equanimity the wrongs their neighbors do to them, whether their soul is neither overcome with joy in the presence of temporal goods, nor cast down with too great a sorrow when those goods are withdrawn." Summa Theologiae, question 182.a.2) HT: Christian History Magazine, Issue 110, p. 1.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

CHARLIE GARD HAS DIED

Charlie Gard, the British infant and subject of a court case in the UK, has died. Charlie was born with a fatal medical condition which his doctors said was incurable. His parents wanted to take him to the United States in the hope that experimental treatment would prevent the inevitable. A European Court refused, stating that the hospital and the state were better suited to act in their son's best interest. For more background, read this previous post.

For an account of the battle to save Charlie's life, and the underhanded tactics of those determined that they and not his parents would decide his fate, see this article from Dave Andrusko of the National Right to Life.

As to the claim that the state, not the parents, have ultimate custody of children, see this article by Marissa Mayer of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A REVIEW OF SCOTT McKNIGHT AND DENNIS VENEMA'S ADAM AND THE GENOME PODCASTS ON FRIDAY NIGHT FROZEN DINNER AND AN INTELLECTUAL

On two Fridays in June, I listened to two episodes of Scott McKnight's podcast Kingdom Roots. The subject of both of them was a new book, which he co-authored with Dennis Venema, called Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science. The book is an endorsement of theistic evolution (even though I believe I saw a headline somewhere on the internet stating they do not use the term theistic evolution). The first podcast, which I listened to on 6/16, featured Dr. McKnight. The second featured both authors. I listened to the second one on 6/30. That was after a hard day of yard work. One side of the yard is a steep hill overgrown with thick vines, many with thorns. A lawn mower can't be pushed up that hill, and the vines were too thick for a weed eater. So I used a hedge trimmer, being very careful for it is easy to slip down the hill. Why not hire someone to cut it? Because I wouldn't want them to slip and injure themselves. Toward the end of the work, I heard a noise which sounded like a mighty swarm of bees. I thought I had disturbed a bee hive and said to myself, "Now I'm in for it!" I turned my head in different directions to determine where the noise was coming from. In the process, I almost fell backward, with the hedge trimmer in my hand. Turned out to be a drone flying overhead. When I was done, it was too late to fix dinner, so I went to Arby's for a Roast Beef sandwich, onion rings, and what I thought was a caffeine-free diet coke. I'm pretty sure the guy at the drive-thru window gave me a drink with caffeine. Then I went home and listened to the second podcast. Such were my adventures that Friday evening.

Before I record my impressions, two things must be said. First, through ten years of blogging I have taken issue with evolution, theistic or non-theistic. This time, though, I feel that I'm at a disadvantage. I have not read Adam and the Genome, nor have I read some of the writings which have influenced McKnight and Venema's views, such as the works of John Walton. Nor have I read some of the ancient near Eastern writings that McKnight claims has a bearing on how we should read scripture. Therefore, this may not be my most informed discussion of the subject; this will not be a detailed reply. Second, while I am vehemently opposed to both theistic and non-theistic evolution, I don't maintain that one cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a believer in some form of evolution. One of my first book reviews was a negative review of Francis Collins' The Language of God. While critical of most of what he wrote, I went out of my way to favorably acknowledge his Christian experience. I wrote a six part highly critical review of Tim Keller's Creation, Evolution, and Christian Lay People. Yet I also began that series acknowledging his pastoral service in New York City. While I take issue with the theology sometimes expressed by McKnight, his blog, Jesus Creed, is must reading for anyone interested in the state of the Church. I have cited his blog, or articles he links to on his blog, many times. (I have no knowledge of Dr. Venema.)

McKnight's thesis is that discoveries in science, particularly concerning the human genome, must change how the Church reads and interprets scripture. He states that the Young Earth creationist reading of Genesis 1 & 2 is no longer tenable. Neither is the interpretation of Paul that his doctrine of sin presupposes a historical Adam and Eve. The question, who is right, the Bible or science? is a false dichotomy, McKnight contends. On the podcast, he claims that science alerts us to other voices on how scripture should be read. It directs us to the writings of the cultures outside of  ancient Israel, in the Ancient Near East, to give us a greater understanding of what scripture actually says. One text he refers to is The Epic of Gilgamesh. McKnight claims that history and archeology are upsetting traditional interpretations of New Testament writings on subjects such as homosexuality. As to Paul's doctrine of sin, McKnight claims that this doctrine as interpreted by the Church for two thousand years cannot be a correct reading of Paul. The Church has taught that Paul believed that sin was passed down through the generations because of the fall of Adam. McKnight claims that Paul never taught such a doctrine Why? Paul couldn't have taught that sin was passed down from generation to generation because that was not the majority Jewish view in ancient Israel. And because McKnight believes the belief in imputed sin is mistaken, the view that we inherited sin from two literal parents, Adam and Eve, is mistaken as well. And that Paul believed in a biological Adam, is also mistaken. Sin is not passed down, but operates in each individual when they are confronted with God's will and they choose to violate His will. McKnight says we must jettison traditional interpretations of scripture because of the crises of faith among those Christians who feel they must choose between their faith and the findings of science. McKnight says he has met many who struggle in this area; he calls them "scientific types" who believe traditional interpretations of scripture cannot bear the scrutiny of scientific evidence.

Why would we base the correctness of scriptural interpretation on the religious mindset prevailing in first century Israel, as McKnight urges us to do? After all, the teachings of Jesus were a refutation of the religious thinking and system which prevailed in Israel at that time. The Sermon on the Mount was a 180 degree departure from the legalism of the Pharisees who attempted to please God in the flesh. Matthew records that the people saw that Jesus taught with authority, in contrast to the scribes. In other words, Jesus didn't appeal to the various and competing rabbinical traditions the scribes appealed to for authority. His healings on the Sabbath violated the very core of the Israelite understanding of the Sabbath. So much so that the religious leaders plotted to kill Him. The ancient Israelites believed that God created man so he could observe the Sabbath in particular and the whole Torah in general. Jesus declared that the Sabbath was made for man, not man made for the Sabbath. Jesus teachings on death and resurrection ran counter to the beliefs of the Sadducees, who did not believe in heaven or life after death. Jesus told them that they knew neither the scriptures nor the power of God. Their religious beliefs, along with the beliefs of other religious groups in Israel, ran counter to what the Old Testament really said. Jesus' claim of divinity gave the religious leaders an excuse to charge Him with blasphemy. So why should the we discard two thousand years of consistent Church teaching because of the faulty understanding of God and the Torah which prevailed in Israel at that time of Jesus and Paul?

As for scientific types, why are those Christians who believe in evolution scientific types, while those who do not believe in evolution, are not scientific types? There are many in the scientific community who accept the traditional Christian teaching on creation. "Not as many as who believe in evolution," many would reply. Of course that is true. That is due to unbelief among the majority of persons in general. Also, many refuse to reveal their belief in creation for fear their career in science would be short-lived. Not all those who adhere to some form of Intelligent Design, which Dr. Venema debunks as untenable, are biblical creationists. Some hold to some form of evolution. Even some atheists, such as Thomas Nagle, doubt Darwinian Evolution. Many of those doubters of Darwin which were profiled in Ben Stein's documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, such as Richard Sternberg, are not biblical creationists. McKnight paints with too broad a brush the distinction between scientific types and those who doubt Darwinian evolution. McKnight speaks of the struggles his students have between accepting the Genesis account of creation and evolution. I do not doubt that many have struggled with this issue. I know that many people sincerely wrestle with intellectual doubts concerning the existence of God, the veracity of the Bible, and how man and the universe came to be. But it is also true that people in science wrestle with the issue of Biblical creation for fear that if they publicly accept the Genesis account, their scientific careers would be jeopardized. Even a non-Christian such as Richard Sternberg, who as an editor of a scientific publication approved an article based on Intelligent Design, was target by the evolutionary vanguard within the scientific establishment. This was documented in Ben Stein's Expelled. McKnight's plea to change our reading of scripture for the sake of keeping scientific types in the faith has an element of a guilt trip in it. I'm not susceptible to guilt trips which try to convince me scriptural interpretation must be altered for the sake of scientific types.

Both McKnight and Venema claim that the human race could not have originated from one pair of ancestors. They say that humanity had to evolve from at least 10,000 hominids. What about the discovery 30 years ago which scientists claimed was proof that the human race evolved from a single female from the African continent? Some high profile scientific organizations claim this is the manner in which humans evolved. Some claim that all life evolved from a single cell.

Here is one post from my series taking issue with Tim Keller on the subject of evolution. This post, Adam and Eve: The Extreme Makeover Edition,examines how the Church's view of Adam must be altered if the Church is to accept evolution. It looks like I need to repost these articles again. I have discovered that Keller has a video series with the same name as his article. I wish I had known about it sooner. I will have to watch and respond here in the future.

For background on the persecution of Richard Sternberg, see these two articles, here and here. These articles were published in 2008, so I am not sure the all the links in them are still good.

For an explanation of the title, Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual, see here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

PRO LIFE STORIES OF INTEREST, SUMMER 2017

The battle for Charlie Gard's life is taking place on two continents, Europe and North America. Charlie is an infant with a rare disease that will most likely end his life soon. The one last hope his parents have is an experimental treatment available in the United States. However, a European Court has denied them permission to bring Charlie here to the states. The court states that while parents have rights regarding their childrens' medical care, the state alone can best decide what is best for children. And the best thing that could be done for Charlie is to let him die with dignity by allowing the hospital to pull the plug on his life support. Here is a background piece by Daniel Payne of The Federalist. (HT: Bart Gingerich, @bjgingerich) Since this piece was written, both President Trump and the Pope have spoken on behalf of Charlie and his parents. A hospital in the U.S. has offered its services. The European court has now decided to review its findings. Let's pray for a resolution that affirms Charlie's and his parent's rights which should never been interfered with in the first place. The court's assertion of power over the life and death of anyone, let alone a baby, is chilling. This assertion of power is the natural consequence of a single payer health system which prevails in Europe. This court is what Sarah Palin would call a death panel. This is what awaits the U.S. if Obamacare is not repealed. Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, would never vote the way the members of the European court did. It is imperative that President Trump nominate more justices like him.

Last January, the Family Research Council posted an article, Pro-Life Bills You Should Know About in 2017. These bills are listed below. I cannot find any information whether any of these bills have been passed since the article appeared. The article gives a brief explanation concerning the purpose of each bill.

1. S.184/H.R.7 - No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act.
2. H.R.37/S.220 - Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
3. H.R.36 - Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
4. Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act.
5. Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act.
6. Conscience Protection Act

The pro life movement is, of course, known for its advocacy for the unborn. Yet it also seeks protection for the elderly who may feel pressure to end their lives prematurely through assisted suicide. Before being elevated to the Supreme Court by President Trump, Neil Gorsuch wrote a book arguing against the acceptance of assisted suicide. The book he wrote is called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. Here are two quotes from Gorsuch's book in a Washington Post story:

“All human beings are intrinsically valuable,” he writes in the book, “and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

"We seek to protect and preserve life for life’s own sake in everything from our most fundamental laws of homicide to our road traffic regulations to our largest governmental programs for health and social security. We have all witnessed, as well, family, friends, or medical workers who have chosen to provide years of loving care to persons who may suffer from Alzheimer’s or other debilitating illnesses precisely because they are human persons, not because doing so instrumentally advances some other hidden objective. This is not to say that all persons would always make a similar choice, but the fact that some people have made such a choice is some evidence that life itself is a basic good."

The U.S. is just one nation grappling with physician assisted suicide. Canada passed the Medical Aid in Dying Law. It allowed doctors to sign up voluntarily to help dying patients end their lives. However, many of those doctors who have signed up have changed their minds. One experience in helping a patient end their life was too much for them and have had their names removed from the list. From the Break Point story by John Stonestreet:


“'We’re seeing individuals, or groups of physicians, who are participating and really feel like they’re alleviating pain, alleviating suffering,' says the CMA’s (Canadian Medical Association) Jeff Blackmer. 'And then we’re seeing doctors who go through one experience and it’s just overwhelming, it’s too difficult, and those are the ones who say, ‘take my name off the list. I can’t do any more.’”
That kind of reaction isn’t surprising, given the Hippocratic Oath every doctor takes, vowing to “do no harm” to patients. These doctors started out philosophically supportive of euthanasia … and then reality set in. The human conscience—and the law of God written on our hearts—are powerful things indeed. (HT: Life Site News)

I found this quote in a post from before the 2016 election. It is from IJR.com; the quote is by Gianna Jessen, who survived the attempt to abort her at her birth. She was praising Donald Trump's pro life stance as opposed to Hillary Clinton's. She commented on Trump:

 “I'm telling you, Mr. Trump has courage that we do not see enough of. It's plain to me after witnessing what he did Wednesday night and what he's endured the past few weeks. I think Wednesday changed that part of this election and I was so proud and amazed by Mr. Trump...I don't believe abortion has been discussed enough. What Trump did Wednesday night was unprecedented. He vowed to defund Planned Parenthood and stand up against partial abortions. Most candidates wouldn't have done that and he did it — I'm amazed that he did it. I fully support Trump and people who ask me, 'Oh my gosh, how could you?' I say, 'Listen, have you heard of the Supreme Court?' I don't mind being put down for supporting him...It's over if Hillary Clinton wins presidency. Not only will America be changed, we will not recognize this nation...all those Christians that are standing on their principals by voting for her are absolute fools. They have no idea what's coming if she's elected...She doesn't even respect herself, there's no way she respects women and cares about our rights."

Commenting on her own miraculous survival, Jessen had this to say:


"Many Americans have no idea that babies can even live through abortions and are often left to die. But this does happen. I know this because I was born alive in an abortion clinic after being burned in my mother’s womb for 18 hours.
My medical records clearly state the following: Born during saline abortion, April 6, 1977, 6 a.m., two and a half pounds. Triumphantly, I entered this world.
Apart from Jesus himself, the only reason I am alive is the fact that the abortionist had not yet arrived at work that morning. Had he been there, he would have ended my life by strangulation, suffocation or simply leaving me there to die."

Anthony Levatino was a doctor who performed by his own count 1,200 abortions. Some of those abortions followed the same procedure which Gianna Jessen survived. But when Levatino's daughter was killed in a tragic accident, he began to realize the sacredness of the lives of the unborn. His story can be found here, from Life Site News.

This last story isn't a pro life story, but I decided to include it here. From the website Heat Street, medical personal in the United Kingdom are being instructed not to refer to a pregnant woman as a pregnant woman, so not to offend trans-gender persons formerly male but now pregnant.