January 2008


On a recent Stand to Reason broadcast, Greg Koukl discussed some bad reasons to vote for, or not vote for a presidential candidate. His insights are worth passing on here.

In this presidential race, some of the candidates stand out. On the Democratic side we have a woman, and an African-American. On the Republican side we have a Mormon and an Evangelical former pastor. Some people are basing their vote largely, if not entirely, on these distinctions. But is this a good way to determine who we will vote for?

Let’s take the Democrats. Is it acceptable for a woman to vote for Hillary Clinton simply because Hillary is a woman? You might think this is acceptable. But let me ask you this: Is it acceptable for someone to not vote for Hillary simply because she is a woman? I imagine you would say no–that such is sexist. What about Barack Obama? Is it acceptable for an African-American to vote for Obama simply because he is black? You might think this is acceptable. But let me ask you this: Is is acceptable for someone to not vote for Obama simply because he is black? I imagine you would say no–that such is racist. Greg asked, if it is sexist to refuse to vote for Hillary on the basis of her gender, is it not equally sexist to base one’s vote for Hillary on her gender? And likewise, if it is racist to refuse to vote for Obama on the basis of his race, is it not equally racist to vote for Obama on the basis of his race? I think a reasonable conclusion is that it is equally sexist, and equally racist. To vote for a candidate simply because of their gender or race is not a good basis for voting.

What about the Republicans? Can the same thing be said for a vote for or against Romney, or for or against Huckabee? Yes and no. Unlike race and gender, religion is ideological in nature. Race and gender are ideologically neutral. Because religion is ideological in nature, it affects the way people view the world, and the decisions they make. Romney’s religious views and Huckabee’s religious views may cause them to make decisions that would differ from the other, as well as from the other candidates. As such, one’s religious persuasions can play a legitimate factor in who we cast our vote for.

But in another sense, basing one’s vote on a candidate’s religion is just as misguided as basing one’s vote on a candidate’s gender or race. We must ask ourselves how–on a practical level–
one’s religious views might affect their ability to perform the function of an executive and commander-in-chief. What matters is their ability to perform their job, and that job is not that of a spiritual adviser. When we elect a president we are not electing a national pastor. We are electing someone to command the army, enforce the Constitution, pass/deny legislation into law, nominate federal justices, and be our diplomatic representative to the nations. So the real question is how one’s theological persuasions will have a bearing on those particular job functions. In most cases, I think it has very little to do with it.

Many Evangelicals are tempted to vote for Huckabee because of his religious beliefs, and against Romney because he is a Mormon, even though they prefer the policies of Romney over Huckabee. They reason that they cannot vote for Romney because he is part of a Christian cult. I think this is terribly misguided. Again, we are not electing a national pastor. We are electing an executive. How would Romney’s Mormonism affect his ability to do the job of the president of the U.S.? The only area one’s religious views might have a bearing on their job as president would be on issues of morality and social justice. Does s/he believe abortion, same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem cell research is wrong. What is s/he willing to do to fight those moral evils? And just because one is of a particular religion does not mean that they will automatically hold the same moral values as us. Think Jimmy Carter. And just because they hold the same moral values as us does not mean they will fight for those values. Think of the many politicians who claim they are personally opposed to abortion, but do not believe abortion should be made illegal. Think Giuliani. What matters is the candidate’s position on the issues that are pertinent to the job of the president; not their religious beliefs or religious affiliation. Remember that when you cast your vote in the primaries, and in the general election in November.

What a relief! After a dismal finish in Florida, Giuliani is going to withdraw from the presidential race. Thankfully this election will not come down to a choice between to pro-abortion candidates, and thankfully, the Republican party was not “forced” to nominate a pro-abortion candidate for the Republican ticket, which could have proved disastrous to the pro-life influence in the future of the party.

Why did Rudy fall? A year ago he was the clear front-runner in all the polls. Maybe the pro-lifers in the party stuck to their principles in the end. Maybe they saw there were better candidates. Maybe Rudy’s strategy of betting it all on Florida doomed him. Whatever it was, he is out, and I am happy!

I just finished reading a very interesting article in the L.A. Times on abortion titled “Abortion’s Battle of Messages.” The authors are former presidents of abortion-choice groups. Frances Kissling is the former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, and Kate Michelman is the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. What they say in the article is as interesting as what they fail to say.

They admit that the pro-life movement is a formidable foe with strong arguments and good tactics. They also admit that pro-lifers have moved the debate from the woman’s choice, to the status of the unborn. They also admit that the cards are currently stacked against them in the abortion debate.

Then they note some areas they need to re-message if they hope to convince America of their position. They ended the article by saying, “If pro-choice values are to regain the moral high ground, genuine discussion about these challenges needs to take place within the movement. It is inadequate to try to message our way out of this problem. Our vigorous defense of the right to choose needs to be accompanied by greater openness regarding the real conflict between life and choice, between rights and responsibility. It is time for a serious reassessment of how to think about abortion in a world that is radically changed from 1973.”

That’s what they say. What they did not say is how to deal with the challenges posed by pro-life apologists. They did not attempt to show why our arguments are mistaken. They did not attempt to show that the unborn are not human persons in the human community. They did not offer any content for repackaging the pro-abortion message. They merely presented the daunting challenge abortion-choicers are facing if they hope to turn back the tide. I think that shows us where we are at in the intellectual aspect of this debate: on the winning side.

A common argument for abortion is the argument from bodily autonomy. It is reasoned that a woman — and only a woman — has the right to decide how her body is going to be used. If she does not want to share her body with her developing child, she has the right to rid her body of it, even if that requires ending the child’s life. This argument is summed up nicely in a common mantra of abortion-choice advocates, “My body, my choice.”

Much could be said as to why bodily autonomy is not a good justification for abortion rights, but I do not wish to focus on that here. Instead, I want to focus on a tactical approach to exposing the bodily autonomy argument for what it is: a sham. Let me show you how.

Only the most ardent abortion advocates believe in unrestricted abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Most abortion advocates draw the line somewhere, even if they differ on the precise temporal location. Some say abortion is no longer permissible once the baby reaches viability (roughly 23 weeks). Others say the line should be drawn at seven months. Wherever the line is drawn, the fact that a line is drawn between morally permissible and morally impermissible abortions demonstrates that the argument for the moral permissibility of abortion from bodily autonomy is an ad hoc, rather than principled argument. Here’s why.

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Back in November I directed you to a couple of brief articles by Dan Wallace on Biblical textual criticism. His series has continued since then. For those who are interested, here are the other links (in historical order):

The Nature of Textual Variants
Textual Variants: What Issues Are at Stake?
Textual Variants: What Issues Are At Stake? Part 2
Why Did Scribes Make Mistakes when Copying Scripture? Part 1
Why Did Scribes Make Mistakes when Copying Scripture? Part 2
The Significance of Scribal Corruptions to the New Testament
The Composition of the Original Text

Many of us spend a lot of time commuting. What better way to pass the time than listen to some great teaching, or discussions on matters related to Christian truth. There is a wealth of free audio resources on the web from top-notch thinkers that will help think more clearly about issues of truth. Here are some I would recommend:

Apologetics
Stand to Reason radio
Stand to Reason podcasts
William Lane Craig
Apologetics.com

Theology
Converse With Scholars
Southern Bapist Theological Seminary lecture series

Mix
Veritas Forum
Breakpoint

I guarantee that your mind will be stimulated, or your money back!

If you are like me, you can’t help but to stare at those who look and dress anti-socially. You know, piercings in unimaginable places, hair styles that require enormous amounts of creativity and hairspray, or clothes that even fashion designers would not sport on the runway. What do you say if you get caught staring, and the person says to you, “What are you looking at?” I’ve come up with a little line: “If you want to look different from everyone else in society, don’t be surprised when everyone else in society looks at you differently.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute has just released its report on abortion statistics for the years 2004-2005: Abortion in the United States: Incidence and Access to Services, 2005. The last time this report was released was in 2003 for the years 1999-2000. Overall, the picture looks good. Abortions and abortion providers are still on the decline. Here are some important snippets from the report:

Total number of abortions

“The number of abortions in the United States declined from 1.61 million (the all-time high) in 1990 to 1.31 million in 2000. Similarly, the abortion rate declined from 27 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 1990 to 21 per 1,000 in 2000, a level comparable to levels of the mid-1970s.”

“An estimated 1.2 million abortions were performed in the United States in 2005, 8% fewer than in 2000. The abortion rate in 2005 was 19.4 per 1,000 women aged 15–44; this rate represents a 9% decline from 2000.”

“Abortion rates declined faster between 2000 and 2005 than they had between 1996 and 2000 (5%). The abortion ratio indicates that 22% of pregnancies (excluding those ending in miscarriages) ended in abortion in 2005.”

Abortion providers

“There were 1,787 abortion providers in 2005, only 2% fewer than in 2000. … Indeed, if not for new providers offering only early medication abortion, the total number of providers would have decreased by 8% instead of 2% between 2000 and 2005.”

Number of medication (as opposed to surgical) abortions

“Early medication abortion, offered by an estimated 57% of known providers, accounted for 13% of abortions (and for 22% of abortions before nine weeks’ gestation).”

Legal restrictions on abortion are partially credited for slowing the abortion rate

“At the same time, during the last several years, a number of states have implemented restrictions that may have made it more difficult for women to access abortion services and for physicians to perform abortions. For example, between 2000 and 2004, five states enacted laws that impose burdens on abortion providers. These restrictions range from requiring abortions after 15 weeks to be provided in a licensed surgical center to requiring providers to have expensive ultrasound equipment on-site.”

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul spoke of singing in tongues. Interestingly, I hear few Pentecostals do so. Do you? If so, do you tend to sing new and unknown songs, or mimic the tune and tempo of known songs?

For all you tongues-speakers out there, can you speak in tongues at-will, or do you have to be in prayer for it to happen? In the days after I first received the Spirit, I had to be in prayer before I could speak in tongues again. But as time went on that was no longer the case. I could start and stop speaking in tongues at-will. But I know not everyone experiences this. What has your experience been?

I would like to keep our attention focused on the passage discussed in my last post. Not only is there the question of 2-3 interpretations per service versus per judgment, but there is also a question of whether there are to be 2-3 messages in tongues followed by a single interpretation, or 2-3 successive couplets of tongues and interpretations. In other words, did Paul mean 2-3 people should give messages in tongues, followed by a single interpretation of those messages, or did Paul mean there should only be 2-3 tongues each accompanied by a separate interpretation?


In support of the single interpretation view, notice that Paul says “someone” (singular) must interpret. That may mean Paul had a singular interpreter and interpretation in mind. Of course, even if we granted that Paul had a single interpreter, it does not resolve the question at hand, for it could be that Paul envisioned a single person interpreting each message individually, so that one person is giving 2-3 interpretations.


In support of the more traditional understanding that there are to be 2-3 interpretations accompanying the 2-3 messages, Paul may have been using “someone” generically to convey the notion that these tongues must have corresponding interpretations, not necessarily one interpretation by a single individual. In support of this view, notice that Paul used “someone” two times in verse 27. He said, “If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret.” Clearly the first use of someone does not refer to a single individual or single message, because Paul went on to speak of 2-3 different messages, and noted that they were consecutive. If the context makes it clear that Paul’s first use of the singular “someone” does not preclude multiple messages and speakers, there is no reason to think his second use of the singular “someone” precludes multiple interpreters and interpretations.


Of course, we might even ask whether the question at hand is pushing the text too far. Indeed, one could make the case from this passage that the interpreter should not be one of the individuals who gave a message since Paul makes a personal distinction between the speaker and interpreter in verse 28. But when we look at 1 Cor 14:5 and 13 it appears that the ideal situation is one in which the speaker provides the interpretation. Which is it? I would argue that either is acceptable, and that we only see a contradiction when we try to squeeze hard and fast rules out of passages that are not meant to communicate as much.


So maybe we should not be reading the text with a fine tooth comb, thinking we can glean a hard and fast rule for how many interpretations we should expect. Maybe experience can be our guide in this area, given the obscurity of the text. And when it comes to experience, some people have experienced multiple tongues followed by a single interpretation, while others have experienced 2-3 couplets of tongues and interpretations. If both are the work of the Holy Spirit, then so be it.


What do you think?

When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church. 14:27 If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret. 14:28 But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God. 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said. 14:30 And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude. 14:31 For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged. (1 Corinthians 14:26-31, NET Bible)

As a matter of practice, I have never heard more than three tongues and interpretations in the course of a service. This passage is usually cited to explain why. But does a proper interpretation of this passage limit the number of tongues-interpretations in a service, or does it merely limit the number of tongues-interpretations that can be given prior to an evaluation (judgment) of what was said by the body? The latter seems more probable given the context, and given common sense.

While Paul does not specifically mention a time for judging the interpreted tongues, he does mention a time for judging prophecies. Since Paul equated prophecy and interpreted tongues (1 Cor 14:1-5), and since both are revelatory speeches from God, and since Paul spoke of both in the same context, it stands to reason that the body must judge the content of both. Once the body has judged the content of the interpretations, however, why couldn’t more be given?

Logically speaking I don’t see why interpretations would be limited to a particular service. It seems rather arbitrary. If God provided us three tongues-interpretations, and we break for ½ lunch, and then return for more church, does the clock start over? Given the traditional interpretation of this verse, the answer would be yes. But that seems silly. Paul’s emphasis is not on how many interpretations can be given per se, but how many interpretations can be given before somebody evaluates their revelatory worth. After such an evaluation has been made, more could follow.

If you disagree with me, I’d be interested to hear your reasoning.

Have you ever had doubts about your own experience of speaking in tongues? Have you ever wondered if it was truly God, or just you making up sounds? What about others? Have you ever heard someone speaking in tongues, but doubted that it was the real deal? How do we tell the difference between fake and authentic tongues?


There are two ways we can test the validity of tongues. Both can be used to test the validity of our own personal tongues, while only one can be used to test the validity of others’ tongues.


Scripture teaches us that tongues are genuine languages. They are not meaningless sounds, or ecstatic gibberish. Languages employ a variety of sounds to compose a variety of words. If, when you speak in tongues, you find that you are repeating the same few sounds over and over and over again, it may indicate that you are not truly speaking in tongues. This same criterion can also be used to help us judge whether others’ use of tongues is legitimate or contrived.


Secondly, and more importantly, we learn from Scripture that it is the Spirit who enables us to speak in a new, and unlearned language (Acts 2:4). The words we speak have their origin with God, not man. We do not invent the language, and thus we do not invent the “sounds” that we speak.


In 1 Corinthians 14:14-15 Paul contrasted speaking in tongues with praying in his native tongue, saying the former prayer was with his spirit whereas the latter prayer was with his mind. He made the point that when his spirit prays, his mind is unproductive. This means our minds are not involved in the speaking process. Speaking in tongues is not something we have to think about. Contrast this to our native language. First we think about what we are going to say, and then we say it—in that order. The language of the Spirit, however, is not connected to the mind, but rather ensues from the spirit of man. That means we don’t think about what we are going to say in tongues and then say it, but rather we speak the words in tongues, and then upon hearing what we have spoken we think about the words or sounds we just heard. It is just the opposite of learned speech.


There have been many occasions in prayer in which I found myself thinking about things such as what I was going to do when I was finished praying, all the while speaking in tongues. Shame on me for not having my mind on prayer, but the fact that I could think on one thing while speaking another proves that the mind is not the source of tongues. If you find yourself having to think about what sounds you will speak next, that is a good indication you are not truly speaking in tongues. I hope such is not the case, but it is better to recognize this and seek the true experience than it is to persist in a false belief and experience, mistaking it for the true.

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