May 26, 2004

Job's Friends & the Importance of Humility

T.M. Moore, at Breakpoint, has a valuable lesson on spiritual arrogance based on wisdom learned from the book of Job.

The book of Job is probably the most difficult book of the Bible for me to read, except for the book of lists, 1 Chronicles. T.M. Moore is right on this point: breaking out the conversations of Job's friends, they are actually on theologically solid ground. So why are they wrong? They don't present a complete and total revelation of God, and the arguments they make are done to justify an erroneous conclusion, and made with no compassion to their audience.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2004

Light blogging

Blogging is going to be a little lighter than usual this week, due to the Stanley Cup playoffs and Memorial Day coming up. There will be a Wednesday post up, then no more until after Memorial Day, when I expect the Stanley Cup to have been won.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

Abortion & the Death Penalty

It's a common refrain now, to hear the Democrats complain about how the Catholic Church is not denying communion to politicians who support the death penalty. It's a red herring, intended to distract from the abortion issue, where the church's position is well-known and solid.

What is the Church's view on the death penalty? It's not what the detractors are saying. I went out and bought the Catechism of the Catholic Church so I could look it up (among other things). Here's what it says:

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm--without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself--the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

In short, the death penalty should be a legal option for the state, but rarely used. The Church's detractors are not speaking truthfully. The Catholic Church is justified in its stance.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2004

Thoughts on Marriage

One thought expressed in the debate about homosexual "marriages" is that opponents have no moral standing to criticize it since society has become tolerant of divorce and infidelity. That argument doesn't hold water. Just because we don't attain to ideal standards doesn't mean we can't respect them. Besides, many people who are opposed to the same-sex "marriages" are also opposed to divorce and infidelity, so they are certainly authorized to speak out without any taint of inconsistency. Organizations like Marriage Encounter work within churches to strengthen families providing support for married couples, showing that there are people who are not giving in on the issue of marriage break-ups. In today's OpinionJournal, Dale Buss provides evidence that religious counseling prevents divorce.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 06:01 AM | Comments (1)

On Home Schooling

Diana West gives the secular case for homeschooling.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 05:47 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2004

May 19, 2004

Should the UUA be tax-exempt?

Joe Carter (The Evangelical Outpost) and Jeffrey Collins (Joyful Christian) discuss a case where a Unitarian Universalist Church was denied tax-exempt status since they, by not requiring belief in a deity, cannot legitimately claim to be a religion.

I used to be a UU myself, and I find myself disagreeing with Joe Carter. In my experience, with no theological foundation on which to base doctrine, the Unitarian Universalist Association has become primarily a political advocacy organization, not much different in fact from Planned Parenthood (as you can tell from looking at the UUAWO website for the March for Womens' Lives). So in my opinion, the UUA is no more deserving of a tax exemption than is Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, Planned Parenthood is tax-exempt, even though they are pumping out extremely partisan advertisements trying to put John Kerry in the White House. I thought tax-exempt meant they weren't allowed to do that.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

Recent reading while not blogging

I've been taking a few days off - a silent protest to something that went down a couple of days ago, but no reason for extended silence either. I've been reading Lee Strobel's excellent book The Case for a Creator. I'll be writing more about this book later (I know I've said that before - but it's too late for me to start today). In the meantime, I've noticed that Touchstone will have an upcoming issue dedicated to Intelligent Design, and they've got several entries (start here and read up) on that subject up on their blog.

(link to Touchstone provided via Mark Shea)

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004

May 14, 2004

UN and Iraq

Churches respond to Iraq Prisoner Scandal

Ok, we screwed up big time. People serving in our military committed atrocities. But I've got one question for those insisting this is just cause for leaving the UN in charge.

Remember Srebenica?

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 11:09 PM | Comments (2)

Catholics, communion, and abortion

Today, I read that some Catholic bishops plan to deny communion to people who vote for politicians who support abortion.

I've been following the Catholic communion controversy, and while I support the Catholic church's upholding of its standards, I don't see how they will be able to do this without becoming very intrusive on its parishioners. Maybe I'm wrong -- I'm a United Methodist and have never been a member of the Catholic church, though my wife was a very long time ago.

On the other hand, I expect any minute now to hear of the Religious Left calling for the Catholic church's tax-exempt status to be taken away. They will say that it's a violation of "separation of church and state" (ignoring their own pro-abortion resolutions, like this one and this one). I also remember the last Unitarian Universalist sermon I heard before the 2000 elections where the parish minister preached a blatantly pro-abortion sermon and exhorted the Unitarian Universalist faithful to go out there and vote to save abortion rights, and later a very emotional woman got into a shouting match with me, telling me I was "destroying the country", when I told her I was going to vote for W. Who's kidding who that the religious left is any different than the religious right when it comes to "separating church and state"?

Now, is it appropriate for the bishops to deny communion to anyone? In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says:

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

In my church, United Methodist, we leave it up to each individual to determine if they are worthy to eat and drink. We don't even require that one be a member of the church in order to do so. We call it open communion. That's our tradition, and I happen to like it that way. I don't have a problem with the Catholic church having different standards however; especially when they are consistent with the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. The Catholic church holds the standard that abortion is a grave sin, a standard I believe also. Anyone who supports the practice of abortion via a legal institution is not showing evidence of eating and drinking in a worthy manner according to the standards set by the church. Call it what you will, but the church is not commanded by our Lord to be tolerant of evil.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004

Happy Birthday General!

General Cat turns 16 tomorrow!

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:57 PM | Comments (0)

Double Standards

Jonah Goldberg acknowledges a double standard regarding what pictures are shown to the public.

And, via Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, a quote from Gregory Gause, director of Middle East studies at the University of Vermont, in

Berg's execution is "a particularly gruesome and graphic way" for terrorists to "get their point across that they will kill any American they can find," says Gregory Gause, director of Middle East studies at the University of Vermont. "My fear is that this awful act will lend credence to people in this country who say that whatever we do, others do worse."

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)

New falcons hatched

Happy Mother's Day, Mariah! Now move over and let us see your little fluff ball!

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2004

Humorous and Coincidental ailment

So that's why she's so cranky! It's those darn civet cats- I'm never letting her drink that brand of coffee again! While the link is intended to be humorous, there's quite a coincidence here -- our daughter, Rebecca was born in China, and there is an apparent link between the civet cat and SARS, so civet cats could be an actual cause of Rebecca's disease, except that she is a perfectly healthy one year old.

Doctor Unheimlich has diagnosed me with
Rebecca's Disease
Cause:improperly prepared civet cats
Symptoms:vomiting, delusions, long hair, vomiting
Cure:click heels together three times
Enter your name, for your own diagnosis:

Maybe if the civet cats weren't being prepared in a plastic oven, they'd be ok. Oh, well, at least there's a phone at hand for calling 911!

(link to Dr. Unheimlich's Disease Registry found at Susan's site Lilac Rose)

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:07 PM | Comments (1)

May 08, 2004

More thoughts on schism

The Dunker Journal has a good comment on how liberals and conservatives are differentiated in the media, and I've noted it too, in all I've read about the Episcopal and Methodist dealings with the homosexuality issue.

Funny, isn't it, how when liberals take control, it is "the wind of the Spirit" making the church "progressive;" yet when conservatives/evangelicals even move a denomination toward a more Biblical stance, it is a "right wing takeover," and "oh, how low we have sunk."

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

United Methodist schism?

In a previous post, Joel Thomas, in the comments, referred me to an article in the New York Times that covers a memo detailing private thoughts of Bill Hinson, president of the Confessing Movement, on "an amicable and just separation".

I cannot find a link to the May 7 NYTimes article but I remember it quoting Mark Tooley, president of UM Action, part of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, as saying that conservatives were seeking a split for a long time. This quotation seemed to be very much out of character for anything I had read coming from Mr. Tooley. I subscribe to UM Action, and all of their exhortations to dissatisfied Methodists are to stay in the church and work for reform from within. I cannot help but think that Mr. Tooley was misquoted by the Times.

Here's another news article from another paper with a different quotation from Mark Tooley:
Church organizer calls for Methodist split

Anyhow, getting back to Rev. Bill Hinson, while he is the president of an organization with much influence, he also stated that the views expressed in this paper, An Amicable and Just Separation, are his own and have not been officially approved, nor submitted to the UMC General Conference. I am a supporter of the Confessing Movement, but I am not happy to hear these ideas expressed. I think they do a disservice to the United Methodist Church, especially given the goals achieved by the Confessing Movement at the General Convention. The public expression of these views only supports those who claim that conservatives are to blame whenever churches divide over conflicts involving Biblical authority and orthodoxy.

UPDATE: Another article from Christianity Today has further quotations and viewpoints from Rev. Bill Hinson, James Heidinger, President of Good News, and Mark Tooley of UM Action.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

Something In Me Just Snapped

Is the Defense Department as incompetent as it seems? Or is it just me? I'm beyond being demoralized....

Read the following and draw your own conclusions: an excerpt from the 5/7/04 transcript of the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Iraq prisoners -- the transcript is linked from the story in the Los Angeles Daily News:

[GOP Senator from Virginia, John] WARNER: Senator McCain?

[GOP Senator from Arizona, John] MCCAIN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

I come to this hearing with a deep sense of sorrow and grave concern. Sorrow for -- after the shock and anger of seeing these pictures for the first time, that so many brave young Americans who are fighting and dying are under this cloud.

I attended the memorial service of Pat Tillman, a brave American who sacrificed his life recently, and he and others, unfortunately, at least in some way are diminished by this scandal.

I'm gravely concerned that many Americans will have the same impulse as I did when I saw this picture, and that's to turn away from them. And we risk losing public support for this conflict. As Americans turned away from the Vietnam War, they may turn away from this one unless this issue is quickly resolved with full disclosure immediately.

With all due respect to investigations ongoing and panels being appointed, the American people deserve immediate and full disclosure of all relevant information so that we can be assured and comforted that something that we never believed could happen will never happen again.

Now, Mr. Secretary, I'd like to know -- I'd like you to give the committee the chain of command from the guards to you, all the way up the chain of command. I'd like to know...

[Defense Secretary Donald] RUMSFELD: I think General [Richard] Myers [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] brought an indication of it, and we'll show it.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

I'd like to know who was in charge of the -- what agencies or private contractors were in charge of interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were their instructions to the guards?

RUMSFELD: First, with respect to the...

[Deputy Commander of U.S. Central Command Lt. Gen. Lance] SMITH: We did not bring it.


SMITH: Yes, oh, my is right.

RUMSFELD: It was all prepared.

SMITH: Yes, it was, indeed.

RUMSFELD: Do you want to walk through it?

MCCAIN: Anyway, who was in charge? What agency or private contractor was in charge of the interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were the instructions that they gave to the guards?

SMITH: I'll walk through the chain of command and...

MCCAIN: No. Let's just -- you can submit the chain of command, please.

WARNER: General Smith, do you want to respond?

MCCAIN: No. Secretary Rumsfeld, in all due respect, you've got to answer this question. And it could be satisfied with a phone call. This is a pretty simple, straightforward question: Who was in charge of the interrogations? What agencies or private contractors were in charge of the interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were the instructions to the guards?

This goes to the heart of this matter.

RUMSFELD: It does indeed.

As I understand it, there were two contractor organizations. They supplied interrogators and linguists. And I was advised by General Smith that there were maybe a total of 40.

MCCAIN: Now, were they in charge of the interrogations?

SMITH: Thirty-seven interrogators, and...

WARNER: The witnesses voice are not being recorded. You'll have to speak into your microphone.

Would you repeat the conversation in response to the senator's question?

SMITH: Yes, sir. There were 37 interrogators that were...

MCCAIN: I'm asking who was in charge of the interrogations.

SMITH: They were not in charge. They were interrogators.

MCCAIN: My question is who was in charge of the interrogations?

SMITH: The brigade commander for the military intelligence brigade.

MCCAIN: And were they -- did he also have authority over the guards?

SMITH: Sir, he was -- he had tactical control over the guards, so he was...

MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary, you can't answer these questions?

RUMSFELD: I can. I'd be -- I thought the purpose of the question was to make sure we got an accurate presentation, and we have the expert here who was in the chain of command.

MCCAIN: I think these are fundamental questions to this issue.


MCCAIN: Were the instructions to the guards...

RUMSFELD: There's two sets of responsibilities, as your question suggests. One set is the people who have the responsibility for managing the detention process; they are not interrogators. The military intelligence people, as General Smith has indicated, were the people who were in charge of the interrogation part of the process.

And the responsibility, as I have reviewed the matter, shifted over a period of time and the general is capable of telling you when that responsibility shifted.

MCCAIN: What were the instructions to the guards?

RUMSFELD: That is what the investigation that I have indicated has been undertaken...

MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary...

RUMSFELD: ... is determining...

MCCAIN: ... that's a very simple, straight-forward question.

RUMSFELD: Well, the -- as the chief of staff of the Army can tell you, the guards are trained to guard people. They're not trained to interrogate, they're not -- and their instructions are to, in the case of Iraq, adhere to the Geneva Convention.

The Geneva Conventions apply to all of the individuals there in one way or another. They apply to the prisoners of war, and they are written out and they're instructed and the people in the Army train them to that and the people in the Central Command have the responsibility of seeing that, in fact, their conduct is consistent with the Geneva Conventions.

The criminals in the same detention facility are handled under a different provision of the Geneva Convention -- I believe it's the fourth and the prior one's the third.

MCCAIN: So the guards were instructed to treat the prisoners, under some kind of changing authority as I understand it, according to the Geneva Conventions?

RUMSFELD: Absolutely.

MCCAIN: I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: Thank you, Senator.

Posted by Rick Penner at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2004

Evidence for Belief

I recently posted on Joshua Claybourn's site on the subject of faith and doubt, posting some reflections on a recent sermon delivered in my church.

That sermon was based on Thomas and his initial unbelief in Jesus' resurrection. I'm currently reading a book called The Case for a Creator, by Lee Strobel. Lee Strobel, a former atheist, interviews several people who are knowledgable in both science and theology, and discovers that the evidence for a creator is actually pretty strong. He shows that it actually takes a lot of faith, in fact more faith, to believe that the existence of the universe was a random event.

So far, my favorite chapter is his interview with William Lane Craig, where Dr. Craig presents the kalam argument:

  1. What begins to exist must have a cause,
  2. The universe began to exist,
  3. Therefore, the universe had a cause

Up until this century, many scientists believed in a steady-state universe, or that it always existed. With the formulation of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, and confirmation of key parts of it, namely an expanding universe, it has been shown that the universe must have had a starting point and therefore a cause (though theories of multiple beginnings or oscillating universes are now in vogue). Dr. Craig argues very convincingly that whatever caused the Big Bang to occur would not have been accidental, but rather an intentional act. Two arguments: One is that whenever the conditions necessary for an event to occur are satisfied, the event will happen. The other is more complicated: whenever I describe a physical event, I can describe it two ways, a personal way and a materialistic way. If you hear a teapot whistling and ask me why the water is boiling, I can say either a)I'm making some tea or b)the electric current through the stove element causes heat, which raises the water temperature..... But when discussing the big bang, there is simply no way to discuss the beginning in a materialistic way - their was no material there! So the only way left to describe it is by admitting a personal explanation: a creator made it happen for some intentional reason.

I'm really enjoying reading this book. I'm going to discuss more of it as I go through it.

In the meantime, here are two columns from Boundless magazine: William Lane Craig, on the importance of intellectual development for Christians, and J.P. Moreland, on how the human mind could not have been a product of natural selection.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2004

TPOPC bloopers

Hilarious! (link found at Kathy Shaidle's blog, Relapsed Catholic)

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

Methodist General Conference

The United Methodist Church stood its ground. On the Karen Dammann controversy, the Judicial Council made it explicitly clear that the Book of Discipline was misinterpreted by the jury which acquited Ms. Dammann. It also ruled that self-confessed active homosexuals are not to be appointed by bishops.

The delegates went on to adopt the following language by a 579-376 vote:

"The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God's grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community."

Another statement, which would have acknowledged disagreement between faithful Christians on the issue of homosexuality, was rejected.

There were the usual protests from the pro-homosexuality activists, saying that this vote has divided the church, completely ignoring the experience of the Episcopal church last year, which suffered quite a bit more division by voting the opposite direction from the Methodists. Anyway, all the talk about division is a red herring. Any organization is divided when there are members with contrary views. The activists only seem to acknowledge unity when the votes go their way.

Dunker Journal and Midwest Conservative Journal also have posts on this subject.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:51 PM | Comments (9)

May 03, 2004

Jeff Jacoby on the greatest threat

Jeff Jacoby writes on how the abortion lobby is misguided in its choice of enemies.

I remember in the aftermath of 9/11, how my former Unitarian Universalist congregation started shipping its members up to a mosque in New Brunswick in order to accomplish interfaith dialogue. I had already quit my membership by then, but I was often tempted to write them to say "Guys - the Islamists would ban your churches too, given the chance, along with all those churches with plus signs on them you despise so much."

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

More on Iraq

After reading news items on the Iraq situation, I realized that the words I used in this post were too harsh. There is still much to learn here, but it looks like more a case of hazing than actual torture, though I am not attempting to justify it by any means. It was flat out wrong to do those acts, but it doesn't seem to rise to the level of torture, at least in the sense of inflicting physical injury or pain. Of course, we still have a lot to learn about what happened.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

Thoughts on homosexuality

I've got little sympathy for those who say that the church needs to be inclusive of those who are living in the homosexual lifestyle, at least when it comes to celebrating that lifestyle as an acceptable, or even superior lifestyle. We certainly do need to show serious love to everyone, but just as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, we also need to say "Go and sin no more". Is this a realistic view? Homosexual activists say it's not, that it's their identity. I don't believe them, especially when they are pushing their agenda onto children in their early teen years, as shown by homosexual student clubs sprouting up in high schools. A mind is a powerful thing, and if one can be pushed into a sexual experience in youth, whether it be homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual, the excitement aroused by that experience can drive one's sexuality very powerfully. I don't see how anyone can claim to know their true sexuality during adolescence; there are so many conflicting forces going on, just from the hormones alone.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

United Methodist Church Judicial Council Statement

This is encouraging news.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:30 PM | Comments (0)