Wednesday, August 24, 2005

John MacArthur shines on Larry King once again

Larry King invited several to discuss creationism. It was a strange hybrid show with some "infotainment" thrown in with the serious issue. Here's how King introduced the show:
Tonight, Olivia Newton-John's long time boyfriend vanished almost seven weeks ago. Why were authorities not contacted until five days after he was due to return from an overnight fishing trip? And what's the latest on the investigation? We'll ask Scott Epperson with the U.S. Coast Guard, Christine Spiteri, reporter with Channel 9 in Olivia Newton-John's native Australia. Jim Moret, chief correspondent for Inside Edition and more. And then, is it God versus science? After creationism versus evolution, now debate rages over intelligent design with even the president stepping in.
Here's the panel invited to the "debate":
  • John MacArthur, pastor, teacher at the Grace Community Church; author of "The Battle for the Beginning: Creation, Evolution and the Bible;" host of "Grace to You" and president of the Master's College and founder of the Master's Seminary.
  • Barbara Forrest, Ph.D. Barbara is the author of "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design." She is professor of philosophy, Southeastern Louisiana University, National Advisory Council of the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
  • Deepak Chopra, the best selling author of "How to Know God," and founder of the Chopra Center. His blog site,, now has a discussion on the topic of creation versus evolution, including lengthy comments by Deepak.
  • Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who supports the president's position on teaching intelligent design as well as evolution, favors teaching both.
  • Congressman Chris Shays, Republican of Connecticut, who disagrees with the president on the teaching of intelligent design.
  • Dr. Jay Richards, vice president of the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank at the forefront in promoting the intelligent design theory.
The first question went right to MacArthur. He was asked, "John MacArthur, do you believe that the world is only 5,000 years old?"

MacArthur once again handled himself with amazing aplomb and stayed true to the Bible and gave no quarter to anyone. You can read the entire transcript of the show by clicking on the link above (but scroll about halfway down to bypass the earth-shattering and mind-blowing "news" of a missing person - what about the other thousands of missing persons? This one is famous because of a relationship with Olivia Newton-John?)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Top 500 Universities in the World, Academically Speaking

The Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Institute of Higher Education did an extensive survey of the top five hundred universities based on several fields. It's interesting that the university doing this research finished 301st - they must have been very disappointed.

The fields studied carried different weights that led to the university's final scoring. The fields are listed below:

Quality of Education
Alumni of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals
Quality of Faculty
Staff of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals
Highly cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories
Research Output
Articles published in Nature and Science*
Articles in Science Citation Index-expanded, Social Science Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index
Size of Institution
Academic performance with respect to the size of an institution


As for the results, seventeen of the Top 20 universities are located in the United States. Only Cambridge, Oxford and Tokyo University crack the top twenty internationally.

As you might expect, Harvard earned the top spot with a perfect score of 100 points. Cambridge was second, followed by Stanford, Cal-Berkeley and MIT.

For our local schools,
  • Duke is 37th with a score of 37.7 (surrounded by Northwestern and Minnesota);
  • UNC-Chapel Hill is 55th with a score of 30.3 (surrounded by Carnegie Mellon and Australian National U.);
  • NC State is 113th with a score of 19 (surrounded by the National U. of Singapore and Oregon State);
  • University of South Carolina is 280th;
  • Wake Forest is 296th; .
With all these top-notch universities in the USA, why does the world think we are so stupid? Are we?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's "Report Card" time in the SBC

It's about time for Southern Baptist churches across the country to start filling out the "Annual Church Profile." This is the report sent from Baptist HQ in Nashville asking each church to count up how much money they collected, how many people atteneded Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, how many people went on mission trips and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, how many people were baptized.

That is what we are reduced to: a collection of stats of how many people have been dunked in a year's time. The churches who report the biggest numbers of baptisms are hailed as "dynamic" churches and their pastors are soon elevated to national prominence within the convention. But are baptisms truly the benchmark against which we should measure the true "success" of a church.

Tom Ascol of the Founders Ministry has this to say about it, especially in response Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, who used the very same ACP statistics to write an unscholarly hit piece on Calvinism within the SBC:

Statistics simply cannot tell the whole, or even necessarily the most important, story of a church. For example: what would you think of a Southern Baptist church that had the following profile over a 4 year period?

3506 members
203 baptisms
253 other additions
2200 primary worship attendance

3812 members
296 baptisms
190 other additions
2100 primary worship attendance

4011 members
209 baptisms
137 other additions
2031 primary worship attendance

4163 members
237 baptisms
204 other additions
1874 primary worship attendance

Would this church meet Dr. Lemke's criteria for "declining?" It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. If my math is correct, that is a 15% decline.

Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.

In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers! If the church continues to grow at this rate then by the time it adds around 10,000 new members the preacher will be preaching to an empty auditorium at his "primary worship" service.

So, back to my question: How should we evaluate such a church? What judgments should we make about the ministry of its pastor? Would Southern Baptists look at such a church with concern and even alarm? Would they want to bus over church growth specialists to help them reverse the decline? Would they encourage the church to get on board with the latest denominational baptismal goals?

No you won't find any of these responses. Nor will you find the pastor slammed in a seminary professor's paper. Shucks...the church might even be held up as a model for Southern Baptists. Who knows? They might even elect the pastor to become the convention president.
We did!

The NCAA, Indian Mascots and Common Sense

You have probably already heard about the NCAA's news-making ruling that any school with a nickname or logo considered racially or ethnically “hostile” or “abusive” by the NCAA would be prohibited from using them in postseason events. Mascots will not be allowed to perform at tournament games, and band members and cheerleaders will also be barred from using American Indians on their uniforms beginning in 2008.

While NCAA officials admit they still can’t force schools to change nicknames or logos, they are making a statement they believe is long overdue. Eighteen mascots, including Florida State’s Seminole and Illinois’ Illini, were on the list of offenders.

Of course, both of these schools have public records of the local Indian tribes proudly giving support for the use of their names and heritage. How can this be bad when the people involved are not only unoffended but in fact like it.

Those schools who refuse to change their logos will not be permitted to host future NCAA tournament games, and if events have already been awarded to those sites, the school must cover any logos or nicknames that appear.

Two years ago, the NCAA recommended schools determine for themselves whether Indian depictions were offensive. Among the schools to change nicknames in recent years were St. John’s (from Redmen to Red Storm) and Marquette (from Warriors to Golden Eagles).

Never mind that the NCAA will not enact this ruling until after the college football bowl games (oh, the power of the almighty dollar to this incredibly hypocritical institution)! What is amazing is the broad general strokes used to write out this ruling and the ridiculous way they will attempt to enforce it.

What is troubling is that the NCAA gives no notice of what is "hostile and abusive" and what is not. This is just another case of the "thought police" swearing themselves into action, just like the people that think preaching against homosexual sin is a "hate crime."

The President of the University of North Dakota has written an open letter to the NCAA and its leadership. He does an OUTSTANDING job in highlighting the ridiculous nature of this ruling. If you follow college sports at all, I highly recommend you read it.

The Inevitable Next Step

Now that the homosexual lobbyists have carried the day in Canada and won the rights for men to marry men and women to marry women, two enterprising young men have taken the next logical step. The Toronto Sun reports:
What's love got to do with it?

Bill Dalrymple, 56, and best friend Bryan Pinn, 65, have decided to take the plunge and try out the new same-sex marriage legislation with a twist -- they're straight men.

"I think it's a hoot," Pinn said.

The proposal came last Monday on the patio of a Toronto bar amid shock and laughter from their friends. But the two -- both of whom were previously married and both of whom are still looking for a good woman to love -- insist that after the humour subsided, a real issue lies at the heart of it all.

"There are significant tax implications that we don't think the government has thought through," Pinn said.

Dalrymple has been to see a lawyer already and there are no laws in marriage that define sexual preference.

Yahoo reports that after the story was printed, the men decided to call off the union. Pinn did say, ""We'll probably be best friends for another 20 years, but we don't have to get married. Why would you ruin a good friendship and get married."

Pinn is wrong about that but right about something else - the government has not thought out all the implications of this change in God's plan for marriage. Once marriage is no longer defined as men/women, it can be men/anything and women/anything. Who knows how far unregenerate individuals can go? And we will just watch it happen!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Louis Farrakhan speaks out

Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam backed up the controversial words of Mexico's president, Vicente Fox. Here's what he had to say:

MILWAUKEE -- Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said Mexican President Vicente Fox was right to say that Mexican immigrants take jobs "that not even blacks want."

Although Fox was sharply criticized for his remarks by some black leaders, Farrakhan said Sunday that blacks do not want to go to farms and pick fruit because they already "picked enough cotton."

"Why are you so foolishly sensitive when somebody is telling you the truth?" he asked the crowd at Mercy Memorial Baptist Church. He said blacks and Latinos should form an alliance to correct differences and animosity between the two communities.

Civil rights leaders including Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton have called on Fox to apologize for the remark. Fox has said he was commenting on the contributions that Mexicans make to the United States, and did not mean any offense.

Farrakhan, who spearheaded the 1995 Million Man March that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Washington, D.C., was in Milwaukee to promote the Millions More Movement, which has scheduled a rally Oct. 15 on the National Mall.

The march is billed as a more inclusive successor to the Million Man March. This time, organizers have encouraged women and gays to attend.

My biggest question: Why was Farrakhan, a Muslim, speaking in a Baptist church?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Justice Sunday II: From Bloggers' Row

Several prominent reporters attended tonight's "Justice Sunday II. The pastoral staff at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville opened their Sunday night services to this rally. One of the bloggers there is from the "Evangelical Outpost" and here is what he reported:
5:50 pm -- Beginning with “praise and worship” music, the activities open more like a typical church service than a political event. The joyous singing coming from inside the chapel is contrasted with the police officers standing at the doors, the media milling around the lobby, and the protestors standing on the street. The scene is a fitting metaphor for the way that the church fits into the modern world.

5:50pm -- After thirty years as an American evangelical you’d think I’d be used to seeing an American flag in the church. But while I respect the symbol of our country, I’ve never been comfortable with an object that inspires patriotism sharing the stage with the symbol of our Savior’s sacrifice. So I feel a bit uneasy seeing the two flags flanking a cross with a plaster statue of the Ten Commandments centered in front, used as the backdrop for the speakers. The cross is sufficient for salvation. Why is it not sufficient for the church?

6:05pm -- Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, opens the ceremony, repeating a great line he used earlier in the press conference: "We do not claim the right to speak for every American. But we do claim the right to speak."

6:15pm -- Dr. James Dobson appears by videotape, claiming that the current judicial tyranny opposes Lincoln's view of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. He mentions the ruling that barred the Ten Commandments display from government property, which is not only a symbolic rather than a substantive issue, but has nothing to do with justice. He also mentions the Kelo case, which is about justice and a prime example of why judicial tyranny violates the biblical concept of justice.

6:25pm -- “We've heard the arguments for partial-birth abortion and gay marriage ... we just disagree,” says House Marority Leader Tom DeLay, “Activist courts impose these on society without passing a single bill” DeLay adds, "The Constitution is not a vehicle for the manipulation of the public will."

6:35pm -- “Let justice roll down…”, Chuck Colson says, quoting the book of Amos. Colson, who has seen the ravages of injustice first hand through his role with Prison Fellowship, asks when the last time we heard those words in public. With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. he claims. It’s hard to deny that these “words of God speaking to us” are not heard often enough.

Colson add that we must suppress the temptation to get anger with those who disagree and that we need to love the people who stand against us. Colson notes that people complained about Lincoln imposing his “moral will” on them – but that we are all better off because he did. Still, we are not imposing, he says, we are proposing. We are proposing to make changes for justice not because we are angry but because we are loving, because our hearts should break with God when injustice is done.

Colson should have been given the entire time to talk. He’s a brilliant powerful speaker.

6:38pm -- Tony Perkins comes back on to promote the "Save The Court" kit. It includes “Ten Commandment book covers” for school textbooks. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Can you imagine going to school with “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery” covering your Algebra textbook? Better to let the kids put SpongeBob Squarepants on their books and put the Ten Commandments in their hearts.

6:43pm --“If justice matters to anyone,” says Bishop Harry Jackson, “it matters to minorities.” Jackson says that black evangelicals and white evangelicals share the same concerns and should work more closely together. Rev. Jackson is the type of religious leader that we need to hear more from.

6:47pm -- Bill Donohue, the President of The Catholic League, missed his calling in life – he should have been a Southern Baptist preacher. Donohue is good humored and witty and speaks as if he has too many words and not enough time to say them (the speakers, who have only a few minutes to speak, are way too rushed). He makes too many quips that fly by too fast but he gets in some good jabs at Mario Cuomo, Ted Kennedy, Christopher Hitchens, and people who think monkeys fell out of the trees, lost their hair and became “Adam and Eve.”

6:52pm --For the third time tonight, a speaker mentions the Ten Commandments ruling. Whether you think the issue is important or not, it is hard to see how it is the best example of structural injustice caused by the tyranny of a court. Zell Miller is a proficient orator but he’s shedding mostly heat and little light.

7:06pm -- Out-of-control judges are the biggest threat facing America today, says Phyllis Schlafly. She refers to them as “supremacists” because they put the courts as supreme over the legislature and executive branch. Those who say they want an independent court, she claims, really want a court independent of the Constitution.

Schlafly claims that the Supreme Court rulings are not considered the law of the land, higher even than the Constitution. It’s hard to argue with that point.

The Ten Commandments gets its fourth and fifth nod of the night.

7:15pm --Cathy Cleaver Ruse is the first to warn of the bioethical concerns, such as euthanasia, that can result from judicial tyranny. The court will also be deciding whether a New Hampshire law allows parents to decide if their daughter can have an abortion, a decision that will affect all parental notification laws. Ruse correctly points out that this decision could lead to young girls being victim of predatory males. (She doesn’t mention it but Planned Parenthood has a history of looking the other way when it comes to reporting cases involving older men and underage girls)

She also points out that the issue of partial-birth abortion will soon be returning to the courts. There is no right, says Ruse, to kill a soon to be born infant.

7:18pm--Do politics and local churches go together? Yes, says Ted Haggard, there is nothing that we believe that does not affect public policy. Haggard encourages Christians to get more involved in politics, learning the skills needed to run for public office if necessary. All it takes is a God intoxicated generation to influence a people, Haggard says, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

7:18pm-- Dr. Jerry Sutton, pastor of the hosting church, invokes Terri Shiavo, saying that she was “murdered by an adulterous husband.” I had to ask around Blogger’s Row to make sure I heard that correctly. Goodness. And this is the Vice-President of the Southern Baptist Convention? Well, he certainly doesn’t mince words, does he?

7:29pm -- After ninety minutes at a breakneck pace, CCM superstar Rebecca St. James ends the event with "This Is Our Time." I'll have more thoughts after I have time to digest an event that was just made available to 79 million households.

Other bloggers include: Bill Hobbs, Lance McMurray, Jackson Miller, Beth Woodfin, Karol Sheinin and Leon from the Red State.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Most Liberal/Conservative Cities in America

The Bay Area Center for Voting Research has released their findings from the last election. Here are the results from looking at the voting records of cities with more than 100,000 residents:

1) Detroit, Michigan
2) Gary, Indiana
3) Berkeley, California
4) Washington, DC
5) Oakland, California
6) Inglewood, California
7) Newark, New Jersey
8) Cambridge, Massachusettes
9) San Francisco, California
10) Flint, Michigan

As for North Carolina, here are the results:
1) Durham (61st nationally)
2) Greensboro (72nd overall)
3) Raleigh (88th overall)
4) Charlotte (125th overall)
5) Fayetteville (128th overall)
6) Winston-Salem (144th overall)

Those were the only NC cities in the nation's top 237.
In South Carolina, only Columbia made made the liberal list (#88 overall).

1) Provo, Utah
2) Lubbock, Texas
3) Abilene, Texas
4) Hialeah, Florida
5) Plano, Texas
6) Colorado Springs, Colorado
7) Gilbert, Arizona
8) Bakersfield, California
9) Lafayette, Louisiana
10) Orange, California

As for North Carolina, here are the results:
1) Winston-Salem (93rd overall)
2) Fayetteville (110th overall)
3) Charlotte (112th overall)
4) Raleigh (150th overall)
5) Greensboro (166th overall)
6) Durham (179th overall)

Columbia is the 155th most conservative city overall and the only city from SC in the list of 237 cities.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pool of Siloam found in Jerusalem

The accuracy and historicity of the Bible continues to be vindicated as more and more is discovered in the Holy Land. This article in the LA Times reports that the Pool of Siloam was recently discovered. The article begins with these words:
Workers repairing a sewage pipe in the Old City of Jerusalem have discovered the biblical Pool of Siloam, a freshwater reservoir that was a major gathering place for ancient Jews making religious pilgrimages to the city and the reputed site where Jesus cured a man blind from birth, according to the Gospel of John.

The pool was fed by the now famous Hezekiah's Tunnel and is "a much grander affair" than archeologists previously believed, with three tiers of stone stairs allowing easy access to the water, said Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, which reported the find Monday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Does Conversion Really Matter Anymore?

There's an interesting post on the Founder's Website. The Founder's are a group of individuals and churches within the Southern Baptist Convention that adhere to the Reformed doctrine of salvation. In the article, Tom Ascol compares the effect of 5000 converted souls in first-century Jerusalem (a city of about 600,000 at the time, most likely) with the effect of 10,000 allegedly converted souls at a recent major crusade in Louisville, Knetucky. Louisville has a population of 250,000.

Shouldn't Louisville have experienced changes similar to Jerusalem. The Bible says that the new Christians turned Jerusalem upside-down. Acts 5:28 quotes the Jewish High Priest as accusing the disciples of having "filled Jerusalem with [their] doctrine." Remember, they did not have any Christian churches or background on which to draw. They did not have any built in support system, but rather had to construct such systems through the church. Jerusalem was not the same as before all these conversions took place. Life changed in the city because lives were changed by the Gospel. Conversion made a difference.

A gentleman named Tony Kummer responded to the article with these words:
Great post! I am a SBTS [Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of six SBC seminaries] student who worked in the Louisville office of the Graham Crusade. I was a one of the temporary administrative assistants they hire in each city. I was able to observe the whole process, from six months pre-crusade up to one month post-crusade. I was impressed with the Graham organization and the sincere Christian people who make these Crusades happen. I was a designated counselor-supervisor for decision time. What happened on that football field is still very troubling to me.

For one week the whole city was certainly talking about Christ. It reminded me of the State Fair, only shorter. Within days the city moved on and I have rarely heard the crusade mentioned since. Our church, which participated at every stage, received about 25 names for follow-up. These were mostly people in our area who did not identify with a church. We were instructed that many of these decisions might be fuzzy about what happened at the crusade and we should make sure they really understood the gospel. But, we had cold receptions and not even enough interest to even begin the recommended Bible study class for new believers. To my knowledge none of those twenty-five even visited our church after several contacts and pastoral visits.

I believe that our experience was typical and likely worse than you guessed. Certainly, many of our members were encouraged by the Crusade. This was more from the music and buzz of having a BIG Christian event. Ultimately, your conclusions about the event are accurate. What happened in Louisville was qualitatively different than the conversions in Acts. Keep up the good work.

What must "Left Angeles" think of this?

In today's online version of the LA Times, this article made the top of the front page:

It's morning drive time in Los Angeles.

Howard Stern is hosting "Stump the Perv" on KSLX-FM (97.1), which features a male contestant pitted against a Nevada call girl in a porn trivia contest. He wins and gets five minutes alone with her in Howard's bathroom.

Meanwhile, Jamie, Jack and Stench on KYSR-FM (98.7) are talking about gay bull riders . . . and their white-trash childhoods — all topics that would be applauded at most of the ratings-hungry morning shows on the radio dial.

That is, except for one show — "The Family Friendly Morning Show" from 5 to 9 a.m. hosted by Billy Burke on KFSH-FM (95.9), a Christian-themed station often referred to as the Fish. On one recent morning, Burke is discussing one of his favorite promotions, Random Acts of Kindness Day, where listeners are encouraged to phone in their stories of good deeds either witnessed or performed.
I wonder if LA can take it. How long before the ACLU or some other left-wing organization complains about this type of "family values" being "forced down their throats"?

Would they take the same advice they give those who complain about raunchy TV - "turn the channel."

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Not only Batman but . . . !!!

In my last post, I wrote of my favorite childhood memory: meeting Batman at a Charlotte Convention Center car show. The day is as vivid now as it was over thirty years ago. Batman was not the only superhero I met that day. After "chillin'" with Adam West for my specified two minutes, I got in line to see Billy Batson, the teenage alter ego of Captain Marvel.

How many of you remember this ground-breaking Saturday morning television gem? Here's the opening to each show:

Chosen from among all others by the immortal elders...
Solomon... Hercules... Atlas... Zeus... Achilles... Mercury

Billy Batson and his Mentor travel the highways and byways of the land on a never ending mission -- to right wrongs, to develop understanding, and to seek justice for all!

In time of dire need, young Billy has been granted the power by the immortals to summon awesome forces at the utterance of a single word -- Shazam!

A word which transforms him, in a flash, into the mightiest of mortal beings -- Captain Marvel!

So, teenager Billy Batson (that guy had to be at least 22) travelled the country with his adult companion Mentor (What? No first name (or any name for that matter - Mentor is a job description, not a name). These two would encounter various situations that would require their help. These "situations" usally centered around "After-School-Special" type tragedies such as bullies and recycling and sharing!

Whenever their help was needed, a flashing light on the dashboard of the RV would start beeping and blinking. This would summon the elders (an odd amalgam of Biblical, Greek and Roman "gods" Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury. These guys would then give Billy some cryptic advice needed for the emerging situation. By yelling the word, "Shazam" (the word is an anacronym for all of the elders' names), Billy would turn into Captain Marvel, an adult hero with the power of flight, super speed, and super strength. As Captain Marvel, he would use his powers to capture criminals, save those in distress, and right any other wrongs that came up.

In yet another example of things being a lot worse than you remember when a kid, this show really was poorly done. How many ways did it stink?

Lessee...Mentor and Billy's Winnebago has this thunderbolt logo on the hood, and Billy is always wearing this red shirt with gold trim. And who should show up later than Captain Marvel, with his thunderbolt logo (same as the RV) on his red shirt with gold trim (same as Billy). And none of the local yokels can make the connection???

How come he and "Mentor" (ahem!) only traveled in rural, out-of-the-way places. I don't think Batman and Spider-Man spend a lot of time in Podunk, California but Captain Marvel spends all his waking moments fighting small town corruption (or bullies). Also, whenever Captain Marvel had to fly, they always show him flying over a large city (the *same* city, no matter where they go).

The star of this show, Michael Gray, has his own website. He is STILL charging $15 for an autograph. I don't know how much I paid but I am pretty confident my father did not fork over fifteen bucks for this guys John Hancock!

The "Shazam" show also had a spin-off called "ISIS." If I remember correctly, she was a professor or something. She drove around in a cool woody-type convertible car. When she went on an archeological dig, she found an Egyptian medallion that belonged to Isis, an Egyptian legend. The medallion gave anyone who wore it, including this woman who found it, the powers of Isis, but only if she said, "Oh, mighty Isis." She would then be transformed wearing Egyptian outfit and was given the ability to fly and change the weather. I can't imagine the Christian outrage that would occur today with such paganistic Saturday morning fare.

Batman Begins Again?

I remember it like it was only thirty years ago. I was about eight or nine. It was the summer of 1974. I had grown up with Batman and everything Batman. I came home from school to watch Batman at 3:30. I sat enthralled as the Caped Crusader miraculously escape yet another impossible death trap (inside a giant hourglass, escaping a giant man-eating clam) to capture another gaudily-dressed super-villain. In a testosterone-induced frenzy, I would then explode into the great outdoors with a towel clothes-pinned around my neck and do imaginary battle with villains of my own.

One day, my dad came home and said, “Would you like to meet Batman?” WOULD I? We woke up early the next day and headed down to Charlotte to the convention center. I remember riding down surrounded by comic books and almost giddy with excitement. We arrived at the convention center and the crowd was huge (or at least it was huge in my nine year old mind). I saw the Batmobile. I’ve wanted one of my own but they cost about a quarter million dollars today.

Then, finally, it was time to meet the legend. I had on my favorite shirt - a long-sleeved sweatshirt with a classic action pose. I waited in line and then it was my turn. We met. Batman signed a photo for me (long since lost - still bummed out about that). Dad asked for a photo so I walked behind the table and Dad snapped the picture to the left. And then it was over - just like that.

It's strange the things you remember: Batman (Adam West) was hot in that crowded convention center in the summer. A fan was blowing right on top of him and the sweat was pouring off him. He had one of those old 70s-vintage microphones. And he was horribly out of shape. I remember thinking how fat he was. I dont' think he could even beat up Egghead at that time. It was a true bitter-sweet moment. I probably hung up the "towel and clothes-pins" after that.

However, the fascination with Batman continued and even remains. I never got over it and don't plan on it. I have collected comics over the years and have almost every single Batman comic book since my birthdate (Nov 1966). The only ones I am missing are Batman #238 (Jan 1972) and #241 (June 1972 - Ra's Al Ghul) and #256 (a 100-page giant from June 1974 - man, those were the BEST). Other than those three, I have all the issues from Batman, Detective Comics, Legends of the Dark Knight, Shadow of the Bat, The Batman Family, all the animated Adventure titles, Gotham Knights, Brave and Bold, World's Finest and a large assortment of Justice League titles. I also have a rather sad collection of Bat-paraphernalia.

It has come full circle. My two boys (age 9 and 4) also share a love for all things Batman (and Superman and Spider-Man and ....). How could they help it - doomed from the womb, indeed!). A few weeks ago, my wife was in the local "mall" and saw a sign at the toy store that Batman was going to appear. She came home and talked me into returning with the boys for some photos. AJ was thrilled and Joey was a little shy/terrified but they both gamely posed with this version of the Batman. You gotta admit - it's a pretty good looking costume and I finally ran into a bigger geek than myself! That's always a plus.

Buying a house? Get an Islamic loan!

According to this article in the Detroit Free Press, some banks have found a way to accommodate the religious beliefs of American Muslims. Here's the deal:

When Shereen Solaiman and her husband, Brandon Metzger, bought a home in Ypsilanti eight years ago, they had to make a difficult compromise.

Solaiman, who was born into Islam, and Metzger, who embraced the religion 13 years ago, took out a conventional mortgage that charged interest.

By many interpretations, Koranic law forbids the payment or receipt of interest on the theory it creates a culture of debt slavery, which begets other evils.

But when Soliaman and Metzger moved to Canton earlier this year, they found a new way to finance their house that didn't compromise their principles.

They obtained an Islamic mortgage that was in Sharia -- or compliance with Islamic law. In Islamic mortgages, an intermediary such as a bank buys the property, and the homeowner eventually obtains the home through a lease-to-own arrangement.

Stephen Ranzini, the president of University Bank President, said his bank has handed out more than 50 of these Islamic mortgages. Those loans totall a little more than $11 million. However, he also admits that the "we had to retool our systems and communications. We spent a lot of time with banking regulators to educate them about this. We had to get legal opinions ... It's considered pretty radical. It's expensive and time-consuming but ultimately, if it's the right thing to do, it's the right thing to do."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

It's those doggone Calvinists!

Back on July 10, 2005, Bobby Welch wrote an article in his church's newsletter. The article was about how Calvinism has allegedly affected evangelism (the Great Commission, in particular). As you may know, Welch is the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the author of the widely-used "F.A.I.T.H." method of evangelism and church growth. To start his answer, he deferred to a recent paper written by Dr. Steve W. Lemke, Provost and Professor at New Orleans Baptist Theology Seminary. That paper, titled "The Future of Southern Baptists as Evangelicals" was:
a paper originally presented at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee, April 2005 at the "Maintaining Baptist Distinctives" Conference. Lemke addresses what he considers to be 6 key issues as he thinks about the future of the SBC.
For the remainder of the article, Welch (with Lemke's help) basically attributes the decline of baptisms across the SBC spectrum to those pastors and churches who adhere to the Doctrines of Grace. This is a horribly misinformed and overly simplistic answer. The data given by Dr. Lemke is flawed. Too many questions are left unanswered. My biggest beef is Dr. Lemke's allusions that link biblical Calvinism with heretical hyper-calvinism. They are NOT the same thing. I despise hyper-calvinism and will battle it when I see it. To paint the Founders Ministry (and me) with that broad a brush is horrible scholarship. I could just as easily generalize that all Arminians are really Open Theists. That is a seemingly logical conclusion but it would not be accurate.

I have posted below the links necessary to understand all this. First read Welch's article and then to get the full picture, cruise through Lemke's address. After that, I hope you'll read the responses from the Founders Ministry of the SBC (a group that adheres to the reformed doctrine of salvation and calls for a return to the SBC's Calvinistic roots - that's right, the SBC was thoroughly Calvinistic in its first several decades).

Bobby Welch's initial newsletter article

Dr. Steve Lemke's article that prompted Welch's article

Response from Founders Ministry - Part 1

Response from Founders Ministry - Part 2

Response from Founders Ministry - Part 3

Response from Founders Ministry - Part 4

Lemke's response to Founders and Founders rejoinder

There is no doubt that all of us (myself chiefly) should be concerned about our evangelism (or lack thereof). However, I am just as concerned about all the baptisms that ARE taking place in our Southern Baptist churches. So many churces are willing to baptize for the slightest reason (and even re-baptize again and again). Ascol says, "Admit the truth, that we have far fewer disciples than we have baptisms, which means that we are baptizing a whole bunch of people who are not disciples."

Lemke uses statistics to show that non-Calvinistic churches (really a nice way to avoid saying "semi-Pelagian) have a church member to baptism ratio of 1:42 while Calvinistic churches have a ratio of 1:62. That might sound like a lot but it is not. I would like to see the results of THIS study: what is the ratio of baptized people still active in each of these churches (or any church, for that matter) one to two years later. Isn't that a statistic that should matter the most?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

So, it's not about the truth!

In this recent column from the Associate Press, President Bush stated that he accepts the argument of Intelligent Design. The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation. The article says:

President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.

During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

I can almost hear the church/state radicals going crazy at Bush's statement. I mean, who is he to delve into such "religious" ideas. It's almost like he thinks our students should be taught to THINK instead of being force-fed only one side of the discussion.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Peddlers of the Gospel

Crossroads Church in Corona, California gave away a $25,000 Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle in the name of the gospel. One witness noted "I guess they feel the bike has significant value in the people they're trying to reach. ... Barry McMurtrie is a no-nonsense kind of a guy. He'll do anything to reach people, but he'll also make sure they have the opportunity to know the Gospel. When he opens his Bible, there will be no misunderstanding." The bike was given away not to a visitor, but a year-long member who won the bike through having his name pulled from a hat.

Sadly, this is not uncommon. The River at Tampa Bay in Florida gave away a Humvee in January. On New Year's Eve 2003 Abundant Life Christian Center in La Marque, Texas, raffled off a Harley-Davidson Sportster and a Chrysler PT Cruiser to visitors and members. And Christ's Church of the Valley near Phoenix appealed to unchurched young adults by giving away two tickets to a sold-out U2 rock concert to people who visited the church's Web site.

It's hard to imagine churches being more "consumer-oriented" than this! Is this a good method. Can you image Paul walking into a town and pulling a stunt like this? How can any pastoral staff think this is a good idea: get people into the building and then "trick" them by sharing the gospel with them?

Of course, for the church that is so dangerously fascinated with larger and larger numbers, anything goes in this wild unchecked age of evangelicalism.

It hits close to home,too. The fascination with numbers in the Southern Baptist Convention has led to the following numbers: At the end of 2004, the SBC listed a total membership of 16,267,494 individuals (the largest Protestant denomination in the country) in 43,465 churches. However, that same report tells us that the average Sunday morning worship service in all those churches averages 6,024,289 people. It doesn't take a "neat math trick" to realize that our churches are averaging 10 million members at home a week with 6 million attending.

Don't even get me started on Sunday nights!!!

Sure, the numbers reveal that we are BIG but do they say that we are HEALTHY?

No! We are seriously sick. In our drive to get more and more people "through the water" and "onto the membership rolls," we have added individuals as members who give absolutely no signs of being a regenerate child of the King.

Bobby Welch, the current president of the SBC, has set a goal to see one million individuals baptized this year. We have ten million already baptized in our churches that we can't find. If we get one million more "members" like those, we are doomed!

Which army would you rather have: Gideon's first army or his last?