Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New DayStar Journal - Fall 2009 and Spring 2010

The new DayStar site has now published two journals online, catching up from last Spring. I have yet to read and review, and will do so as time allows. However, if you wish to see what the most liberal section of the Synod is thinking, this is the place to go. They now provide the articles in a choice of Word or pdf formats.

An "Atheist Pastor"?

When my wife returned from a visit to the Netherlands a few years back, I realized this was not a conservative country. Prostitution and sexual promiscuity were accepted as quite normal, with many of the 'ladies' showcased in storefront displays. It stood to reason that the Christian Church likewise would be a similarly 'open' institution, lacking the strong absolutes we are accustomed to in the States. However, even this story in the April issue of Christianity Today surprised me:

'ATHEIST PASTOR' ALLOW TO KEEP POST
The Netherlands - A special church assembly has decided that a Dutch preacher who wrote a book titled Believing in a God That Does Not Exist can keep his preaching post in the towns of Middelburg and Zierikzee. Klaas Hendrikse, a pastor in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, claims in the book that he believes in the idea of God but not in the existence of an actual God. The assembly said Hendrikes's views are similar to those of other liberal pastors in the denomination, which will hold a meeting later this year on how to talk about God.


Unbelievable! Perhaps it is time we send missionaries to the Netherlands to help them in learning "how to talk about God." But will they let us actually use the Bible to do so?

Task Force Document from LCMS on the Implications of the 2009 ELCA Decisions Regarding Homosexual Behavior

Recently I was informed by email of a new document from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod that gives guidelines regarding the ELCA decision this past summer that legitimized the full participation of active homosexual clergy. Having reviewed the document I believe that this document offers a firm, biblical, confessional, and balanced approach not only to the issue at hand, but the practical ramifications for churches and clergy dealing with this on a more local level. You may find the paper Theological Implications of the 2009 ELCA Decision on the LCMS website by clicking the title with the link provided above.

One aspect of the document I appreciated was the appeal to understand this issue in its "catholic" dimensions. Lutherans, while existing as a confessional church, also take seriously the "catholic" witness of certain fundamental teachings and practices of the church throughout the ages. The ELCA decision has clearly broken with that time-honored understanding and ignored the Church's witness of the millenia while simultaneously attempting to claim a distinctive "Lutheran" approach to the issue at hand. This document helps to clarify this point.

I also appreciate that we are taking a distinctively public stand that clearly calls the ELCA to account for practices we identify as contrary to the witness of Holy Scripture and outside the boundaries of a true Christian witness, while still recognizing the necessity of certain cooperative efforts that do not compromise our witness.

Feel free to read this document and offer your feedback here. If I have missed something that should be noted, let me know.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The New Health Care Reform Bill and Abortion

I will not claim to understand the intricacies of this new health care bill. As such, commenting on it includes high risk on my part. Normally political issues of this sort would be off limits for this blog, unless they impact the Faith or general issues of morality. Well, one of those issues came into view as this bill came to its final vote on Sunday. As many are undoubtedly aware the question of whether the bill would include federal funding for abortion became a hot button issue, threatening to even derail its passage if lawmakers such as Bart Stupak, a heretofore staunch pro-life Democrat, decided to vote no. Much to the surprise of many (especially in the Catholic community) Stupak voted yes, supposedly with the assurance from the president that an executive order would keep federal funds from ever directly paying for abortions.

According to Stupak's official government website, we read:

Since last summer Stupak and other pro-life members of Congress insisted that health care reform maintain current law of no federal funding for abortion. Stupak and other pro-life members of Congress made clear that on its own, H.R. 3590 would implement a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage and recognize abortion as a benefit in a federal health plan. However, after intense negotiations with Stupak and other pro-life Democrats, President Obama announced he would sign an Executive Order reaffirming the Hyde amendment could not be circumvented and that no taxpayer dollars would be used to pay for health plans that cover abortion.

In addition, Stupak engaged in a colloquy on the House floor Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman to further enter into the record Congress’ intent that the Hyde provisions of no public funding for abortion will apply to H.R. 3590.

“I have said from the start I would not vote for health care reform without adequate protections in place to make sure the current law of no federal funding for abortion is maintained,” Stupak said. “The president’s Executive Order upholds the principle that federal funds should not be used to subsidize abortion coverage.” The president will sign the Executive Order following the signing of H.R. 3590.

That supposed assurance has been challenged and refuted, and again I will not attempt to explain the legal rationale. However, it came to my attention that Planned Parenhood was rejoicing in the passage of the new bill, and that alarmed me. If they are rejoicing, then they must see a loophole or a good possibility that funding for abortion remains a strong possibility. On their website they state:

Thanks to supporters like you, we were able to keep the Stupak abortion ban out of the final legislation and President Obama did not include the Stupak language in his Executive Order. Unfortunately, the bill includes the Nelson amendment that will impose new and severe restrictions on private health insurance coverage for abortion for millions of women. While we celebrate the passage of health care reform, we're going to need your commitment to fix the damage caused by the Nelson amendment — and that starts right now.

My fear remains that the pro-choice forces will eventually prevail in having this bill provide funding for abortions, and that is morally objectionable in the highest way, for it forces those of us opposed to this legalized form of murder to pay for it by way of our own taxes.

The Hyde Amendment referenced above is not a guarantee that future federal dollars will not eventually be used to pay for abortions. In fact, at the link above I discovered that several states already provide such funding either on a voluntary or court-ordered basis. Also, the Hyde Amendment is not a permanent law, but merely a 'rider' attached to legislation from time to time.

Hopefully the pressure will remain to hold the line, especially with the upcoming Fall elections. Still, much mischief can sneak in when no one is looking....

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bible vs. Science?

It amazes me how one article in this blog has received so much attention long after it was originally written. However, it points out an ongoing tension many Christians still wrestle with, namely, how to reconcile science and faith, a struggle that is played out well in the recently published DayStar Reader referenced in a previous post (which reflects a minority debate within the LCMS.) I would encourage you, if you are interested in such a discussion, to go to the link above and read the comment section. The viewpoints there represent a wide range, each trying to find a way to have the philosophical approach to science (naturalism; especially metaphysical naturalism) reconcile with the message of Holy Writ. However, in the process, my contention is that the seeming reconciliation results in a compromise and an inconsistent hermeneutic. To adopt Evolution 'as is' requires us to let naturalism dictate how we will interpret Genesis, and for that matter, all of the Bible.

While I cannot accept the premises of the higher-critical approach to biblical interpretation, I respect the ultimate honesty that results, even if it ends in a denial of foundational articles of the Faith. Bishop Spong, the liberal Episcopalian prelate now retired, irritated me not so much because of his liberal views that denied the Faith as we know it, but because he remained as a teacher of the Faith within the church. The honest thing, in my opinion, was for him to own up to his denial and find another venue to express it.

Thus, my call is simply for consistency and honesty, even if the end result leaves an uncomfortable tension for some. To walk down the road of Evolution will lead you not to God, but ultimately away from Him since it leads away from His Word and His ultimate authority. For Evolution cannot be questioned (i.e. challenged, especially by the Church), leaving it as an absolute truth not conceded even to God Himself. I'm sorry, but a choice is required here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

DayStar Has a New Website

After mentioning in the February 20 post and before that the DayStar folks said nothing about this new "reader" or had neglected to update anything since last Easter, it now appears that a major change is in the air. They even have a way to order the Reader. They are also constructing a brand new website at: http://www.daystarnet.org/. If you follow them at all this is the one to bookmark since the old site is basically gone.